This article was written using notes and sources of information about mills collected by the late Phil Hudson with the agreement of Rita Hudson.
Much has been published concerning the early corn mills in Settle and nearby villages, and their adaptation for cotton spinning, weaving, paper-making and snuff-making in later years . Their history is complex; the early history of Bridge End Mill on the north-east side of Settle Bridge has not been examined so closely. The records of the Percy and Clifford family holdings in Craven dating from 1499, translated and transcribed in part by Brook Westcott, Tony Stephens and Stephen Moorehouse in recent times, have provided much useful information about this particular site in the 16th century.
This article starts with consideration of the local fulling mills, rather than the corn mills which were controlled by exacting tolls by the lord of the manors of Settle and Giggleswick. Fulling (or walking) of cloth means beating or trampling of new woollen cloth to make it denser or even to make it into felt. The process may require using an adsorbent fine clay to remove greasiness and dirt. Kieselguhr (diatomaceous earth) and ammoniacal urine were used in fulling, followed by washing and stretching of the cloth on tenters. Skye is perhaps the nearest source of Kieselguhr; there were claypits in the land south of Victoria Cave but there is no evidence of use of such material. Water-powered fulling mills used hammers operated by a shaft on a water-wheel (Figure 1).
Most of the Bridge End buildings we see today date from the late 1700s and 1800s and they hide the many changes made over previous centuries. The Percy family lands and rentals in Craven were surveyed in 1499  and a copy of the Latin text was made probably in about 1520: ‘The copye of the Rentall made before master Robert Pychard and other Comyssyoners in the 14th yere of the late king henry sevynth’. One entry is ‘Roland Lawson and James Iveson hold in the same place (i.e. Giggleswick) one fulling mill of new construction by the River Ribble next to Settle bridge 3s 4d paid’ and the following entry is ‘William Lawson holds in another place one fulling mill near the new construction next to the corn mill of Giggleswick 3s 4d paid’. Further, ‘John Brashaw and John Newhouse hold the fulling mill of Giggleswick 13s 4d’. Under the heading of Ribblesdale (properties in Settle and Giggleswick) is New improvements or new rents ‘lettying in Anno 10,11,12 yeres of King Henry VIIIth’ (i.e. 1519, 1520, 1521). Here we see ‘The farm of one fulling mill next to the west end of the bridge 3s 4d’. Also ‘William Lawson for one mill built by him upon my lord’s ground next to the corn mill of Giggleswick 3s 4d’. (The word ‘farm’ means rent paid to the lord of the manor and profits taken by the tenant). A deed of 1532 made by Henry Banks and his wife Isabel conveys to William Watkynson a chapel, a messuage and a fulling mill with lands in Settle (unknown source but probably cited in Percy rentals). A rent list made in about 1550  gives Thomas Somerscale paying £3 5s 8d for a corn mill in Settle (molendius granate). William Preston pays 3s 4d rent for a fulling mill (molendius fullatius) as does Rawlin (Randolph) Newhouse.
Although the translation of parts in Latin may not be complete or exact due to the difficulty of reading the document it is reasonable to conclude that there was a fulling mill by the current bridge, on the west side of the river in the early 1500s, but there were clearly also other fulling mills on the river.
The will of Robert Somerscales of Settle in 1553  notes ‘ ... That I Robert Somerscalles of Settell in Craven within the parishe of Gigleswicke and countie of Yorke foller beinge in perfyte minde and Remembraunce ... give to the said George my sonne all my Tenters with sheires and all other thinkes that Belongith to the fuller’s Occupacon ...’. Richard, Thomas and George are his sons. He also ‘bequiethe(s) to the mendinge of Settell Bridge 3s 4d.’ Perhaps he had a pecuniary interest if he had a mill by the bridge?
The will of Thomas Somerscale, son of Robert, of 1572/3  itemizes ‘... the fourthe parte of the tyeth corne and strowe of Setle and the tyeth barne and all my parte of Setle Mylne be it more or les with all other bargans ...’. Only because of the will of Robert Somerscales of Settle, his father, might this refer to a fulling mill rather than a corn mill. These two men Robert and Thomas were wealthy.
The survey of 1572/3  lists Thomas and William Bankes holding by indenture dated 1565 a messuage and parts of a fulling mill. Thomas Paycock is noted as paying 6s 8d for a fulling mill, as also Richard and William Preston (3s 3d), John Brashey (4s 1d), Rawlin Newhouse and Richard Browne gent. (3s 4d).
In 1579  ‘Thomas Brashawe, son of John Brashawe, holds the fulling mill upon the water of Ribble’. In 1583  ‘Thomas Brayshaw son of John Brayshaw haithe taken of the said Commissioners one fullinge mylne standing upon the watter of Ribble whereof two partes are now in the tenure of Thomas Bankes and the therde parte in the tenure of the said John.’
In 1603  Thomas Brashaw pays 3s for a tenement and 3s 4d for a fulling mill; John Swaynson pays 5s 2d for a smithy shop and the fourth part of a fulling mill at Thackthwaite and parcels of ground; Robert Carr and Robert Kellett pay 3s 4d for the fulling mill at Thackthwaite side. William Newhouse has a fourth part of the fulling mill at the Tarne foot and John Swaynson pays 3s 4d for one fourth part of the fulling mill at the Tarne and the adjoining close of ground. ‘Rawlyn Lawson haithe taken of the said Commissioners one Cotaige one laythe One garden & one parcel of medow Lying in the overinge and one watter Corse or Rayse taken owte of ribble for the servinge of one fulling mylne there now in the tenure of the said Rawlyn of the Rent of 5s and a John Swayson’. Surely this is the same Rawlin Lawson of Settle ‘who complains of Elizabeth Balderstone, widow, in a plea of trespass upon the case because she used pejorative scandalous and hateful words against him viz. Rawlyn Lawson ys not to be Credytted thow art a false mawnsworne man and swore the mon... before Mr Lambert’, as noted in the Settle Manor Court record for May, 1582 .
