Water has long been used as a source of power in Swaledale. The earliest record of a water powered corn mill in Swaledale is in the 1273/4 survey of the manor of Healaugh. This is probably the Reeth mill on the Arkle Beck, referred to in a deed of 1293. William Spenceley was the tenant in 1635. The mill continued in use until at least the 19th century. The power of the water in the Arkle Beck was later harnessed to drive a saw mill near Reeth Bridge and by Mr William Handley Burton in 1911 to provide electricity in Reeth. The hydroelectric plant continued to supply electricity to the people of Reeth until the late 1950s when the growth in the use of domestic appliances meant it could no longer meet the demand.
The first record of a corn mill in Fremington is in 1288. It was replaced ca. 1677 by a new corn mill, now incorporated into the farm at Low Fremington. There were two corn mills in Grinton. The earliest mention of a Grinton corn mill is 1521-22 in the Charlesworth v Broderick papers. It is unclear whether this is the one opposite the Church, or the one recently recognised at Swale Hall, Grinton.
The photos below show the weir on the Arkle Beck, the sluice and the now disused ‘leat’ which took the water to the hydroelectricity plant.
The photo shows a clear thatch line on the gable end of this house in High Fremington, indicating that when first built the house was thatched. This is consistent with the deeds which give the date of construction around 1640. Locally heather known as ‘ling’ was used for thatching. The thatch line shows that the roof was steeper than today to allow the water to run off, limiting the height of the first floor, if any. There might well have been only a sleeping platform above the living room, accessible by a ladder. Subsequently the walls were raised and a stone slate roof put on at a shallower pitch, enabling a first floor to be inserted. This was probably done in the late 18th or early 19thC.
This ancient cobbled trackway runs from Reeth Bridge, through High Fremington to join what is now the Reels Head road to Richmond. It was probably the route east out of Swaledale for centuries and perhaps millennia since just beyond here is the small Iron Age enclosed settlement of Ewelop Hill. The local tradition that this was Roman road is not as far-fetched as some might think!
The Swaledale & Arkengarthdale Archaeology Group AGM is on Tuesday 10th April 2018, 7pm in hte Buck Hotel, Reeth. There will be a brief report on the activities of the Local History Group.
During the year the Local History Group meetings included presentations on the following local topics:
19thC clothing clubs
dating vernacular buildings
interpreting the landscape
understanding field names
surviving bread ovens in Swaledale
14thC Swaledale through tax returns
The Hagg dig
The Fremington Hoard
The group currently meets twice a year. the next meeting is
Thursday 4th October 2018, 4pm, The Buck Hotel, Reeth