Water mills and quarry at Mortimer's Cross


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1016252

Date first listed: 08-Oct-1981

Date of most recent amendment: 08-Apr-1997


Ordnance survey map of Water mills and quarry at Mortimer's Cross
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

District: County of Herefordshire (Unitary Authority)

Parish: Aymestrey

District: County of Herefordshire (Unitary Authority)

Parish: Lucton

National Grid Reference: SO 42589 63752


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.

Reasons for Designation

A watermill uses the gravitational force of water to turn a paddled wheel, the energy thus generated in the axle of the wheel enabling the operation of varying kinds of machinery. The waterwheel can be set directly into a stream, with a simple `shut' to control water flow, or may be spring fed or use tidal waters. More usually, however, an artificial channel, or leat, is diverted from the main watercourse and its flow to the wheel regulated by sluices. Depending on the height at which water is supplied, the wheel is described as overshot, breastshot, or undershot. The spent water returns to the main stream via a tailrace which may be straightened to increase efficiency. Where the natural flow of water is inadequate, a millpond may be constructed to increase the body of water (and thus the flow) behind the wheel. Simple vertical waterwheels used for irrigation had been in use in the Roman period, although the earliest mill so far identified was dated from its timbers to the late 7th century AD. Early medieval mills could have wheels set horizontally or vertically. By the time of the Domesday Book an estimated 6000 mills were in existence, and the number increased steadily over the next three centuries. During the medieval period, mills, usually used for corn grinding, were a sign of status, and an important source of income to the lord of the manor who usually leased the mill and its land to the miller. With technological improvements, an increasing range of equipment including fulling stocks, tilt hammers, bellows, and textile machinery could be powered by watermills, and they became increasingly important to urban and rural life and industry. With the advent of steam power and the introduction of iron gears in the 18th century, waterpower eventually became obsolete for major industry, although many smaller rural mills continued in use. As a common feature of the rural and urban landscape, watermills played an important role in the development of technology and economy. Many of those retaining significant original features or of particularly early date will merit protection.

Mortimer's Cross Mill is a fine example of a post-medieval water mill in working order. The mill building will preserve evidence for its method of construction and any subsequent adaptations, as well as information about former buildings and activities on the site in the form of reused structural and mechanical timbers and buried foundations. The main mill leat will also preserve details of its construction, including revetments and linings, as will the weir and sluices. Waterlogged deposits in these features will contain environmental evidence for activities which took place at and around the mill, and for land use in the surrounding area, and there is a high likelihood of organic remains surviving. Evidence for the now vanished paper mill and its flood relief sluice to the north will be preserved below ground, unmodified by later construction, increasing our understanding of this earlier phase of activity. Information relating to post-medieval quarrying methods will be preserved at the stone face and spoil heaps to the east of the leat, and the old ground surface sealed beneath the spoil will retain evidence for land use before quarrying began. Documentary evidence enhances our understanding of the role of this industrial hamlet in the local society and economy. All these elements enhance interest in the site as a whole. The working mill mechanism, with three pairs of well-preserved original millstones, provides a rare opportunity to observe a process which has continued here essentially unchanged since before the Industrial Revolution. The mill is open to the public at regular intervals, and is occasionally operated.


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.


The monument includes the standing, earthwork, and buried remains of a working water mill and its associated water management system, and the earthwork and buried remains of a now vanished paper mill to the north. It also includes a series of quarries and their associated features along the eastern side of the mill leat. The monument is situated on the River Lugg, where the valley opens out into broad floodplain at Kingsland, north of the site of the Battle of Mortimer's Cross of 1461. The present mill building dates from the 18th century, and occupies the site of an earlier paper mill which itself stood on or near the site of a fulling mill. It is the last working structure remaining from a succession of mills which have sat on either side of the substantial leat which flows from north west to south east through the site.

Early documentary references to these mills include two deeds dated 1748 and 1760, referring to agreements between the landowners and the papermaker, Thomas Jones of Lucton. The 1748 document mentions land belonging to the former fulling mill, or `Walk Mill', a name derived from the medieval practice of treading cloth in troughs of water to bind and shrink the fibres. The land to the south east of the present mill is known as Walk Mill Grounds, and is probably the area where the cloth was laid out to dry. The second deed refers to a `stock of water grist mills together with the said mills', implying there were a number of wheels operating, one of which will have been the former paper mill to the north of the standing building. Originally part of the Croft Castle Estate, the present mill was owned by the Kevill-Davies family between 1785 and 1923, and continued producing paper at least until 1830 when the paper maker was one John Wade. Sometime after this it was converted to a grain mill, and from around 1870 (when the present machinery was installed) it continued grinding animal feed commercially until the 1940s.

