I’ve been looking at the previous owners and occupiers of Mavis Mill, near Priory Bridge.
First built around 1770 by Alexander Corse, the mill was occupied by Charles Weir at that time. For whatever reason, the mill has changed hands many times over the centuries.
In 1841, The Forrests were the millers at that location. 45 year old James and Janet Forrest lived there with their 4 children. 20 year old Agnes Mason is the domestic servant and 12 year old James Brownlie was a young labourer living on the site. By the end of the decade, the Forrests had moved away, although are not to be confused by their cousins at the Bridge Mill at Crossbasket. Those Forrests lived there for just a few short years, forced to move after a younger member of the family was caught up in murder scandal at nearby Stoneymeadow Road in 1851.
I would urge anybody investigating Mavis Mill to be cautious in their census searches. They property is incorrectly listed in 1851 and 1861 as “Maris Mill”, which made this article all the more difficult.
By 1851, I found James Smith living at Mavis Mill with his wife and 4 children. He farmed 12 acres around Mavis Mill and owned the Mill itself, where he employed James Brownell as the miller and Robert Davidson sat the carter miller. John Barr was an agricultural labourer working for James Smith also at the time. Catherine May was their live in 20 year old domestic servant. The Smith family were still there in 1861 with John Fleming being the carter miller by that time.
It is thought the Smith family lived there until the mid 1870s. In 1874, Janet Smith, the youngest daughter of James got married at the mill. I suspect that the family sold the property following the death of James Smith.
By 1879, the Jackson family held the land and leased out to George Ford or Case, a spirit merchant from Stonefield, Blantyre. In June 1879, Jackson took George to court to try to revoke the lease, on the basis that Mr Ford had been sober at the time of the lease, and didn’t appear to be very much afterwards!
Several leased owners followed at the grain mill. Amongst them the Rodgers family and indeed, a William Wallace, who was declared bankrupt in 1897.
By 1901, 54 year old Thomas Stratton and his family of 7 children ran the mill business until it’s closure in 1930. They moved there sometime between 1897 and 1901. Although the adjacent buildings also had the address of “Mavis Mill”, they were actually in later times, separate cottages unconnected to the mill itself. Calderview Cottage and Mavisbank Cottage had originally been mill dwellings but in more modern times served as homes for management staff of the nearby Spittal pit.
The Stratton family didn’t get off to a good start in the area. Caught up in a legal dispute about the land in 1897, son Thomas Stratton, younger was convicted of perjury in trying to hide some important facts about his father. He was sentenced to 60 days imprisonment.
Today, the present owner is Mr. Clark Gibb who hails from nearby Newton. In March 2015, I was invited to Mavis Mill for a tour around the grounds, which Clark, proudly did. Whilst there i saw the mill ruins for the first time and the old lade. For a little fun, we thought we would try to recreate the picture of Thomas Stratton from the 1920s. Thomas is photographed here at the side of the River Calder , near Mavis Mill with the small lade in the background. The other photo is Clark, taken that day in March, standing on the nearby spot Thomas did almost 100 years earlier, albeit facing the opposite direction. It is clear some erosion of the riverbank has happened in the last 100 years! Today, the lade is filled in and a small path leads to the mill ruins. It is with sincere thanks to Clark for a most enjoyable afternoon. Clark had told me the wheel of Mavis Mill was actually inside the building, as the channel ran through it. I was particularly impressed with his knowledge of the history of the area and had a great admiration for his renovation hobbies and interests. I listened intently as Clark described his plan to restore a little part of the building and the wheel. He is a lucky man to live in such a tranquil, idyllic area.