Thorpe Thewles History Group

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Thorpe Thewles History Group
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mill race

i was wondering if anyone has any infomation or thoughts why the mill race was originaly biult for.
it is documented that it was used as a canal waterway for the mills but it stops well short of thorpe mill also there are several mills further up stream wich would of benifited from such a waterway. i do have my own thoughts on this but thay are only thoughts and it would be good to get a little feed back first befor i give my thoughts on it.

Re: Mill Race

I don’t know anything of the history about the mill races in the area other than that there were two both of which were fed off the beck which runs out of Whitton through Thorpe Thewles, passed Blakeston Hall and on to Norton before finally flowing into the Tees via Billingham. Both mill races were man made channels constructed to take a controlled flow of water off the beck to drive the water wheels of the Thorpe Thewles and Blakeston corn mills respectively.

On the 1857 Ordnance Survey Map of the area the first mill race is shown flowing off the beck at Thorpe Thewles south of Hell Hole Lane (where the current barn and mobile phone transmitter now stand). The flow was diverted off the north bank of the beck via a man-made dam or weir constructed across it. The race then flowed to Thorpe Mill before being discharged back into the beck just above where Vicar’s Bridge now is. A few hundred yards down stream the beck reached a second man made weir. This diverted some of its flow off to the south into the head of a second mill race which flowed along a parallel course to the beck down to Blakeston Mill. After flowing through the mill the race re-joined the beck below Bottle Hill Farm. Nothing now remains of Blakeston Mill that was located on the eastern side of Blakeston Bridge, below where the cattery now is.

I understand that the best part of Thorpe Mill race still survives although its course and exit point back into the beck has now been modified although the original mill discharge culvert can still be seen in the east bank of the beck just above Vicar’s Bridge. The weir at the race’s head has been destroyed.

The mill race serving Blakeston Mill has now been totally backfilled and its feeder weir destroyed although parts of its brick construction can allegedly still be seen in the sides of the beck’s banks. I understand that the culvert that carried the race under the original Thorpe to Stockton road, just below New Bridge (under the old Railway viaduct) can still be seen.

When the mill races were originally cut and abandoned is not known to me. I would expect that both races are contemporary with their respective mills and as such were probably early medieval in origin. I have been told that until the flow of the Tees was modified by the Tees Navigation Company in the early 1800s its was possible for small boats to navigate all the way up the Billingham Beck as far as Thorpe Mill and that this was the means by which much of the corn produced by the various mills (Thorpe, Blakeston and Norton) found its way down to Stockton and beyond.

Hope the above is of some help to you.

All the best

Liz Smales