GMAU Report 1986

Letter Phil Mayes to John Davis1986 Letter from Phil Mayes, DIRECTOR G.M.A.U to John Davies The Director of Development and Town Planning SMBC.

Re: Stockport Archaeology Working Party

Attached is a short report on the site of Mellor Mill. As you are aware we believe that the remains are a highly significant monument of regional significance and because of this would hope to be able to pursue a programme of  survey, research, excavation, conservation, and presentation on the site and its immediate surroundings. Under these circumstances I would be grateful if copies of this report could be circulated to the Working Party and a meeting convened.

The Report:

Mellor Mill, Stockport


Samuel Oldknow of Stockport acquired the Bottoms Hall Estate in 1787 and acquired other adjoining properties in the years following. Between the years 1790/1792, Oldknow constructed Mellor Mill on his estate in the valley of the River Goyt together with ancillary buildings, mill ponds and leats. The history of the mill has been outlined by Unwin (1920) and by Ashmore (1977).

The Mill itself was of brick and stone, 400ft long x 42ft wide with 6 storeys each of c. 10ft, with two principal wings each 30ft long x 3 storeys high at each end. (see illustration). In addition to the main building, a counting house was located at the southern end of the main building, while to the west, adjoining the River Goyt were a coach house, stables, black smiths and white smiths. At the northern end of the complex was a gasholder and there are documentary references to engineering facilities. At a later date further buildings were erected, including a boiler house and tunnel flue to a chimney on the hillside to the north east of the mill. In order to provide the motive power for the mill, it was necessary to construct two large mill ponds and the leats in the valley bottom. This involved, among other works the diversion of the River Goyt upstream of the mill, as well as a large weir and sluices. A third mill pond is located in Linnet Clough to the north east of the mill. Equally impressive was the tail race from the mill which was tunnelled under the River Goyt, the outfall being some 600 yards down stream. The mill continued in use until 17 November 1892 when it was destroyed by fire. After the fire substantial portions of the mill remained, particularly the small buildings on the banks of the River Goyt, and the counting house.

Mellor Lodge, Oldknow's house, stood to the south of the mill complex in its own grounds alongside the river. The house was occupied until the 1930's after which it was demolished.

The principal farm on Samuel Oldknow's estate was Bottoms Hall which stands between the two main mill ponds to the south east of the mill. The date of its construction is unknown but Unwin (1924, 204) attributes it to the reorganisation of the estate at the end of the 18th century. The outbuildings included many advanced features for the period. The house also served as the apprentice house for the mill. Much of this complex still stands. Oldknow's land holdings also included limekilns and a warehouse adjacent to the Peak forest Canal in Marple. Both of these stand.

Present Remains

No remains of any of the buildings which formed the Mellor Mill complex now stand above ground on the site. The wheel pit in the centre of the main building which housed the Wellington Wheel still remains. It was a breast shot wheel 22ft diameter x 17ft wide installed in the basement. To the west of this is another wheel pit where stood another breast shot wheel 20ft diameter x 18.5ft wide known as the Waterloo Wheel. The name is carved in the bed rock above the pit. This had been enclosed in a separate building. Between and associated with these two major structures are a series of stonelined tunnels which originally conveyed water or shaft drives for the power supply to the mill and its ancillary buildings. There is documentary evidence for a third water wheel on the site but this has not been located. In all these cases the stone work of the wheel pits and tunnels are substantially intact and accessible although in some places bulging or collapse has resulted from trees growing through the structure. Surrounding the Waterloo wheel pit is a horseshoe shaped bank with its opening to the north.

It is still possible to trace the site of the gasholder, although very little structural material remains. Adjacent to the gasholder a roadway has in the recent past been bulldozed through a rubbish tip containing large quantities of 19th century material; pottery fragments, bottles etc.

A similar roadway has been cut from just east of Bottoms Bridge, northwards along the side of the River Goyt and part of a ? spillway to the river has been dredged out. It was along this line that the series of ancillary buildings, mentioned above, once stood. The only indication of these now visible on the ground is an extensive spread of building material in the undergrowth. A thick spread of brick and other building material also covers the site of the mill building itself although this again has been cut into by a bulldozed roadway on its eastern side.

The line of the chimney flue from the boiler house can be seen in the sloping field to the north east of the mill. In addition to the surface features noted there are traces of upstanding walls and features partly buried in the under growth the significance of which will not become apparent without further work.

