The Mill's Tale

When I first moved to Lichfield, the building at the end of the track leading through Leomansley Woods was a derelict shell.  Intrigued, I looked into the history of the area and found out that it was probably related to a fulling mill that had been built there in 1791 by John Hartwell, on the edge of the Pipe Green trust land  (you can read more about this beautiful part of Lichfield on the Trust’s website here).

The OS map from 1815 shows a ‘Cotton Mill’ in that area.  Later maps refer to it as Leamonsley Mill. (In fact, the spelling of the name of the mill, and the area has changed several times. Variations include Lemmonsly, Leamonsley, Lemonsley, Lemondsley and in recent years, the name seems to have settled at Leomansley!).

This is the only image of Leomansley Mill I know of. It’s a trade token showing Leomansley Mill at the time of John Henrickson. Although the token isn’t dated, we can work out roughly that it must date to between 1809 and 1815 – the county history tells us that Mary Hartwell, widow of John Hartwell, let Leamonsley Mill together with a warehouse and weaving shop on Lombard St in 1809, and the following notice in the London Gazette tells us that Mr Henrickson, who is named on the token, went bankrupt in 1815.

To be sold by auction, by order of the major part of the Commissioners named and authorised in and by a Commission of Bankrupt against John Henrickson, of the City of Lichfield, Cotton-Spinner, at the Three Crowns Inn, in Lichfield aforesaid, on Monday the 18th day of March instant, between the hours of Three and Six o’Clock in the Afternoon, either together or in lots, as may be agreed upon at the time of sale;
All the machinery, mills, spindles, bobbins, winding frames, warping-mills, looms, shuttles, and other apparatus, suitable for carrying on an extensive trade in the Cotton Spinning and Calico-Weaving business, now standing in Lemmonsley-Mill and Lombard-Street-Factory, in the said City of Lichfield, late the effects of the said Bankrupt. The machinery and implements are all nearly new, and in excellent condition, and may be viewed by applying to Mr. Palmer, of Mr. Rutter, of Lichfield aforesaid, the Assignees of the said Bankrupt;and further particulars may be had at the Office of Mr. Foster, Solicitor, Rugeley, Staffordshire.

Reproduced from Lichfield District Council flickr stream

Recently, I found a newspaper notice of the sale by auction at The George Hotel on 24th May 1833, giving another detailed description of the mill.

‘A valuable watermill called Leamonsley Mill with a large Head of Water and Appurtenance, situated at Leamonsley near the city of Lichfield, formerly erected as a Fulling Mill, but lately re-built four stories high, and now in work and used for spinning hosiery and knitting yarn for the Leicester and other markets. Power to any extent may be added by erecting steam, being on the road from the Brownhill Colliery. Also. a right of four inches of top water from the pool of John Atkinson of Maple Hayes, covering about six acres of ground; with a good dwelling house, garden. land, combing shop and premises occupied therewith, late in lease to Thomas Leach.

It seems that the new owner, did decide to add steam power, as an 1860 newspaper carries an advert for,

Leamonsley Mill, within one mile of the City of Lichfield. Woollen Machinery, Water Wheel, Steam Engines. Messrs C and H Gillard are instructed to sell by auction on Monday 30th July 1860, on the premises,
The Machinery and Plant of the above Mill, for spinning floss or fleecy wool, comprising spinning frames, roving and doubling machines, a very  capital overshot or breast water wheel, constructed of iron. An excellent noncondensing or high pressure steam-engine, 2 feet stroke, of about 8 horse power, with beam, fly wheel, and governor and steam boiler, together with the shafting, as recently in use. Also, a capital brass lift and force pump, with lever on plank, quantity lead pipe.
This whole lot to be sold in several lots, as appear in catalogues, in consequence of the building being required for other purposes

And yes, I am trying to locate a ‘Glossary of Mill terminology’ to work out what half of those things are!  I wonder if the sale was related to the bankruptcy of James Johnson of Lemonsley Mill in January 1858, as notified in the London and Edinburgh Gazettes? The fact the building was ‘being required for other purposes’ is an interesting one…by 1884, ‘Leamonsley Cottages’ are shown in the place where the mill once was. I believe that by this time, it had become part of the Maple Hayes estate, and the cottages were used to house some of its workers. I’d like to know more about the state of this industry to discover why more than one bankruptcy featured in the history of the mill, and also why in 1860, a working mill was abandoned in preference of using the building as accommodation for servants?

I find it hard to imagine Leomansley as a place of industry, but it’s why the area developed in the early 19th century.  A while back I did a post about how the 1841 census showed that many residents seemed to have been employed by the mill.

Of course, whilst the area of Leomansley grew up around the mill, the mill presumably was there as a result of Leomansley Brook. And Leomansley Brook deserves a post of its very own….


Lichfield: Economic history’, A History of the County of Stafford: Volume 14: Lichfield(1990), pp. 109-131

16 thoughts on “The Mill's Tale

    • Thanks Christine. I think it means related things. Some of the terms I have no idea about. If you walked up there these days you might not realise it was an industrial site. The house has been rebuilt, and only the pool and a few hidden brick structures give an indication of its past (might put these photos up in the next post) If you ever get the chance to have a wander…Pipe Green is an absolute treasure as you’ll see from the wildlife photos and info on their website.


  1. Fascinating story and well researched. I did not realise the mill was as big as that. The house looks a bit different now! I remember having a good nosey around when it was derelict but unfortunately did not take any photos. I have a reference to the Mill from Emma Darwin’s diary, which I will send to you if you are interested.


    • Thanks Jane. I’d love to see the reference please. If ever you want to use anything for your history pages, please do 🙂 I have the copies of the original adverts if you want them. I’m just working on a post about the brook itself. Something that occurred to me last night was ‘I wonder where the machinery ended up?’. I’m sure there’s a document about it in Stafford, I’ll have to track it down!


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  3. It is so easy to think how wonderful it would have been to wander over fields
    and streams,Your blog shows how life was so much harder ,The water from
    the stream would at times be ice cold people still had to work up to 12-14
    hours then walk home ,Thank you for sharing your great blog with us all.


    • Thanks Pat. One thing that’s puzzling me is where the people of Leomansley got their water from. I can’t see any wells or pumps on the maps. Would they have taken it straight from the brook?


      • I have seen the practice of collecting rainwater for use
        in houses infact some larger houses had tanks in the
        celler,In times past people were not so careful with their
        drinking water that is why beer was so widely the drink
        of the day.


  4. Kate, Having re-read South Staffordshire Waterworks account of a survey
    from 1852 Leamondsley brook also Pondes mill brook were very clean water
    as both were fed by springs,both were very swift flowing.So it is possible that
    people did use this as their domestic water supply.


    • I was reading a similar document yesterday! Also I have a newspaper article from October 1905 saying that the residents of several cottages in Leomansley have requested the Conduit Lands Trust to extend the water main in the Walsall Rd to a point near Mr RHW Ball’s residence (not sure who he is!) and that they will pay their share of the cost.


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