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History of Stainsby Mill

Stainsby Mill lower floor
The Ground Floor at Stainsby | © National Trust Images/ David Levenson

The mill became part of the Hardwick Estate in 1593, providing flour to the family and locals alike. In 1850, the 6th Duke of Devonshire reconstructed the mill in order to make white flour, which was becoming increasingly popular. The machinery remained in place until the 1990s, when the dilapidated mill was restored to the 6th Duke’s designs.

A historic mill

Built on the banks of the Doe Lea river, the mill at Stainsby has been part of the Derbyshire countryside for over 800 years. Stainsby Mill joined the Hardwick Estate when Bess of Hardwick purchased it in 1593.

The mill became part of the Stainsby Mill farm in the 17th century providing flour to the Devonshire Family until 1952.

Following a period of disrepair, Stainsby Mill was reconstructed between 1849 and 1850 by the 6th Duke of Devonshire William Cavendish. The mainly wooden machinery such as the wheel was replaced by cast and wrought iron.

Bread to impress

Entertaining was an important part of life at Hardwick, with the 6th Duke impressing his guests with white bread and fancy pastries.

Previously a luxury item, white flour became an expected extravagance for guests. Keen to wow them with French cakes and breads, the 6th Duke renovated the mill and imported a French Burr Stone which created a lighter flour for high-quality baked goods.

Exterior of Stainsby Mill on the Hardwick Estate, Derbyshire
Stainsby Mill | © National Trust Images/Robert Morris

The waterwheel at Stainsby Mill

The 6th Duke paid around £1,000, approximately £200,000 today, to renovate the mill. More than half was spent on the wheel and machinery.

He contracted local millwrights, Thomas Kirkland and Sons of Mansfield to design, make and install the new machinery.

The unusual design for the mill renovation was intended to provide maximum power for the limited amount of water available.

A miller checks and collects flour as it is produced at Stainsby Mill, a working, water-powered flour mill on the Hardwick Hall Estate, Derbyshire
Checking and collecting the flour at Stainsby Mill | © National Trust Images/David Levenson

Restoring the mill

From 1990 to 1992, Stainsby Mill underwent a transformation to restore the historic machinery and structure of the mill.

Much of the original stonework remained when the National Trust took ownership of the mill. All the cast-iron machinery was in pieces, but most remained on site and could be cleaned and reassembled.

The rotted wooden parts were replaced by replicas in new wood. The stable block roof was rebuilt and new wooden steps were constructed, both inside and out.

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