WORSBROUGH Mill is working perhaps as hard as it ever has in its 400-year history.
And mysteries built up over the decades - including a time capsule left by labourers underneath the mill’s stone floor - continue to reveal themselves.
The Grade II-listed mill dates from around 1625, but upon the death of miller Fred Russell in 1972 it fell into disrepair, as imports and new roller mills pushed traditional mills out of favour.
Little has been documented from the period, other than that Worsbrough made animal feed for local farmers in the decade prior to Fred’s death.
Monk Bretton man Lawrence Nutton was one of a team of workmen sent in the early 1970s - when the site came under the ownership of West Riding County Council, which set about renovating it as a working museum.
Lawrence, 74, and his colleagues left behind a memento - a jar containing coins and the names of the men - that has gone undiscovered.
But Lawrence has revealed the jar’s location to the Chronicle - as he’s the last of the group still alive.
“There were a good number of us working down there,” he said.
“I was only a labourer. There were bricklayers, joiners, all sorts.
“We fitted a big metal beam inside, that’s still there now.
“Under that beam, we put a jar with some coins in and our names - me, Tommy Stringer, Bill Newman, and a few more.
“It was Tommy that said we should do it. There’s only me knows that it’s there now.
“There was no official record of it.
“It can’t be gotten to, because it’s holding the roof up.”
The men would transport stones from old Leeds cobbled streets by hand, re-bed flagstones near the miller’s house, and replace and clean paddles from the water wheel.
“It was a mucky job,” said Lawrence.
“A lot of timbers were infested with woodworm, a lot of windows smashed.
“We were there months and there were a lot of people coming down, really interested to see what we were doing.”
Lawrence, who’d later work at Wooley Colliery and Barnsley Main, also found two coins - one of which appears to be from the reign of George III - which he’s kept.
“We never thought much about it while we were there, we didn’t take any photos,” he said.
“But I can say I’m part of the history there.”
Worsbrough Mill came into the possession of South Yorkshire County Council in 1974 and it completed the restoration work in time for the mill to be opened in April 1976.
The water-powered mill - one of the few left in the country - has quadrupled its usual output this year, from around 15 tons to close to 60, said miller Simon Dodd, 53.
A £160,000 government grant will ensure it, and the surrounding 240-acre country park, can be modernised to cope with changing demands.
Former teacher Simon, who took on the job in 2018, said its faithful attachment to the same processes established hundreds of years ago makes the mill a unique proposition.
“There’s so little documentation that exists, so there’s a bit of mystery,” he said.
“Without the work in the 1970s it would’ve fallen into absolute ruin, and Barnsley would’ve lost an important heritage building.
“Now, it’s a question of what to do with the amount of stress we’re putting the machinery under.
“We want to keep the traditional methods and update them quietly.
“You definitely get the feeling you could be back in the 17th century, doing the same job they were doing.”
Carvings of millers’ names left above the fireplace are further quirks from the building’s rich history.
“I absolutely love it,” said Simon, referring to the jar left by the labourers. “There’s every chance it will stay there full-stop.
“It will certainly be beyond my lifetime before any work needs doing to the floor.
“One of the things they apparently found during the renovation was a child’s doll, which is now inside a wall on the doorway of the bottom part of the mill.
“I walked past this green, carved doll’s head for 18 months, before I was told what it was.”
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Business as usual for historic mill
Author: Luke Watson
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