History of Stainsby Mill

On the banks of the Doe Lea river, just the other side of a small village in Derbyshire, you will find Stainsby Mill. There has been a Mill on this site for over 800 years, the earliest references in documents at Chatsworth dated 1216.

The Mill became part of the Hardwick Estate when Bess of Hardwick purchased it in 1593. From the mid-seventeenth century until its closure in 1952 the mill was worked as part of the Stainsby mill farm, providing flour to the Devonshire family on the Hardwick Estate.
Following a period of disrepair Stainsby mill was reconstructed in 1849-50 by William Cavendish, 6th Duke of Devonshire (known as the bachelor Duke). All the previous mainly wooden machinery including the wheel was replaced by the more modern cast and wrought iron.

William Cavendish, 6th Duke of Devonshire
William Cavendish, 6th Duke of Devonshire
William Cavendish, 6th Duke of Devonshire

A flair for French fancies

The 6th Duke liked to entertain guests at Hardwick Hall with white bread and fancy pastries. Previously white flour was a luxury item and only for those who could afford the extra cost. But as it became more widely available more and more people expected it. So, the 6th Duke imported a French stone (known for creating a lighter flour for French cakes and breads) as well as renovated the mill in order to benefit the Duke and his guests but the surrounding populace.

The water wheel

The 6th Duke paid just under £1000 (approximately £200,000 today) for the renovation which was a considerable sum for that period, more than half of which (£577 4s 9d) was spent on the wheel and machinery. He contracted local millwrights Thomas Kirkland & Sons of Mansfield, (8 miles away) who designed, made and installed all of the mill machinery. Whilst not unique to Stainsby in design it was unusual in relation to other mills and designed to provide the maximum power for the limited amount of water available.

The mill was partially restored in 1976 when the Trust acquired it and fully restored in 1990-92. The mill is remarkably complete and includes most of the original metalwork, millstones, kiln and drying floor.