Ashmore (1977) records that the outlet to the tail-race tunnel down stream of the mill, and the weir and sluices upstream of the mill ponds, were still visible. The mill pond in front of the mill has, during the last year or so, been dredged for fishing and managed to encourage water fowl to nest there. "Roman" lake, the larger mill pond, is used for fishing and boating.

As mentioned above Mellor Lodge had been demolished for a number of years but it is still possible to identify its site. Much of the fine stone work of the garden walls survives, although again in places it is suffering due to the trees which in places are growing through it. The garden, needless to say is much overgrown, but many of its salient features may still be traced, and a number of exotic tree and plant species survive.

Bottoms Hall still stands as do most of the outbuildings although a number of these require some maintenance to keep them in good order. The small water wheel which supplied power for farm machinery can be seen, partly buried, in an adjacent field.

Archaeological Proposals

First of all it should be borne in mind throughout the following proposals that all the woodland around and covering the sites of Mellor Mill, its ancillary buildings Mellor Lodge and its garden are covered by a tree preservation order (The Lakes Road TPO 1983).

Mellor Mill

Clear site of the mill range to expose the floor plan of the building, retaining any dressed stone which may be required for conservation purposes. Trees and shrubs will have to be removed during this process as a number of them are displacing part of the remaining structure in the wheel pit. As part of this work an attempt should be made to locate the third wheel pit referred to above. All features should be drawn and recorded photographically as the work proceeds. After this work has been completed the structure should be conserved and where necessary stone work replaced.

Ancillary buildings including the Waterloo Wheel Pit

The same procedure as outlined above should be followed although in some cases the remains may not be as substantial as with the mill itself or the Waterloo Wheel pit.

As mentioned above the mill ponds have been put to other use by the company which owns them and archaeological work on them must therefore be limited.

Leats & Tunnels

Obviously the amount of work which can be carried out on the weir and sluice which feeds the mill ponds must be related to the present use of the mill ponds but where possible they should be drawn and photographed in order to produce a full record of the hydraulic arrangements for the mill.

The tunnels which are directly associated with the mill and the tail race outlet are very interesting and they are, in part, accessible at present. The entrances/access points to them should be cleared of spoil, retaining any stone which may be required for conservation work. As mentioned above this may require the removal of some trees and shrubs, the roots of which have damaged the structure. Again these should be planned in full as there are problems which cannot be fully explained by a study of the available documentary evidence. After conservation it will be necessary to fit grills to the entrances of a number of these tunnels to deny general access. Whether it will be possible to reinstate the flow of water from the mill pond through the wheel pit and the water tunnels and the tail race tunnel will have to be decided on site as the work proceeds.

Mellor Lodge and Gardens

Clear the site of the house to expose floor plan of the building, retaining any dressed stone which may be required for conservation. All features should be recorded both photographically and by drawn section as the work proceeds. The remains may then be consolidated and the area demarkated. Clear the gardens and establish the layout of the paths, flower beds and lawns. The archaeology of formal gardens has recently come to the fore with a number of such schemes either in hand or planned for the future. Restore the lawns and prune/replace the ornamental species (tree and shrub). A decision will have to be made as to which period the garden will be restored as it is very likely that its layout was changed, in line with fashion between the late 18th century and the early 20th century. Whatever the decision the plants/flower species should be appropriate to the agreed time span.

All the garden walls and associated features should be cleaned and restored, where necessary removing trees which are causing damage to the structure.

Bottoms Hall

Although not directly part of the present scheme, the opportunity should be taken to record the standing structure of the house and the outbuildings. Some excavation conservation/conservation work might be undertaken on the leat system to the Hall.

It is understood that English Heritage is currently considering grant aiding the reproofing of at least part of the structure of Bottoms Hall in order to make it weather proof.

The Etherow/Goyt Valley Plan

The mill site is situated in the Goyt Valley at the southern end of the proposed Brabyns Brown to Bottoms Bridge footpath and bridleway (7.1) and just north of the Roman Lakes Area (8.7) which is designated as an informal recreation area. When the works above are completed and the area laid out with interpretive displays etc. it will form a very attractive link between the two areas. Mellor Lodge had two entrances to the road, one adjacent to Bottoms Bridge and the other opposite the south end of the mill. With the gardens restored it should be feasible to arrange for car parking and a picnic area off the road, which would contribute much to this area.