Whittington Mills

Whittington Windmill

Whittington windmill dates from before 1815, in his book John Farey (1) mentions Whittington windmill and states “by which a good deal of the flour of the district is ground”. It is possible that the Cundeys were involved with the construction of the mill together with John Naylor a millwright of Whittington. John and Isaac Cundey were millers since at least before 1815

The Mill had a very mixed time and was put up for sale and changed hands a number of times.

The 1861 census shows George Thorpe as Miller (Corn) and his family living at the Wind Mill House.

The mill was put up for sale in July 1895 and was described as the Old Windmill at Whittington with cottage and garden. The description “Old Windmill” suggests that the windmill was no longer functional and perhaps power by steam was no longer financially viable. The windmill was demolished in around 1900.

Whittington Water Mill

A map dated 1876 shows the watermill on the opposite side of the road to a gasworks and at the bottom of Whittington Hill, near the railway crossing. At that time the mill was powered by water from a mill pond situated alongside the railway line, the pond was supplied with water from the River Whitting. The River Whitting itself was fed with water from the River Don, Barlow Brook and one other small river. The effluent from the mill was returned to the river. The mill has been described as the Duke of Devonshire’s Mill

I have not been able to find a reliable date for the establishment of the original mill on this site. It is certainly very old and might have dated back to well before the 1500’s. In the 1960’s a broken millstone, inscribed 1679, could be seen at the mill.

It is likely that the original mill became too small for the growing Whittington community. After demolition of the old mill a much larger one was constructed. The Devonshire Collection of papers, now held by the Derbyshire Archive Office, contains a very detailed account of the construction of the new mill on the site; the work is reliably dated as taking place between 1735 and 1736.

The earliest positive reference I can find as to the identity of the miller at Whittington watermill is from the Pigot and Co’s Directory of 1828 which identifies John Cundey as the corn miller

In the 1861 census John Cundey, now aged 75, and his family are still at the Whittington corn mill. John senior and Isaac are shown as the millers but John junior is now recorded as a coal porter. John Cundey senior died at Whittington on the 7th July 1861.

The Elliott family, who were to become associated with Whittington Mill for four generations and about 100 years, were millers at Clay Lane, Derbyshire before their move to Whittington.

The 1841 census for Clay Lane shows George Elliott together with his family. George is described as a miller. The same census shows George’s son Thomas Elliott with his wife Hannah and sons John and George, Thomas is also described as a miller. In 1851, whilst still living in Clay Lane with his family, Thomas is described as a miller and farmer employing five servants.

In 1861 Thomas Elliott and his family are living at Cliff Cottage, Clay Lane. Thomas appears to have prospered as he is now described as a miller; farmer and colliery proprietor employing about 70 men and boys, his son William is described as a millwright. His son John and daughter-in-law Harriet have set up home on Mill Lane, Woodthorpe and have three children, John is described as a Master Miller.

In 1878 the Whittington mill and buildings were again advertised for sale. The mill is described as a corn mill with fixtures, machinery, adjoining cottage and garden included in the sale. It was unoccupied at the time but the 1871 census shows the Elliotts, formerly of Clay Lane, as millers at Whittington and all living at various addresses on Whittington Hill. It is likely that the Elliotts operated Whittington Mill but did not occupy the mill buildings at that time. 

In 1886 the Elliott family brought a case against Chesterfield Rural Sanitary Authority claiming that the Sanitary Authority was in breach of an Act of Parliament safeguarding the supply of water from Barlow Brook to Whittington Mill23. The Elliott family were successful in that the judge made the following statement: “I should now express my decided opinion that there has been a breach of the obligations of the Act of Parliament. The injunction I must grant must be an injunction to prevent their taking any water from the Barlow Brook, unless there shall be a continuous flow of water down to Barlow Brook, below the point which the Company abstract water there from, of 150 cubic feet of water per minute of 24 hours of every day”.

In 1891 the census records John Elliott (corn miller) and his wife Harriet, two daughters and son Henry, who is described as a miller’s assistant, as living at the mill. Nearby at 91, Station road John’s son Thomas (corn miller, third generation) is living with his wife, also called Harriet, their son, daughter and his sister. John’s son Arthur is now employed as a foreman flour miller living with his wife and daughters at Nether Hallam, Sheffield

I have not been able to establish when Whittington watermill stopped working. In the 1911 census both Thomas Elliott and his son Michael Eric are identified as millers. It has been stated that the mill continued to be used up to the early 1920s. Confusingly Michael Elliott is identified as a miller and farmer in the 1939 Register for England and Wales28, it is unlikely that he was a miller in 1939, the word miller is probably a continuation of an earlier job description. My estimate is that milling for flour production stopped around 1900 and milling of other materials on a large scale, such as animal feed, stopped in the 1920s.

The mill buildings and Brook House still stand.

Additional information from the Derbyshire Historic Environment Record

In 1962 Whittington Mill was still standing with every item of its machinery and miller’s tools complete. There was a mill on or near the site in the 16th century, as shown by the field-name “Milnholme” in a Hardwick deed of 1599, and by the presence near the weir of a broken millstone inscribed 1679. Papers in Chesterfield Borough Library dated 1735 refer to ‘pulling down ye Old Miln and Kiln’ and detail the complete rebuilding of the mill and dam in 1735 and 1736, including the mason’s, labourer’s and millwright’s bills and expenses. The present mill [in 1962] is a gritstone building of four floors, about 50ft long and 35ft wide. There must have been another rebuilding, or at least considerable alteration, since 1735, for whereas the documents refer to two waterwheels, there is now only one. There are five pairs of stones which were all driven from a long horizontal driving-shaft which runs across the whole width of the building.

Sheepbridge Inn Watermill

The Askew family of the Sheepbridge Inn, Sheffield Road are recorded in the 1851 census. Michael Askew, the head of family, is shown as a miller, publican and farmer of 23 acres. The Sheepbridge Inn had a watermill associated with it. In March 1854 this mill was advertised to be let and is described as having two powerful water wheels and a good supply of water. In 1860 Michael Askew and his wife Ann had a daughter Harriet who, in 1886, married Thomas Elliott who was to become the miller at Whittington Corn Mill.

Henry Thornton was recorded as the inn keeper and corn miller at the Sheepbridge Inn watermill in 1857. In the 1861 census Michael Pocklington is identified as the inn keeper and there is no indication that milling was taking place. In 1867 the Sheepbridge Inn was advertised for sale together with offices, stables, coach houses, outbuildings and gardens. No mention of a mill is made so it would seem that the Sheepbridge Inn watermill stopped working between 1857 and 1861.

The above is a condensed version of an article by John Hodson in the North East Derbyshire Industrial Archeology Society (NEDIAS) Newsletter No. 77 – February 2020

John provides much more information about the families involved and the Mills history with a comprehensive reference section. Contact with NEDIAS can be made via their website

They also have a Facebook page nediaschesterfield

Contact can be made via [email protected]

(1) The General View of the Agriculture of Derbyshire, page 492, Volume II, John Farey senior, 1815.

Old Whittington Blacking Mill

There is also some information about the Old Whittington Blacking Mill on the Old Whittington One Place Study