Peckforton Mill: the first site on the Gowy


Sept 2019

STOP PRESS: The tricky to read inscription on the mill wall. Consensus:


Decided to take a break from ploughing through trade directories as part of endeavouring to match millers and their millers. A walk along part of the Gowy at Peckforton was as much to return to what appeared to be a deep gully about 500 m from the source of the river, Instead, another feature was discovered; the remains of Peckforton Mill.

Fig 1: High banks

Starting  at SJ539571,  a waypost by a cottage, the gully was a short distance down the muddy slope; the Gowy turned NE to Peckforton Mere. Vegetation made it impossible to photograph the gulley.  However, from the opposite bank a rough idea  of it’s bank height was possible. At least 4m at river level and some 10 m at field level. Luckily, found a photo of it in Pat Bradley’s ‘The Gowy from source to the sea’,2002.

Fig 2: Mill remains

Followed the ditch-like river south. Had anticipated some lateral movement to its course but arrow straightness suggested human intervention.  This changed a short distance later as a sharp turn east saw the river return to a more natural state reminiscent of the gulley. but  a wider, shallower, very tight meander takes the river back on itself. At this point SJ 539566, totally unexpected, the remains of Peckforton Mill stood wall-like ahead.

Norris  in his Water-Powered Corn mills of Cheshire (1969) records this mill as having small remains of the wheel-pit. The picture above shows rather more with a back wall of sandstone blocks of 4 m and a width of some 5m. Not visible on either side are the wheel-pit. The mill-pool was behind as shown in both the 1846 Tithe map and the 1910 OS

Fig 3 : 1910 OS

Sept 10th…returned to look more closely

Parked at the field-gate on Stonehouse Lane as the mill was viewable.  Even so, the slope allowed only the trees on top of the mill to locate it.  A barely exposed line of sandstone blocks, above the mill, marked the line of the dam wall. With blocks and branches strewn below trying to measure features was not straightforward but after an hour was achieved:

Total width of the site = 12.3m or 40ft:; Dam wall across=10m+ and 3m wide; Mill back wall height= 3.5m Wheelpit width= 1.5m; Tailrace from pit to Gowy=14.4m

Fig 4: Burr millstone

The most surprising find (shown above) were two semi-circular stones with a straight cut vertical section  of 12cm/5in, reminiscent of French millstones. These were widely used in the 17th/18th century and made in parts with a iron-band round the circumference n the manner of a cart wheel.

13th Sept.  Visited Manor Farm and got permission to access field. Had a conversation with the father and son who said the millpond was used as rubbish down when it was turning into marsh presumably by the Gowy bypassing the mill.  Also, an early sand quarry(supplied  Beeston Castle)  east of the Gowy on the raised ground became a reservoir taking farm water to sustain the potato crop in particular; enough for 9 months. Mention was made of glazed pipes on the east side of the millpool for carrying overfill back into the Gowy (map below)

Fig 5: O.S. 1910 showing mill site

As at Hockenhull, the course of the Gowy is difficult to judge. Clearly, the straightness of the river into the millpool is not natural. Comparing early maps and aerial surveys points to a changing drainage pattern. Evidence of a floodplain itself means an earlier natural course.

Fig 6 Floodplain

The historic floodplain is the pale area to the west of the Gowy.  Determining what caused the floodplain rests on both the dynamics of the river and the human controls applied to it.  Assuming the present Gowy was responsible can only be part of it’s changing course. The aerial view shows an unnatural, managed Gowy but why?  It s barely a kilometre from its source as a puddle in a field! In the past the river must have been more powerful enough to decide its journey. The constraints of climate and heavy clay soils determine its course.

Fig 7: Bryant’s map of 1831

Regarded as the most accurate 19th century, Bryant’s shows the Gowy on a different course to that of today. It does not show a mill pool but the 1846 Tithe map (below) does.  Barely visible at top and bottom, the Gowy for whatever reason, does not connect.


Fig 8: Tithe map 1846

This disconnection might be a mapping error or the  Gowy’s  course  was indeterminate or, more exceptionally, it was piped underground. There are manholes centrally located in both fields either side of the mill. Is it possible the Gowy was piped in some way?  According to the landowner glazed pipes are/were at the right side to carry the overflow from the mill-pool back to the river.  This overflow became the changed  course of the river.

Bryant’s 1831 map shows the natural course of the Gowy whereas the OS 1875 one a straightened course  (with diversion round the mill) and the tithe not at all. (Fig 8).  Accepting the river did not go underground but went in a direct line between the two  points to the mill. Therefore, two diversions took place in the  1840’s  and a minor one in the  1870,s. By 1898 the mill-pool is a marsh.

The information here is based on the combination of fieldwork and the analysis of maps and aerial photography. No doubt changes in the light of fresh evidence will be necessary