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Coulton Mill: corn mill, house, and farm buildings

A Grade II* Listed Building in Coulton, North Yorkshire

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Latitude: 54.1547 / 54°9'16"N

Longitude: -1.0177 / 1°1'3"W

OS Eastings: 464249

OS Northings: 473653

OS Grid: SE642736

Mapcode National: GBR PNBD.GF

Mapcode Global: WHFB5.BTMT

Entry Name: Coulton Mill: corn mill, house, and farm buildings

Listing Date: 11 December 1985

Last Amended: 20 September 2016

Grade: II*

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1296371

English Heritage Legacy ID: 329589

Location: Coulton, Ryedale, North Yorkshire, YO62

County: North Yorkshire

District: Ryedale

Civil Parish: Coulton

Traditional County: Yorkshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): North Yorkshire

Church of England Parish: Hovingham All Saints

Church of England Diocese: York

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Water-powered corn mill and farm of medieval origins, refurbished by 1721, now largely of C18 date with later alterations, still retaining significant mill machinery.


Water-powered corn mill and farm. Medieval origins, re-established by 1657, upgraded before 1721 and subsequently modified. House is late C17 with C18 and later additions and alterations.

MATERIALS: hammer-dressed local calcareous sandstone rubble, with higher quality stone used for the mill rather than the house. House retains lime render to the front, and evidence of previous rendering to the other elevations. Welsh slate roof to the house, pantiles to other buildings including the mill.

LAYOUT: the road forms the farm yard with the house and mill on the NW side, a barn range to the S and cow byre to the NE. The waterwheel is on the W side of the mill, the mill race approaching from the W, the tail race being culverted under the road to re-join the Marr Beck to the W of the barn range.

EXTERIOR: this is a single cell building of two bays, a tall single storey with attic. The S elevation has a low, wide door to the left and a high-set window to the right, both with timber lintels. A Cullin millstone is reused to form the doorstep. The wheel pit is parallel to and outside the W gable, and includes a number of large stone ashlar blocks in its construction. The pit includes the remains of the waterwheel, which has decayed considerably since it was recorded in 2012, the launder having collapsed onto the W rim of the wheel, collapsing it in turn. However details of its construction can still be readily discerned, most obviously the arrangement of six tangential timber arms clasping the axle to support the rims of the wheel formed by six curved lengths of butt jointed timbers. The remains of the wheel also still retains finer details of its construction such as the use of iron straps and bolts to strengthen joints. Although all of the buckets have been lost or badly damaged, sufficient remains to allow their detailed design to be understood. The wheelpit is set within the low ruined remains of its wheelhouse. This had its own attic, accessed via a surviving doorway set in the mill house gable above the waterwheel. The rear wall of this wheelhouse is the eastern end of the retaining wall for the mill race, and is thought to be the earliest structure on the site. The tailrace and culvert under the road are stone lined.

INTERIOR: this retains the hurst (the timber-framed platform for the millstones) and most of the machinery still in situ, although the millstones and some other components have been lost. Most of the machinery is of timber construction, but includes metal components such as cast iron plates of gear teeth that are bolted onto timber wheels. The 2012 recording of the machinery did not include components buried in debris within the cog pit, nor finer details such as the grain-chutes and other features that survive within the attic floor above the hurst. This attic floor is supported by substantial, waney-edged floor beams and provides the only access to the attic floor within the house. The roof structure of the mill building has been replaced.

PLAN: originally single cell, this having a direct entry adjacent to the internal doorway between the house and mill. The bedroom above also has a doorway into the mill. Cell added to E, then a continuous outshut added to the rear, this containing the staircase. Access to the house’s attic is via the mill’s attic.

EXTERIOR: the front (S) is of two bays and two storeys with attic, the attic storey being blind. The entrance is to the left (W), adjacent to the mill building which projects forward. Windows are 2-over-2 horned sashes with projecting sills and stucco wedge lintels, the door having a similar lintel. The end stacks are rebuilt in brick. The E gable shows the butt joint between the house and outshut. The house wall has three openings with projecting cills and timber lintels: two attic windows now blocked, one at first floor with a 6-by-6 pane Yorkshire sliding sash. The outshut has two similar windows at first and ground floor level, the latter barred. The rear is partly rendered and has scattered fenestration with a small 4-pane pantry window, a 6-6-6 pane kitchen window with a central horizontal sliding sash (this window being a modern reproduction) and a 6-by-6 Yorkshire sash. To the right (W) is an outbuilding under a catslide roof that is continuous with that to the house and outshut. Both the outshut and outbuilding have brick stacks to the W.

INTERIOR: the ground floor W room retains a substantial ceiling beam that is chamfered with double run-out stops. The fireplace is modern but is flanked by simple wall cupboards. The connecting doorway into the mill has been blocked. A former doorway to the bottom of the stairs, formerly blocked, has been converted into a bookcase. The E room in the outshut, probably originally a dairy, retains a brick floor and a plank door on L-hinges. The staircase is a steep, straight flight, enclosed behind a C18 planked door on strap hinges. Other internal doors in the property include a plank door on H-hinges with a simple Suffolk latch, and a 3-panel door. The roof structure of the outshut is of sawn timber with pegged, butt purlins. The attic of the house, with its roof structure, was not inspected.

