Tower mill and whiting works 100m south east of the Country Park Inn


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:


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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

East Riding of Yorkshire (Unitary Authority)
National Grid Reference:
TA 02200 25391

Reasons for Designation

Whiting has been produced in England since the medieval period, when its major use was for colouring internal walls and whitening doorsteps, window ledges and hearths. By the 14th century it was being mixed with size to produce a more durable whitewash or distemper. Since the 18th century whiting has been a major component in the production of linseed oil putty. Production operated as a small scale domestic industry until the 19th century, when increased and varied demand led to large scale production and technological refinements. By the 20th century it was used as general purpose filler in paint, rubber, plastics, floor coverings, paper and white bread. The whiting industry is defined as the process of preparing and producing whiting from natural chalk (or in limestone areas from slaked lime), a separate process to the 20th century whiting from crushed marble or limestone, or created by chemical precipitation. Traditional chalk whiting production was a wet process known as water levigation, carried out seasonally to avoid freezing conditions. Pieces of chalk were dried, broken up manually and then crushed with water to produce a milky liquid to feed through settling pits or tanks to remove impurities. The resultant slurry was dried and cut into blocks for transport to market. Large scale 19th century production employed the same principles, but permanent covered buildings and heavy machinery capable of dealing with larger volumes allowed all-year production. In the 20th century the time consuming practice of using settling pits was replaced by the use of hydro-separators which removed impurities by centrifugal action. A dry process was also developed to eliminate the use of water, relying on force and air drying to produce whiting powder. Following a national survey of the industry's buildings and sites, examples where significant remains illustrating the history and diversity of the industry survive have been identified as being of national importance. Together these represent the industry's chronological depth, technological range and regional diversity. All will be considered for protection.

The standing remains of the tower mill at Hessle survive well and are a unique survival of an early 19th century tower mill for a whiting works. Evidence of the technological processes involved in whiting production can be clearly seen and understood. In addition the below ground remains of the adjacent whiting works preserve important evidence of the full range of processes involved. Taken as a whole the monument makes a significant contribution to the study of the whiting industry both locally and nationally.


The monument includes a standing windmill tower and immediately adjacent below ground remains of a whiting works. It is located on the north bank of the River Humber 130m to the west of the Humber Bridge, and lies within the Humber Bridge Country Park. The windmill tower is a Listed Building Grade II.

Natural outcrops of chalk and gravel have been exploited at Hessle from the medieval period onwards. By the 19th century chalk was being crushed to form whiting which was used primarily as a filler in putty and later for use in the burgeoning rubber, paint and plastics industries. Initially this was a small scale operation and then in the early 19th century a number of the independent quarry operators combined to build a wind powered whiting works. This was built between 1810 and 1815 and included a windmill to crush the chalk and power the adjacent whiting works where further refinement took place.

By the 1850s whiting production at Hessle was on an industrial scale as shown by the existence of a second, steam driven whiting works located 100m to the north west of the windmill. This second whiting works has been demolished and the site now lies beneath the A63 dual carriageway. Both whiting works were supplied from extensive quarries located to the north and maps from the early 20th century show a network of tramways leading from the quarries to the Humber foreshore. There was no direct tramway link from the quarries to the windmill and chalk was initially transported there by horse and cart and then by steam powered and later diesel powered lorries. Contemporary maps also show a series of jetties and wharves along the river bank from where both chalk stone and processed whiting was shipped away by water. No significant remains of these features now survive. The windmill continued to power the whiting works until 1925 when the sails and head gear were removed. The mill tower continued to be used for crushing chalk initially powered by gas and then in the 1930s by an electric motor. The works are thought to have ceased production in the 1950s when whiting substitutes were introduced into Britain from the United States. In the 1980s the area of the Humber foreshore was redeveloped and with the exception of the windmill tower the remaining buildings associated with the whiting works were demolished. Contemporary photographs show that the original ground level of the whiting works was lower than that of today which indicates that although demolished, remains of the works will survive below ground. In 1983 some preservation work was carried out on the tower, which included the installation of new doors, windows and roof cap.

Maps from the 19th century show that the whiting works comprised four ranges of buildings surrounding a central courtyard with the windmill forming the north eastern corner of the whole complex. The windmill tower still survives to its full height. It is a circular seven storey structure, tapering towards the top. It has a diameter at current ground level of 10m. The mill was fitted with five, single-sided roller sails as opposed to the traditional four. This arrangement was pioneered by the 18th century engineer John Smeaton and although unpopular with traditional millers was to be used on all of the industrial mills in the area. A further advancement was the presence of an airbrake to control the speed of sail rotation. Although the sails, fantail and cap have been removed sufficient of the cap frame survives to understand its operating mechanism. Originally there was a balcony encircling the tower at the third floor level and the holes for the beams to support this are still visible. Internally there were six timber built floors connected by wooden stairs. The uppermost three floors are no longer in place. There are two opposing windows on each floor and two doors on the third floor at the level of the balcony.

The main drive shaft through the centre of the tower was originally in two sections and the lower portion still survives in situ extending from the first floor to the third floor. It is a single piece of pitch pine 8.1m in length and attached to the base of which there is a horizontal metal cog. This originally meshed with a wooden toothed cog offset to the south, which in turn rotated a shorter drive shaft connected to a pair of stone wheels known as edge runners which were housed in a wooden crushing tub located on the ground floor. The crushing tub, drive shaft and stone rollers are still in situ. The rollers crushed pieces of chalk in the tub into a fine powder which was then mixed with water to produce a slurry which was fed through wooden channels into the adjacent works for further processing. To the north of the crushing tub there is a large concrete bowl which was inserted in the 1930s to crush chalk when the mill was powered by an electric motor.

From the mill the chalk slurry was pumped through a series of 12 settling tanks, which were located in the eastern range of the works. Further, reserve, settling tanks were also located in the northern range. After it had passed through the final, finest, settling tank the resultant material was laid out in drying rooms in the southern and northern ranges. The northern range had a heating system which combined with louvred sides to the buildings enabled close control over the rate of drying. Contemporary photographs show that the northern side of the whiting works was two storeys high whilst the other three sides were single storey. The water used in the whiting process was pumped, using the windmill power, from a well beneath the north range. In total the works measured 44m east to west by 32m north to south.

A number of features are excluded from the scheduling. These are the public toilets, the picnic benches, waste bins, all signs and fence posts and all made up surfaces; however the ground beneath these features is included.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.


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

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This monument is scheduled under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 as amended as it appears to the Secretary of State to be of national importance. This entry is a copy, the original is held by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

End of official listing

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