Town Mills


  • The Town Mills stood near to the present Lion Bridge, at the foot of the peth, on the north bank of the Aln; there were two of them, one westward of the bridge called the ” Wheat or High Mill;” the other, eastward, was called the ” Grey or Low Mill,” as it was used for grinding barley and peas which introduced a grey meal, and the ” Blew Stone Mill ” from the colour of the mill stones. The mill race was continued past the bridge into the pasture. Early in the seventeenth century they were in the occupation of the town or corporation as tenant of the earl ; and, in the earliest corporate accounts preserved, there are several entries relating to them, which are interesting examples of our early records, showing how the town then did its work, and what was the cost of labour and materials.
  • John do Vescy, a little prior to 1217, gave to the Abbey twenty marks yearly, out of the farm of his mills of Alnwick. Baronial records in Alnwick Castle, refer to ” the Book of Account of Thomas Archer, Castle Greave, of Alnwick ” in 1443, from which it appears that these mills had been let to the convent of Huln for four years at divers rents ; the account of Mr. Thomas Coke, Castle Greave,” state that they were afterwards let to the convent of Holn for ten years at the yearly rent of 33s. 4d., over and above £13 6s. 8d., granted to it out of the mills. In the account of Matthew Bell, castle greave, they appear to have been let to the convent for ten years at £15 yearly rent; and subsequent accounts of John Carleton, William Naddall, and John Gray, castle greaves, repeat the statement
  • After the dissolution of the monasteries ownership of these mills passed to the king (Henry VIII) and later to Queen Elizabeth. Although they offered them to others, the earl of Northumberland eventually regained possession.
  • Tenants in Alnwick, Rugely, Snipe House, and Shieldykes were all obliged to use the Town Mills, while those in Bondgate (along with Denwick, Rennington, and South Charlton) were obliged to grind at the Denwick or the new mill;
  • … for repairing- breaches in the mill dam and rebuilding the mills in the years 1744, 1745, and 1740, there was paid by the lord £495 17s. 5|d. more still there was soon after; the new making and rebuilding Alnwick Mill Dam, (the old dam having been carried away by a great flood), and furnishing the same from July 18th, 1746, to May 8th, 1749, cost £1160 0s. 6 1/2d,
  • In 1767 the High or Wheat Mill was carried away by a great flood in the Aln, and another was built on an enlarged scale.
  • On the 6th November, 1770, the river rose to an unprecedented force and carried away the dam and foundations, and the bridge, too, was seriously damaged. After this, the mills and the cottages by the water side were taken down.

Skelly tells us that Grose’s Antiquities of England and Scotland has an engraving of the old bridge and the mills is given. The Bowmakers, ancestors of the late Reverend James Everett, who played such an important part in the.cause of Methodism, were for many years tenants of these mills. About 1755, the Town Mills were rented by Mr George Cockburn, who, previous to this, had been connected with Widope Mill. During the time that the Bowmakers were in possession, the building had got into a very bad state, notwithstanding that large sums of money had been spent upon it. In 1667, owing to a heavy flood, nearly the whole of the buildings were swept away ; after this no time was lost in building another mill, only this time upon a much larger scale, and the event was celebrated in a really good old English fashion. According to accounts handed down, it is recorded that a monster dumpling was made, which measured eight feet in circumference, and contained sixty-eight pounds of other ingredients, the whole weighing when boiled, one hundred and forty seven pounds. The mode of invitation to the banquet, was by means of the town’s bellman, and in honour of the event the following couplet was composed :—

“They myed a dumplin’ in the mill dam,Thirty feet thick, and thirty feet lang.”

The fate of the new mill was similar to that of its predecessors, inasmuch as in 1780, the greater portion of it was destroyed by another flood, and after this the Town Mills, which had existed for so many years, became a thing of the past.

John Robertson 1737:

  • Map shows one mill upstream from the bridge, and one downstream. Both on the north side of the river, sharing the same mill race.

Isaac Thomson Map of 1760

  • Shows large mill upstream, and smaller mill downstream of the bridge, on the north side of the river, sharing the same mill race,