Sunday 15 November 2020

Ancient Corn Mill at Lithermans Bridge

This article was published in the Bolton Journal on May 17th 1957.  It was written by Robert Walch, one of the founder members of Turton Local History Society, and was part of a series called 'Historic Turton'.  The photograph in this post did not appear in the original article.

Ancient Corn Mill Stood Near Lithermans Bridge

by Robert Walch

Below is Mr Robert Walch' second article in the series he is writing on Turton's history.  Last week he referred to Torra Barn as the site of an early settlement.  This week he sees Chapeltown as a medieval village.

Just as Torra was an ideal choice for an early settlement so also would the site of Chapeltown have met the requirements of a medieval village.  It is situated on a broad ridge of land sloping away on the east, west and south, of sufficient size to support an entire village.  We can reasonably believe that by the early part of the 16th century it would have reached such a degree of development that later changes would be imposed on to the existing pattern.  The pattern can be seen today in the line the village street takes.  It is also evident in the Church site for this is very little different from the position the old Chapel occupied, and we can also safely assume that any of the old field divisions which could be used will have been incorporated into the present day field system.

Aerial view of Chapeltown, 1959

Ancient fair

There would almost certainly be a chapel here, there being documentary evidence of its existence by 1523.  It is also probable it would have its inn but there appears to be no licensing records before 1718.  Although there is little documentary evidence of Chapeltown having been a medieval village there can be little doubt that it was in those early days the focal centre of the Turton township, for less than 600 yards away was the Manor House, Turton Tower.  Still nearer to the village was the Lord of Manor's Corn Mill whilst further proof is provided by the Height-lane having been diverted in such a way that it passed through the village on its way to the Corn Mill.

Other evidences of its antiquity are its village stocks and cross, removed to Turton Tower in the 19th century and brought back into the village in recent years.

It also had its ancient fair, and Whittle in his History of Bolton, states that Turton Fair was established in 1333.  Unfortunately, Whittle is considered unreliable and he offers no authority for his statement.  He could not always be wrong however.  If he were correct it would point to there having been a chapel in the village at that date, for it is accepted that the fair developed out of the all-night services held in church to observe the anniversary of its patron saint.

St. Bartholomew's

Canon Raines in 1848 stated that the church had previously been St. Bartholomew's and strong support is leant to this statement, if we remember that in 1752 the country ceased using the Julian calendar and adopted the Gregorian calendar with the result that in that year the day following September 2nd became September the 14th.  Now if Turton Fair had come into being at the time when the church's patron saint was St. Bartholomew it would have been held on August 24th until 1752, but if in 1753 account was made of the 11 days difference between the two calendars, the date then would be September 4th which was the Turton Fair date our grand-parents knew.  If this is not a substantiation of St. Anne's church having formerly been St. Bartholomew's then one can only be left thinking that here is a remarkable coincidence.

Site of corn mill

The Lord of the Manor's corn mill was situated on the stream at a point near to or perhaps covered by the present Lithermans Bridge, sufficient evidence that it was here being provided by the names it has left with us.

The valley or clough over which passes Lithermans Bridge is the Mill Clough, with fields named the Great Mill Field (this is the field on the right from the bridge to a point a few yards short of Wellington-rd.)  another the Lower Mill Field, and one names the Damsteads, which must have been  on or near the site of the dam needed to impound the water for the corn mill.  To the corn mill came farmers from all parts of the manor to grind their corn and it could have been said with a large degree of truth that all local roads led to the Lord's Mill.  For the tenant farmer in whatever part of Turton he lived had to bring his corn here to be ground, payment for the service being a portion of the corn, thus ensuring to the Lord of the Manor that however poor the harvest he had his portion.

Eventually this water corn mill had to be assisted by wind power and this is a good indication that more land must have been brought into cultivation.  At a still later date even this combination of wind and water power must have proved inadequate and the decision must have been made to move onto the main stream.  The site chosen was the Edgworth side of Bradshaw Brook, later to be part of the Blackrock Dye Co., but although the corn mill was on the Edgworth side of the brook the land it stood on was part of the Turton township indicating that a change in the course of the brook had occurred since the time when the boundaries were first defined.

This move probably occurred toward the end of the 17th century for there appears to be some evidence that the Pack Saddle Bridge was built in 1691.

There would be many a day when it would have been impossible for a horse to ford the brook under the double burden of rider and sacks of corn, so the building of a bridge here would probably have been a necessity following the placing of the mill across the brook.

Chapeltown & Turton Tower - 1850 OS Map six-inch
Chapeltown & Turton Tower
1850 OS Map six-inch