Stretton Watermill

Stretton Watermill (above)is a working historic watermill set in South West Cheshire and provides an evocative glimpse of a rural way of life that has now all but disappeared. It is owned and administered by Cheshire West and Chester Council. The mill is recorded in theNational Heritage List for England as a designated Grade IIlisted building and the mill machinery is considered to be of national importance.

There has been a mill at Stretton since at least the 14th century, from when the earliest records survive. The earliest record of the mill is when it changed ownership in 1351. In 1596 the mill passed into the ownership of the Leche family, when a 60 year lease was made out to Ursula Leche at an annual rent of £5. It continued to function as an estate mill on the Leche family’s Carden Estate until the mill finally ceased operating in 1959.

The oldest surviving structure of the building date from 1630, at which time it was a timber-framed building with a thatched roof. Pegholes for securing the original wattle and daub paneling can still be seen inside the mill. The original breast-shot wheel was enclosed by a stone extension in 1819.

The original present day cobbled ground floor surface is thought to pre-date the 1630 building. In 1770 the mill was extended by William Leche, the roof was raised and the thatched roof replaced byslates . The timber framing was encased in weatherboarding and sandstone , and an overshot wheel was added. This work is commemorated by an inscribed stone on the west corner of the building. In 1852 the timber breastshot wheel was replaced by a similar type of wheel incast iron . The mill finally ceased operation in 1959. The mill machinery was restored by Cyril & John Boucher during 1975-7, with partial funding from the Science Museum . The mill has been a museum since 1977.

The mill is constructed on a timber-framed core, and is cased in weatherboarding and sandstone. There is a brick extension, and a chimney in stone and brick. The roofs are slated .

The mill is in two storeys, with an attic for storing grain. The windows are all casements , some with shutters. There are two working waterwheels, one on the outside, the other inside the building. The external wheel is a timber overshot wheel, which drives largely 18th-century wooden machinery. The internal wheel is in cast iron, and is breastshot; it drives Victorian mainly cast iron machinery.

The upper storey, which contains four millstones , is entered by a steep internal stairway, and the grain loft is accessed by a ladder. Outside the mill are stone steps leading up to themill dam , and a stone-lined millrace with a sluice .

To ensure a continuous supply of water to drive the wheels water levels needed to be carefully controlled. Stretton Watermill is positioned on a man-made loop in Carden Brook (below), a minor tributary of the River Dee. Water reaches the mill by way of sluice gates and a leat which feeds the mill pond. The miller operates the sluice gates by the mill to control the water level. When the sluice is opened the excess water flows down the bywash to rejoin Carden Brook downstream.

Stretton Watermill operates with two water wheels. The overshot wheel, which is turned by the weight of water entering its buckets at the top, is the most efficient arrangement but cannot be used when the water level is low.



Stretton Watermill originally served the Carden Estate. An experienced miller was usually assisted by younger apprentices or journeyman millers. The millers were on the estate payroll. And during slack periods at the mill were called upon to work elsewhere on the 1300 acre estate.

The miller’s ledgers for the period 1879-1895 record his customers and the crops brought to the mill. From these records it is seen that Stretton Watermill not only served the estate and its tenant farmers, but was regularly used by many other farms over a 4.5 mile radius.

The busiest time for the miller was between October and May when farmers brought the grain in installments for grinding. The crops brought to the mill were wheat for flour, oats for cattle and horse fodder, barley for cattle feed, Indian corn or maize for pigs and beans for horses.

Until the end of the 19thcentury all millers at Stretton were employed as estate workers. In about 1900 Sir John Leche offered the tenancy of the mill to his miller John Gregory. Albert Gregory (below), the last miller at Stretton, took on the tenancy following the death of his father in 1932.

Stretton Watermill finally closed in 1959.

On the next page is a copy of the 1901 Census which clearly shows John Gregory, his wife Eliza and their 8 children, one of which is Albert, born in 1897 and just 14 at that time in 1901. Shown at the address Stretton Mill, Cheshire.



John C

Gregory

63

1848

M

Head

Married

28

Northwich, Cheshire

Corn Miller

Eliza

Gregory

51

1860

F

Wife

Married

28

All Saints, Cheshire


George

Gregory

24

1887

M

Son

Single

0

Stretton, Cheshire

Wheelwright<

Robert

Gregory

21

1890

M

Son

Single

0

Stretton, Cheshire

Frank

Gregory

19

1892

M

Son

Single

0

Stretton, Cheshire

May

Gregory

17

1894

F

Daughter

Single

0

Stretton, Cheshire


Harold

Gregory

16

1895

M

Son

Single

0

Stretton, Cheshire


Albert

Gregory

14

1897

M

Son


0

Stretton, Cheshire

Olive

Gregory

12

1899

F

Daughter


0

Stretton, Cheshire

Eric

Gregory

8

1903

M

Son


0

Stretton, Cheshire


It is interesting to note that John Cooper’s first wife must have died because on the 1881 Census shown below he is the head of the household. Further investigation shows Eliza Newton (aged 21), his wife in 1901 is shown as a servant, and he lives presently Paddow Head, Cuddington.

John C

Gregory

33

1848

Head

Northwich, Cheshire

Corn Miller

John H

Gregory

9

1872

Son

Cuddington, Cheshire

Scholar

Arthur

Gregory

7

1874

Son

Cuddington, Cheshire

Scholar

Mary E

Gregory

5

1876

Daughter

Cuddington, Cheshire

Scholar

Frederick J

Gregory

4

1877

Son

Cuddington, Cheshire


Frederick W

Hornley

20

1861

Brother In Law

Cuddington, Cheshire

General Labourer

Eliza

Newton

21

1860

Servant

Allstock, Cheshire

General Domestic Servant

Abraham

Lewis

33

1848

Visitor

Cuddington, Cheshire

General Labourer

Well here we have the proof of the marriage taken from FreeBMD and clearly showing the marriage.

Marriages Dec 1883

CROOK

William Frederick


Northwich

8a

381

GIBBONS

Mary


Northwich

8a

381

GREGORY

John Cartwright


Northwich

8a

381

NEWTON

Eliza


Northwich

8a

381

The site operates as a museum, picnic area and visitor centre. It is open to the general public on advertised days during April - September between 1pm and 5pm, and whilst access to the site is free, there is a small charge for a guided tour of the mill's interior if required. In addition to the working mill, there is a shop and exhibition area in the former stables, outdoor picnic tables, and accessible toilet facilities.

Guided tours for groups (both during and outside normal opening hours) can be arranged in advance, and there is an education programme available for schools. Both storeys of the mill are fully accessible to wheelchair users, the upper storey via a ramped external pathway.

My thanks to Wikipedia (part) and Cheshire County Council Museums Service for most of the text and a photo. Also The Genealogist for the transcript of the 1901 Census for Cheshire. The other photos were taken by yours truly on a recent visit with Iris when we were at Warners Alvaston Hall, which is about a 30 minute drive away in the pleasant Cheshire countryside. It had been our intention to visit with the group next year when we were due to be at Alvaston. However, the break had to be cancelled but who knows in the distant future a small group may visit Warners at Alvaston and the Mill can be experienced first hand.

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