BARN RANGE: this is single storey with four doors facing N, the other sides being blind except for a loft pitching door to the E gable. There is a brick-built lean-to at the W end. The S wall is buttressed. The building appears to have been built in three phases from W to E, the first two phases marked by the use of earth mortar, the last by hot-lime mortar. The roof structure is of bolted, king post trusses supporting back purlins, all of sawn timber. The W half to the barn retains C20 concrete cattle stalls.

COW BYRE: this is rubble stone built, incorporating clay field drain pipes for ventilation, with hand-made bricks forming the corners and the jambs to most openings, these having timber lintels. The building is of two storeys and three bays, the E bay forming a flagged loose box with a hayloft above. The two W bays form a cow byre retaining a roughly flagged floor and timber hay racks. This has a central doorway flanked by windows with restored timber vertical slats, a door to the gable end and one to the loose box. Above there is a two bay loft with similar windows to both N and S elevations, accessed via a gable-end door reached from an external stair. Above this door there are a triangular set of dove holes. The roof structure is of simple collared trusses supporting pegged, butt purlins.


Coulton Mill is specifically mentioned in at least two medieval documents, once as part of a C13 exchange between Byland Abbey and Walter de Colton, and again in 1384 when William de Colton granted an income from the mill to Sir Ralph Hastings of Slingsby. Many other medieval records probably also relate to Coulton Mill, but because references are less specific, these are less certain, although they do suggest that the mill site could date back to the C12. Documentary evidence indicates that the medieval mill was operated in tandem with farming and, unlike many mills in the region, remained in secular rather than monastic ownership, falling into disuse in the late medieval period when it was in the control of the Hastings family. Ownership passed to the Fairfax family sometime between 1564 and 1657, probably prompting the revival and probable rebuilding of the mill. It appears to have been operating by 1657 when John Wright is recorded in parish records as the miller. Although it is thought that the medieval mill would have been timber-framed it would have also included masonry: possibly including the large stone ashlar blocks reused around the wheel pit. The long mill race, that brought water to the mill from the W, is almost certainly medieval. From the style of construction and layout, the miller’s house is thought to be late C17 or early C18, originally being a single bay, being extended to two bays, probably later in the C18, the rear outshut being added subsequently, probably also in the C18, but possibly in the early C19. Detailed records from the C18 show that Coulton Mill remained part of the Fairfax estate and was operated both as a mill and a farm. The barn across the road to the S appears to have been built in three phases, probably from the late C17 and into the C18, the cow byre to the N being added later, in the mid-C19.

Sometime before 1721, when the mill was in the ownership of the Fairfax family, the mill was refurbished with a new overshot waterwheel, probably to allow a second set of mill stones to be driven. The large cog pit, along with the arrangement of a pit wheel linking to layshafts, is thought to be C18 in design, possibly the result of this pre-1721 refurbishment. The surviving hurst, the timber framework supporting the millstones and gearing, retains evidence that the mill machinery was modified at least twice, including the removal of the upstream layshaft, along with its millstones; the installation of a large pair of millstones, driven directly off the main driveshaft; as well as modifications and additions to the hurst framework itself. Some parts of the machinery are thought to be the product of C19 repairs and minor modifications to the C18 arrangement, such as the cast iron sections of gear teeth that are fitted to timber wheels to replace timber cogs. Other parts, such as the secondary drive for a hoist and the arrangement which allowed the power transmission to be extended outside of the building to power portable machinery, are thought to have been C19 additions. Evidence also survives, including fragments of small diameter Blue or Cullin millstones, that the C18 mill could produce fine white flour: a high status flour that became fashionable in the C18.

The waterwheel is of a C19 design that was also used at two other local mills (Raindale and Hold Couldron), this being similar to an 1803 design for Wickham Mill, Oxfordshire. However two sketches of Coulton Mill by George Nicholson in 1823 suggest that at this time it had a wheel of a more traditional design with radial arms. The waterwheel at Coulton is thought to have been substantially repaired by the last miller in the first half of the C20.

The 1881 census lists Thomas Harrison as both farmer and miller at Coulton Mill. Harrison bought the freehold of the mill in 1910 from the Fairfax estate, with his grandson, also Thomas, being the last miller when Coulton ceased milling in 1950. In 2011-12 accessible portions of the mill machinery were recorded by the Mills Section of SPAB. In 2012 the Earth Stone and Lime Company published detailed and extensive documentary and building analysis research into the mill of which this is a very brief summary. In circa 2013 the barn range and cow byre were restored.

Reasons for Listing

Coulton Mill, corn mill, house and farm buildings are listed Grade II* for the following principal reasons:
* Milling technology: as displayed by the hurst, machinery and waterwheel, illustrating a pre-Industrial Revolution style C18 arrangement in a single-storey building, and the way that it was subsequently modified in the C19;
* Historical interest: evidence preserved in the buildings combines with that from documentary sources to show that the mill has medieval origins and developed through the C17, C18 and C19, ceasing production in 1950;
* Economic history: as an example of a small rural corn mill that was operated as a commercial part of a small mixed farm rather than either a separate, specialist enterprise, or as mill dedicated to serving a bigger estate;
* Vernacular architecture: particularly as displayed by the house, the way that it has evolved over time from the C17 being part of the special interest.

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