The first reference that appears significant in the Wood Mill story is a request for a £400 Mortgage on 28th July 1783, by Joseph Milns, a clothier of Wood. This Mortgage between Milns and Benjamin Walker of Huddersfield concerned "a messuage at Wood, now in the tenure of Joseph Milns and his undertenant, a widow called Hannah Bottomley, plus fields Marled Earth, Great Wood, New Bank, Four Rough Noddles, Bauk Hole and the South side of the Meadow below the house, plus, a gate and a half, for a beast and a half at Oxhey”.
In the following year, 1784, the Order Books refer for the first time to a Marled Earth fulling mill. We certainly know that up to 1795 Land Tax was paid by the owner of Wood Mill whom was Joseph Milns, and that he occupied and worked the mill. Deeds tell us that he had acquired water rights for a new goit in 1793 so can perhaps assume that some development and improvement was continuing.
Even by 1820 Wood Mill was quite large. There was new building in the years around the turn of the century by both Joseph Milns and James Mills his cousin.
It was in 1795 that his cousin, James Mills of Wood, first appears on the scene, occupying the dyehouse. It is not clear when James assumed ownership of the mill, but he had certainly done so by 1798, when he acquired land to raise the weir and convert the watercourse to the mill. Land Tax and other Directory references confirm his ownership until about 1820. He improved the mill in 1799 and extended its scope. An 1803 Deed refers to the mill, with large tracts of surrounding land, being “a rasping, fulling and scribbling mill, with 12 cottages” worked by and lately built by James Mills. The size and scope of the mill complex are further clarified in a mortgage application of 1806 by James Mills, - probably to extend and improve the premises. There was a further loan made, for £3000 in 1808. This all seemed despite the fact that the Manchester Mercury had advertised the sale of the mill along with many other properties, as a result of James Mills’ bankruptcy back in 1804.
But he was still the owner as late as 1825 when he paid the Land Tax, as owner occupier of the mill.
At some time in the late 1820s it would appear that Joseph and Thomas Mills took over the mill, and certainly by 1835 they were still stated owners of the mill according to Church Rates Books.
In 1831 the mill became only the second mill in Saddleworth to introduce steam power. Perhaps related to this fact, we know from a Deed of the same year that there was an extension of ownership. James Mills (possibly related), a coal merchant of Crowknowl in Crompton, assumed one-third ownership of the mill and its surroundings, along with Joseph and Thomas Mills who continued to work the mill.
Throughout the 1830s and 40s the Kenworthy family seemed to have some part to play. Family members are regularly referred to in Directories as dyers and finishers, and certainly in 1845, F. Kenworthy occupied the dyehouse.
It would appear that the Mills family connection with the mill ceased in 1858 when Joseph, James and Thomas sold the mill to Messers Cunliffe, Lister and Murray. The details of this sale are worth the reading as a most comprehensive description of what the mill complex had become.
The sale consisted of: -
A messuage called Wood, with barns and stable, plus three cottages formerly in one and now occupied by James Whitehead, Charles Bradbury and Widow Gartside as tenants.
Fields, Top o th’ Noodle (3a 31p), Backfield (1a 1r 18p), Near Back Field (1a 37p), Wheat Field (1a 2r 13p), Gorsey Field (1a 3r 22p), Top Field (1a 2r 10p), all formerly in one called Rough Noddle and separated from the rest of the land by the Wood to Rochdale road.
Bank Hole (2a 3r 34p), New Bank (2a 2r 4p), Great Wood (1a 2r 20p), Little Wood (1a 15p), Garden (2r 5p), Meadow below the house (4a 19p), New Meadow (2a 2r 19p), Marled Earth over the brook (2a).
Six cottages at the north-west end of Great Wood, adjoining the lane to Heights Chapel, occupied as seven dwellings by, James Howorth, Joseph Gartside, John Longbottom, Giles Wood, Robert Platt, Abraham Wood and James Wood.
A fulling and scribbling mill called Wood Mill, plus two houses, stove houses, drying houses, engine house, water wheels, steam engine etc….standing in a close called Marled Earth and in the occupation of Joseph, James, and Thomas Mills. The two houses were occupied by Abraham Wood the younger and Esther Wrigley.
We are looking here at an integrated community typical of the textile valleys of northern England.
In 1860 William Holden became the owner of the mill itself, with some of the surrounding lands. He produced flannel and shawl here until 1864 when Joseph Buckley & Co. assumed ownership. By 1874 the mill was empty, and in 1887 it was purchased by Oldham Corporation
because of Reservoir construction.
This sketch, at the time of the mill’s closure, shows the full development of the premises. The drawing by Ammon Wrigley on the right from a slightly different perspective, looks upstream, to the far building, which is probably the one that straddles the stream itself. Could this have been the
original mill utilising the stream directly?
Dirty Lane can be seen dropping diagonally down the hillside from the village of Castleshaw, into what is now the Lower Reservoir. It served the mill directly, then continued up the hillside to Wood, and then climbed steeply up and over Broad Head Noddle to Denshaw, Rochdale, and beyond.