The present three-storeyed mill building at Mortimer's Cross is principally constructered of local Aymestrey limestone with wooden-framed windows, a flag floor, and slate roof. It is in the care of the Secretary of State and is Listed Grade II. The wooden wheel with metal paddles is middle breast shot and the water supply is controlled by a penstock which can be operated from within the mill. The wheel has eight wooden spokes, iron hub-plates and iron vanes. It drives a system of modern, bevelled iron gear wheels, the pit wheel and wallower, which convert the power to a vertical axle. From here power is distributed by three wheels with shock-resistant wooden teeth, known as stone nuts, to vertical spindles which pass up to the first floor and through the lower millstones, known as bedstones, to rotate the upper stones. The mill retains three of its original sets of stones, in well-preserved octagonal wooden casings or tuns. A separate bevel gear powers a horizontal drive working three leather belt pulleys. These operate a winnowing drum with a fan, a flour machine for grading the meal (both at first floor level) and the sack hoist (on the second floor). The dust extraction fan was necessary to reduce the risk of flour explosion caused by sparks coming off the wheel. Between the first and second floors is a storage area known as the garner floor, from which the grain was shovelled through chutes, into hoppers and thus into the millstone. The mechanism could be worked by one man, however only one millstone and a single accessory could be operated at once. The millstones used varied according to the raw material; softer stones for beans or peas, harder for wheat. Amongst the flags on the mill house floor are several old millstones, one of which has a square socket and was probably reused in a cider mill before being set into the floor. The mill building incorporates several reused structural timbers, and some elements of the pulley mechanism were clearly originally designed for another purpose, probably paper-making. The sack shed at the north east end of the building has been rebuilt and is now in use as a museum.

Some 200m north of the mill building is a stone weir, extending for c.27m across the river and allowing water to be diverted south eastwards into the leat. Flow through the leat is regulated by a sluice at the east end of the weir, which allows water to rejoin the river. The sluice has stone rubble footings and two modern wooden slides, which are adjusted by means of iron cogs on toothed iron racks. Beyond the sluice the leat extends southwards for c.200m. It has straight sides and a flat bottom which is partly stone lined. Low mounds on both banks represent spoil from episodes of cleaning. Some 35m north west of the mill are the remains of a now disused sluice, represented by an infilled east-west channel which drains back into the river. Some masonry is visible in this channel, and the west bank of the main north-south leat has a stone revetment which extends for 3m-4m to either side of the sluice. This feature was probably a flood relief mechanism for the now vanished paper mill, which was situated approximately 15m further south. The site of this paper mill is now partly occupied by a wood and iron sluice with stone rubble footings, which controls water flow into a partly stone-lined east-west wheel- pit flowing into the river. Modern access across the pit is provided by a ground-level timber walkway. Evidence for the mill building and wheel mechanism will survive here as buried features.

The main leat is crossed by a wooden footbridge before flowing under the surviving mill wheel. The wheel itself is surrounded by a wooden fence on all sides. South of the wheel the first c.10m of the tailrace runs through a stone-lined, brick-roofed tunnel, then continues as a straight, open watercourse, c.2m wide and 50m long, towards the north eastern arch of the road bridge.

Some 20m east of the leat are a succession of small quarries, which have at least three distinct working faces. The most northerly of these clearly shows the development of the face, the deposition of successive spoil heaps, and the line of tracks and paths providing access to the face. There is also some earthwork evidence for the locations of various temporary buildings used, no doubt, in association with the quarry working. The deeds relating to the mill mention the landowner's right to quarry here, and the present mill building was undoubtedly constructed from this local stone, as were most of the other contemporary buildings in the adjacent settlement. The proximity of the quarry to the mill contributes to the impression of Mortimer's Cross as an industrial hamlet, where milling, quarrying, forestry and agricultural activities served the local community.

All fences along the mill leat, the paved path along the north east bank of the tailrace and the modern wooden extension in use as a museum at the north east end of the mill building are excluded from the scheduling, but the ground beneath them is included; the objects displayed within the museum, and the owner's objects displayed in the mill, are excluded from the scheduling.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract. It includes a 2 metre boundary around the archaeological features, considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System number: 27526

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Delaney, D, Deeds, (1991)
background information to research, Hereford Records Office,
guide book to mill, Delaney, D, (1991)
information compiled for research, Herefordshire Records Office,

End of official listing