Creative energy powers mill into the future

A MEDIEVAL corn mill is set to become a powerhouse of activity after its owners commissioned a water turbine that will generate part of a town's electricity supply via the National Grid.

The 35,000 turbine at the High Corn Mill, in Skipton, will supply power for up to 20 houses and form the centrepiece of the mill's new historical innovation zone, an area where visitors will be able to see the working waterwheel and turbine.

The zone, which is due to open in October, will include a glass floor so that tourists can look directly down into the mill's inner workings.

The renovated mill, which is off Skipton High Street and was once part of the town's Castle property, now houses a range of retail, beauty, food and business tenants.

Owner Andrew Mear said: "The new turbine has been specially built for us and is the culmination of a 200,000 environmental initiative to restore our waterwheel, ensure the mill retains its medieval roots and extend the car park for visitors.

"The mill is a historic building and has retained some of the original milling machinery and infrastructure from when it was a working mill. We are regenerating technologies that have been used in the past.

"We also want to create a place where tourists can come and see the new turbine and view the working waterwheel, as well as learn a bit of history about the mill.

"Hopefully, the new project will also improve things for our tenants on site."

He added: "In this day and age, being environmentally friendly is no longer a luxury. Even though we're only a small company, we are hoping to show that size doesn't matter. Anyone can make a difference – if they're determined enough."

The mill dates back to the 14th century when King Edward II handed it to Robert de Clifford, and the new water turbine replaces one which was installed in the mill during the 1950s to produce renewable hydro-electric power.

The building has passed through several hands over the years and also been known by various names. Originally called the Water-Corne Milne, it went on to become the Soke Mill until finally finding the name High Corn Mill.

Mr Mear said: "My father bought the place nearly 20 years ago and I took over when he retired 10 years ago. The building was fairly derelict when we bought it and we've gradually regenerated it over the years to make it a thriving place for small businesses.

"It's a historical building full of nooks and crannies and, over the years, we have renovated every part of the mill."

He added: "The focus is now on keeping the property vibrant and full of tenants. Skipton High Street is struggling a bit, and my main focus is keeping the rent coming in. I also take an interest in the environment, so it all ties together."

High Corn Mill

Records show that High Corn Mill dates back to 1310 when it was handed to the powerful Clifford family by King Edward II.

The mill today is only half of what existed back then, when two mills operated to produce corn for the whole of Skipton.

High Corn Mill held the monopoly on grinding corn for the town, and it wasn't until the 19th century that this was lifted.

In 1954, the castle estate was broken up, and a decade later the mill came into the hands of Geoge Leatt, a local businessman, who then converted it into an industrial museum and seed merchants.