Maythorn Mill & the Nottinghamshire SWARBROOKES

My Swarbrooke Ancestors

                        Maythorn Mill - The Buildings

I have been trying to research the buildings at Maythorn since 1989, but without much success as although so much remains on the ground today, so little is known about the Mill or its origins.

The leaflet “The Southwell Trial—Farnsfield to Southwell Railway” published by Nottingham County Council in 1976 states “Maythorn Mill was built in 1786, but altered and added to much later.  It was originally a Cotton Spinning Mill, but by 1832 had been converted for use as a Silk and Lace Thread Mill by Messers Bean & Johnson”

The History books (Southwell Minster Library) tell us that a Mill stood at Maythorn as early as the 13th Century, but it appears it was a Windmill and although paintings survive of this windmill, we still do not know its exact location.

The Universal British Directory of 1793? does not mention Maythorn at all and describes Southwell as a town of “no great trade” - but amongst Southwells 54 traders is listed Thomas Hind, Turner and Cotton Spinner; maybe his trade was connected with the Mill.

Laatest information comes from Professor Stanley Chapman, Chairman of the Southwell Local History Society, who chose the Maythorn Cotton Mill as the subject of one of his talks.  In its later years it became a silk mill but was not generally known to have started as a cotton mill. Professor Chapman, whose book Hosiery and Knitwear, published by the Oxford University Press - is an acknowledged expert on the hosiery industry of the midlands. He prefaced his talk with a resume of the development of the industry from a cottage industry to the large mills of Arkwright and others. The first mills on an industrial scale were silk mills in the early years of the 18th century. Silk was an expensive commodity and the development of cotton spinning machines, which Arkwright patented, began the industrial revolution in the hosiery industry. Arkwright allowed the installation of his machines under licence by factory owners on the terms that at least 1,000 spindles were installed. The industry extended from Nottinghamshire to Lancashire with some mills in the Clyde valley. The Arkwright Mills in Derbyshire date from about 1770. About ten horsepower was required to operate 1,000 spindles and this moderate power requirement allowed the mills to be driven by water wheels sited on relatively small streams.

The mill at Maythorn seems to have been rather off the main centre of the industry and although built in 1784 it was not listed in various later surveys of cotton mills. This has led to the erroneous belief by some people that Southwell has never had any significant industry. Professor Chapman has so far had difficulty in finding detailed documentary evidence of the operation of the mill but from insurance records of the Sun Fire Office held in London he has found
that the Maythome Cotton Mill was valued at £2,800 in 1784, the year in which it was built.  The machines were made on the site by resident engineers, often designated clockmakers, who were encouraged by generous terms to come from some distance away.

Enquiries made at Nottinghamshire Local Studies Library; Southwell Library, Southwell Minster Library; Newark Library; Planning Dept Archives at Kelham Hall; County Archives at Trent Bridge and Nottingham Public Records Office have all proved negative in the search for further information as to the origins of the mill or its activities.

The Archives section of the Planning Dept at Kelham Hall did supply me with the paperwork pertaining to the Mill and its buildings when they became Grade 2 Listed Buildings on 9th February 1973  and include the following:-

1.ć cottages early 19th C—opposite the former managers House, Main Street, SE side.

2.Ž cottages late 18th C—opposite North Mill, Main Street, SE side.

3. Former spinning mill late 18th C—north Mill, Main Street, NW side.

4. Former spinning mill late 18th C—South Mill, Main Street, NW side.

5. Former managers house and adj. Cottages and workshops late 18th C, NW side.

6. Pair of sluice gates and control gear early 19th C, Northwest.


Trying to locate the various Poll Books and Rate Books for Maythorn have also met with the same negative answer from the above listed Libraries and Archives as no one seems to know where they are kept or even if any still exist today—but I have been able to obtain the Enumerators Census Returns for the period 1841 through to 1911 which gives us details of the people who lived and worked in the Mill.

I will continue to search for more information on the Mill where my Grt Grt Grandfather William SWARBROOK(E) came to work pre 1851 (moved from Macclesfield) and where he left his eldest daughter Elizabeth Swarbrooke; now married to George MUSSON of the ‘Bramley Apple Tree’ fame, and where his third eldest son Frederick who on marrying Hannah COOKE, herself a worker in the mill, established the Nottinghamshire branch of the SWARBROOKE Family