The Howsham Mill Project Today
On a tiny island in the River Derwent at Howsham, North Yorkshire, stands a Georgian watermill. Howsham Mill dates back to c.1755 and is attributed to John Carr of York, more famous for designing Fairfax House in York, and an extension to Castle Howard stables. In 1965, a Royal Commission for Historic Monuments inspector, James Williams, described the Mill as “…a building of the maximum historical interest as a very early example of gothic Revival styleâ€¦” and “…of great architectural interest as it is a very rare example of the gothic Revival style as applied to a functional building. (I cannot find reference to a similar example, eg watermill)â€¦”.
By 2003 sadly, despite its Grade II listing, years of vandalism and neglect had taken their toll and the Howsham Mill Project stepped in with the aim to rescue the building before it became irreparable.
The project is threefold:
- Restoration of the Mill building as far as possible back to its original state externally, for use as an environmental study centre promoting renewable energy and local history and wildlife. It is available for use as a community venue for local people.
- The reinstatement of the waterwheel to harness the power of the river, but rather than driving millstones, this time it generates renewable electricity and a steady income stream. The Trust’s has archived its aim to make the building totally self-sustaining for the 21st century using revenue from power sales to fund future restoration and conservation work at the site.
- Preservation of the existing natural environment including protection of peripheral cover for otters. Development of a management plan which allows increased public access to, and ensure the future maintenance of this un-spoilt area of woodland.
All of this was achieved with the absolute minimum visual and physical impact on the existing environment.
The project provides improved access and facilities for local people whilst making a small contribution towards reducing our reliance on fossil fuels, using technology from the past to create ‘cleaner’ energy for the future. Within the Mill’s walls, a permanent exhibition is housed about renewable energy and its importance for the twenty-first century alongside conservation information relating to the Site of Special Scientific Interest in which the Mill stands.
The location of the Mill also lends itself perfectly to being a wild-life hide. Local people are also encouraged to use the space as a Community Centre for meetings and functions.