Shenstone Local History Group
The mill's location
In this photograph we are travelling down Pinfold Hill to the crossroads on a gloomy winter evening in the 1960s and we are met with the sight of this impressive red brick building proclaiming "Shenstone Mills Ltd".
A water mill has stood on this site for many centuries, even being mentioned in the Domesday book in 1086, "here is a mill rented at 66 pence and one acre of meadow". The meeting of the two brooks Footherley and Crane and various streams on the Lammas Land created an exceptionally large area of water that supplied Shenstone’s medieval corn mill, the domain of many industrious millers in bygone years and where there was a good house, stables and other requisite machinery and offices and most importantly a mill race and undershot mill wheel.
Road improvements in the 18th and 19th enturies
In 1729 the deeply rutted road from Sutton Coldfield to Lichfield was improved and became part of the Lichfield Turnpike Trust, a toll road which gave quicker access to nearby towns for the produce to be sold.
Next to the mill, the turnpike road took a hard right turn when coming from Shenstone Woodend skirting the mill to cross the brook to where it was much narrower. In 1824 the road was straightened and a bridge was built across the wide part of the mill pool. The Grade II listed Cranebrook Bridge exists today and its sandstone arch is still coping with the increasing burden of traffic today.
The 19th century
In the 19th century the mill was rebuilt and with advances in knowledge the large millpond was dammed by weirs and now with a faster millrace and a powerful overshot water wheel, Thomas Woolley, the miller was capable of turning out 40 sacks of flour a day.
The miller in 1841 was 45 year old Samuel Day who lived in the mill house with his wife Mary, and 5 children. Mary was the owner of Shenstone Mill and after his wife died in 1850 the mill was put up for auction and bought by Henry Eld, a wealthy farmer and miller at the Forge Mill, Little Aston. He employed George Barnfield as miller at Shenstone and he seems to have left his employ under a cloud!
Subsequent millers over the years were Joseph Marshall, Edward Hayman, A Causer, Miss Ann Robinson and from 1901 for at least 30 years William and Abraham Simkins. William, his wife Sarah and daughters Bertha and Sarah lived at the Mill House and Abraham and his wife lived at Fairview, now called Seaton House on Pinfold Hill.
The mill and Shenstone Hall
The Shenstone Hall was sold in 1919 including Shenstone Mill but it is unclear when the mill became part of the Shenstone Hall Estate. A water wheel bearing the date 1828 was replaced in 1928. William Simkins had left by the mid-1930s and William Thomason was the miller, but by 1950 Shenstone Mills Ltd was producing horse, pig, cattle, poultry and rabbit food. The following year they were prosecuted for supplying rationed feeding stuffs without surrender of coupons to 14 customers. They were fined £206.
Finally, from the 1970s, several businesses, not related to milling, traded from the offices in Mill Lane and in 1971 the large mill pool was drained allowing the brook to flow unheeded towards Little Hay where it becomes the Black Brook.
The mill's fate
Shenstone’s Mill was demolished in the 1980s and its long dusty history was swept away on a tide of change with no fuss and apparently no regret. All that remains is the Crane Brook, now much diminished which flows through the gardens of the new houses that were built on the site of the old mill. Much has changed but wandering ghosts would still recognise the old Cranebrook bridge.
© Paula Ball, 2021
Programming, design and image editing and are the work of Julian Ward-Davies BA Hons PGCert.
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