John Swainson of Giggleswick appears in the Giggleswick Manor Court records in 1598: he complains against Thomas Hall about a debt of 10s owed for ‘the fourth part of a Walke Mille’. The manorial court records for Giggleswick and Settle (partially transcribed/translated between 1547 and 1605 ) have few entries on fulling mill matters. William Newhouse paid for the fourth part of a fulling mill in 1608/1609(?).
Fulling mills were private businesses seemingly with only occasional disputes, causing no public nuisance requiring a court complaint.
It is therefore clear that several fulling mills exist in the 1500s in several places in Giggleswick and Settle. The fulling mill said to be at Thackthwaite might be sited at Thackwood, the name of fields (in 1844) by the river just north of Langcliffe between the Langcliffe High Mill and the Old Mill on the Stainforth/Langcliffe boundary, bordered by Mill Close. The stream running from the original Giggleswick Tarn is thought to have had a corn mill on it. John Swaynson has perhaps fourth shares in two fulling mills.
For the next period of nearly 200 years we have little information. Only after 1704 are deeds officially recorded at the Wakefield Registry of Deeds for property transfers. In these deeds is recorded the change from fulling to forging to cotton spinning to joinery. In 1769 we have a deed from Wakefield  and one for 1785  referring to William Buck of Green, a whitesmith (tin), Thomas Wilson ironmonger of Settle with a smithy at the south end of Duck (Duke) Street, then transfer from Buck to Thomas Richie, book-keeper in Leeds of ‘the forge at Settel bridge ...’ and ‘mill dam leet of water supplied by the River Ribble for working said forge mill wheels, mill races, loughs, cloughs...’. These deeds are followed in 1799  by further involvement of Thomas Wilkinson of Leeds, pocket-book maker, David Joy of Leeds, apothecary, and John Birkbeck of Settle, merchant. ‘ ... concerning all those buildings commonly called the forge ... also all that mill dam or shut of water which is supplied by the River ribble for working the said forge ...’. In 1801  there is further transfer from Buck to John Hartley of Settle, gent., with William and Joseph Preston of Nidderdale and John Birkbeck ‘ ... all that newly erected mill situate at Settle Bridge formerly two buildings called the Forge ... adjoining the River Ribble on the west and on the turnpike road leading from Langcliffe to Settle Bridge on the east ... all which premises are now in the tenure and occupation of Edmund Armistead and William Buck’. This appears to indicate the present site. From 1785 it is also the case that a cotton mill was at Bridge End owned by many of these same men - two buildings are referred to, one a forge and one a cotton mill.
We then see that in 1816, after the death of William Buck, that William Clayton of Keighley and William Clayton the younger of Langcliffe, cotton manufacturer, bought ‘ ... a cotton mill at Settle Bridge, formerly in two buildings and called the forge with dams etc. ...’. There is a dated head-race key-stone, WC 1818, but details are now washed away. The building is marked on the 1847 OS map as a cotton mill. Thus the forge business came to an end early in the 1800s its second phase of life at Settle Bridge.
The cotton mill was sold by Clayton in 1849, the sales catalogue (Fig. 2) showing that the mill had 4160 spindles and that spinning was the only operation there. The sale took place at The Golden Lion to Mr Bashall but he in turn was unable to make the business profitable over the next few years.
In 1861 Bridge End Mill was purchased and re-opened by Lorenzo Christie along with the other Langcliffe cotton mills. Just how long it was in production is not certain. Henry Brassington was a builder and contractor employing four masons and one labourer in 1871 in Derbyshire and the family had moved to Giggleswick by 1881. When they were looking for a saw mill the building at Bridge End was derelict (presumably part of it) so it was let to them by Christie at a peppercorn rent the date is not known. Brassington and Co. had the building for use as a warehouse, workshop and saw mill. The water wheel was renovated (Figure 3) and they installed water-powered wood-working machines. Water was usually adequate in summer but if need be the weir-dam front could be raised to hold back more water.
Hector Christie took over the Langcliffe cotton mills from his father in 1892. Brassington Bros. and Corney were in business on the site by 1901 (Figure 4). After Brassingtons the mill building was used as an antiques dealer’s workshop and showroom in the 1970s and during 1987 the site was changed to become housing and holiday flats.
The river continues to generate power at Bridge End using an Archimedes screw to operate a generator of electricity for the local community.
This article was written using notes and sources of information about mills collected by the late Phil Hudson. Further information is to be found in ‘The water mills of Ribblesdale’ by Jim Nelson, North Craven Heritage Trust Journal, 1994 and ‘Langcliffe Mills’, Jim Nelson NCHTJ, 1996. See also www.settlehydro.org.uk/bridge-end-mill.html
Figure 1. A fulling mill (from¬†Georg Andreas Böckler’s†Theatrum Machinarum Novum, 1661)
Figure 2 Sale of Bridge End Cotton Mill 1849
Figure 3. The water wheel
Figure 4. Brassington Bros. and Corney. (1901). Fireplaces and Ranges, Ovens and Stoves, supplied and fixed. Every description of Concrete and Granolothic Work. Sanitary Work carried out on the latest improved principles. Drains thoroughly tested.