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Description: Ashton Mill
Date Listed: 12 May 1969
English Heritage Building ID: 232564
OS Grid Reference: TL0516688217
OS Grid Coordinates: 505166, 288217
Latitude/Longitude: 52.4818, -0.4528
Explore more of the area around Ashton, Northamptonshire at Explore Britain.
1743/18/9 OUNDLE ROAD
12-MAY-69 (South of)
(Formerly listed as:
Former water-powered corn mill, later adapted to form electricity generating and water pumping station for the Ashton Estate. Late C18 and C19, incorporating some surviving fabric from an earlier mill and then altered and extended c1900. The architect is not known, but the electricity and water supply systems were designed by Walter Morris Thomas, engineer, for Lord Rothschild.
MATERIALS: Orange brick and coursed squared limestone beneath a Collyweston stone slate roof covering.
PLAN: Original rectangular plan, later extended to form L-shaped complex with additions to either end of the original water mill and a lower rear wing running at right angles to the main range. The original mill straddles the water supply channel leading from the River Nene.
EXTERIOR: The main building is of three storeys and seven bays, the front elevation with five glazing bar sash windows beneath flat brick arches to each of the lower floors and six upper floor window openings with glazing bar casement frames. There are early C20 doors and doorways to centre and left under shallow brick arches and a central C20 door to the second floor set below a gabled and weatherboarded loading gantry. There are blocked windows to the first floor to the left and right of centre. There is evidence of a single-storey stone building to the right hand corner of the main range, whilst the ground and first floor brickwork appears to be of late C18 date. The upper floor appears to have been added or raised in the C19 as were the extensions to the left and right-hand ends. The rear elevation is detailed in similar fashion to the front, its window openings with glazing bar casement frames beneath flat brick arches. The lean-to to the left-hand side left has a weather-boarded front, as has the C20 flat roofed entrance extension to the centre of the elevation. Further right is a tall weather-boarded lean-to which extends up to the cills of the upper floor windows of the mill. A railed and boarded walkway extends across the rear elevation through which project the heads of the three sluice mechanisms regulating the overflow water from the mill race. The water supply for the turbines flows into the turbine chamber beneath the centre of the mill, and the controlling sluices are located beneath the wooden walkway.
The main mill building was altered at ground and first floor level to accommodate the electicity generating and water pumping and purification equipment installed c1900. The first floor of the mill retains heavy bridging beams, some with timber props at mid-span, closely spaced joists and boarded floors with former apertures used in its corn milling phase for chutes, drives and hoists now boarded over. The upper floor is formed in the roof space, the roof trusses of queen strut form with collars dovetailed into the principal rafters. The trusses have secondary tie beams set above floor level apparently to help create storage bins for grain prior to millings on the floor below. The ground floor of the mill and the original wheel chamber were remodelled and strengthened to receive twin turbines manufactured by Gilkes and Co. of Kendal, twin dynamos built by The Wolverhampton Construction Company, a Smith and Vaile pump and two Alley and Maclellan pumps. The turbine drives powered line shafting which drove the dynamos and the water pumps. The mill also housed two Blackstone oil engines which were installed in the 1930's as replacements for an earlier engine, and like their predecessor, were used to supplement the turbine drives in times of water shortage. All of the machinery, the line shafting and belt drives remain in situ, together with the switch gear and control dials housed in a control panel on the south wall of the mill. The east end of the mill houses water storage and water treatment tanks arranged on two levels. Each water pump had its own associated tank, one pump being used to pump river water to the estate water tower at Ashton Wold for the farms and water troughs. Another pump was used to pump water from a well to filtration and chlorination tanks in a nearby field, and then to water softening and storage tanks in the mill borehole. The third pump transfered the purified water to an intermediate reservoir, and then to the water tower to be delivered by gravity to the estate dwellings.
HISTORY: The Rothschilds became the first landowners in the country to provide their tenants with the luxury of both running filtered water and electricity. Lord Rothschild had employed the marine engineer Walter Morris Thomas to design an electricity generating station for his estate in Tring. This was a steam-powered installation housed within a former Silk Mill. At Ashton, Thomas was engaged c1900, to design and install a state-of-the-art electricity generating station together with a water supply pumping station both powered by water turbines. The mill operated until it became more economical to supply the estate with power and water from national supply grids. The machinery remained unused in situ for many years, but underwent restoration in the late C20 as part of a museum project centred on the mill.
Map accompanying Conveyance of Ashton Estate to Lionel Rothschild (1860), Northamptonshire Record Office 5173.
Map of Ashton Wold (c1901), in Ashton Wold House.
Ordnance Survey maps 1886, 1900, 1926.
Rothschild, Miriam, The Rothschild Gardens (1996), 82-107 & 169.
'The Hon. Nathaniel Rothschild', obituary in The Times, 15 October 1923.
Ashton Mill, Ashton is designated at Grade II* for the following principal reasons:
* INNOVATION: Ashton Mill provided electricity and piped water to the buildings on the Ashton Estate. This provision is believed to be the earliest such advance in the context of an estate community and anticipates the development of similar levels of provision at regional and national levels later in the C20.
* HISTORY: Ashton Mill is a central component of the Ashton Estate electricity supply and water supply systems, a key element of a newly-created model estate developed by the internationally significant Rothschild family, during a period of agricultural depression which had signalled the end of significant investment in estate development elsewhere in England.
* COMPLETENESS: The electricity generating machinery and water pumping, purification and storage equipment at Ashton Mill are complete and very well-preserved. Few electricity supply and water pumping stations of any period retain their original plant and equipment and in this context, Ashton is an exceptional survival.
* GROUP VALUE: Ashton Mill has high functional group significance at the heart of the Ashton Estate electricity and water supply systems, which linked all of the estate buildings. Group value is particularly strong with the Water Tower at Ashton Wold which was the key intermediate structure in the water supply system.
This text is a legacy record and has not been updated since the building was originally listed. Details of the building may have changed in the intervening time. You should not rely on this listing as an accurate description of the building.
Source: English Heritage
Listed building text is © Crown Copyright. Reproduced under licence.