Rich history of Old Mill building

The Old Cornmill, Wakefield Road, Brighouse
The Old Cornmill, Wakefield Road, Brighouse

This week’s featured photograph was taken circa 1890 and no doubt many readers will be able to guess where it is.

If you have had the pleasure of visiting the Chef and Brewer ‘Old Mill’ restaurant on Wakefield Road on the way to Cooper Bridge, you will be able to appreciate that is where it is and is looking from the large car park towards the restaurant.

The first reference to a building on this site can be found in the Foundation Charter of Kirklees Priory. However the original Charter, although signed, I understand is not dated. It was later confirmed by a Charter of the Earl of Warren and by the Chancellor of King Henry the Third in 1236 and, with an earlier Charter dating back to Henry the Second’s reign, we have some indication to the earliest known existence of the old mill on or near this site.

Records do show that it has always been referred to as ‘The Old Mill’ and would suggest that it could even pre-date the Norman Conquest.

From c1100 the land was in the hands of William, the first Earl of Warren who had married Gundreda, the daughter of William the Conqueror. William, as the Lord of the Manor for Wakefield, installed William de Flemying as Lord of the Manor of Clifton and it was his son Reiner who granted Kirklees, along with the then re-built mill, to the Priory.

The mill premises passed into the hands of the Armytage family in 1565 when Robert Pilkington sold it to John Amytage, of Farnley Tyas.

During the 19th century records show that an Edward Fairburn, Corn Miller and James Brook, Card Maker were tenants at the premises. In 1864 a water turbine was installed and a Fullin Mill was built on. Originally the date of this installation was to be found on the keystone on the water goit but that has long since disappeared.

In 1886 Henry Dean, the new Corn Miller, arrived on the scene and his family were to stay and work there for many years. I am sure some readers will remember the family, perhaps not in connection with the mill itself but with the old Toll House on Wakefield Road. This was once a cafe run by members of the Dean family, particularly Henrietta serving both minerals and sweets to those who enjoyed their Sunday stroll.

Herbert Dean took over the old mill from his father Louis and did a lot of work for Thomas Sugden’s flour mill in Brighouse but it finally ceased working in 1946. Following the death of Herbert, his wife lived there until the 1980s.

Gradually over the years disrepair and neglect took its toll. The building was in a poor state and many would have considered it to be doomed to be demolished. The present mill is set in about ten acres of land set alongside the River Calder and, following its closure over the years, the surrounding woodland had almost reclaimed it.

Happily the old ruin was saved from the demolition men when John Akins, a builder and developer, bought it and set about meticulously restoring and converting it into a free house inn and restaurant.

I was pleased many years ago to be asked to research the old corn mill for the owner and present and display my findings in two large picture frames. This included many old photographs which were later hung in the bar area. Sadly over the years and having changed hands, those frames appear to have long been lost.