Monday, 9 November 2015

Retirement of David King

Earlier this autumn, Dave King showed his last visitors around the mill as resident miller/custodian, the position which he has held since 1992.  Originally from the East Midlands, Dave worked as a miner, draughtsman and engineer before being selected (from over 300 applicants) by Cumbria County Council to succeed Thom Staites as custodian at Boot.

When ownership of the mill was transferred by the Council in 2006, Dave continued in day-to-day control as the Trust’s tenant, and has continued in that role ever since.  The Trust therefore has no experience of direct responsibility for managing the mill, or its operation without him.  Continuing to keep the mill running and opening it to the public without his vast experience will present a severe challenge.

Dave has declined any formal presentation to mark his retirement, and probably would not appreciate any lengthy encomium here.  But it is absolutely necessary to acknowledge and thank him for his phenomenal knowledge of mills in general, and his great understanding of, and love for, Eskdale mill in particular.  Thousands of visitors have been enthralled by his guided tour, and many have recorded their appreciation of his contribution to the mill’s quirky character and eccentric charm, in the visitors’ book, on TripAdvisor, or in the surveys conducted recently.

In order to ensure the preservation of some of Dave’s wit and wisdom, Len Watson has made sound and video recordings of several of his tours, and film and TV production students from the University of Cumbria made the film you can see on the home page.

The Trust thanks Dave and Chiko for the huge contribution they have made to Eskdale mill, and wishes them a long and happy retirement at their new home, not too far away.  We hope Dave will not mind if we call on his experience and expertise just occasionally in future.

Sunday, 4 October 2015

Heritage Lottery Fund project update

Our round-1 application to the Heritage Lottery Fund was submitted in August.  If we are successful in November, a nine month development period will lead to a full round-2 bid in August 2016.  We will appoint project managers to write the bid, and assist with the appointment of consultants for business and activity plans, and detailed specifications for works.  All appointments will be by competitive process.
We have asked HLF for £67,000 so far.  Match-funding of at least 5% is required.  We are grateful to Copeland Community Fund for agreeing to provide £5,000 for this purpose.  Their positive feedback will encourage us to apply to them again at round-2.
Working closely with the trustees and advisers, the round-1 bid and accompanying documentation was compiled by Shirley Muir Associates, based in Blennerhasset, who subcontracted input on interpretation and activities to Minerva Heritage of Lancaster.  This work was generously paid for by the Lake District National Park Authority’s Communities Fund, with match-funding from Cumbria County Council’s Community Fund, via Cllr Keith Hitchen.  
In preparation for the bid, visitors to the mill in early summer were asked to complete a questionnaire, and people were surveyed at Dalegarth station.  We asked for expressions of support from schools, local businesses, Eskdale Parish Council, and national organisations interested in mills.  The resulting letters were heartening, showing that the mill’s importance to the valley’s economy, as well as its educational and cultural significance, is widely valued.
We have taken a risk in asking HLF to fund the internal refurbishment of the miller’s cottage, which will be for the private occupation of a new miller.  Such expenditure is outside the normal guidelines, and must be justified by a very strong case.  We believe there are convincing reasons for requiring the miller to occupy the cottage as a condition of employment.
If we progress to round-2, we shall ask HLF for  a further £720,000, leaving us to raise £86,000 in match-funding and volunteer time, to pay for : 
an archaeological survey, utilising the data from laser scanning in 2014;
re-roofing, timber and masonry repairs and other conservation work on the mill and outbuildings, recommended by the 2014 buildings condition survey;
repairs to the mill machinery recommended by the 2014 millwright’s report, including replacement of the 1970’s wooden launder, restoration of the second waterwheel (currently out of use) and consideration of producing flour for sale; 
improved external signage, and internal display and interpretation;
external and internal refurbishment of the cottage;
a display area for Mary Fair’s photographs of Eskdale’s wider heritage;
a small refurbished shop;
connection to mains water and installation of a visitor toilet;
repairs to boundary walls, fences, pathways and steps, improving disabled access where practical, but providing virtual access where this is not possible;
reclaiming the grounds and gardens and the field behind the cottage, perhaps as a hay meadow;
business, marketing and activity plans, including : volunteer roles; improved website and use of social media; co-operation with R&E Railway, National Trust and local businesses; involvement of schools, further and higher education; visitor activities, eg guided walks from the mill with LDNPA, baking haverbread, children as millers;
a financially sustainable model for maintaining the mill as a visitor attraction, after HLF support ends in June 2020.
We hope that the mill will be kept open to visitors in 2016, probably on a restricted basis, by the volunteers currently being mustered by Bob Hoye-Turner for training in October; details will be in the spring Newsletter.  We are likely to close for most of the 2017 season, whilst works are carried out.  A new miller/custodian should be in place in time for re-opening around Easter 2018.  HLF funding is intensely competitive, so of course nothing can be taken for granted.
Every decision taken by the trustees in getting us to this stage has been unanimous.  We have benefitted from the advisers’ views, both at meetings and in writing.  There is a tension between conviction that an ambitious development programme of this sort is both necessary and appropriate, and apprehension that the mill’s authenticity and eccentric charm could be compromised or lost in the process. The trustees are determined to ensure that those who design and implement the project for us should find and maintain the right balance, between essential conservation and the need for financial sustainability, on the one hand, and over-restoration or dumbed-down presentation on the other.

Paul Pharaoh  

Hydro scheme progress

Hydro scheme progress  

Thanks to the generosity of Marcus Worthington, and of all those members who responded to the appeal in the last Newsletter, and to the patient fund-raising skills of Peter van Zeller, we have secured sufficient funding to order our waterwheel generator.  Because public funding would disqualify us from the benefits of Feed-in Tariff, all the money is from private sources.

The suupliers are two Cumbrian firms, Smith Engineering of Maryport and Border Hydro of Lorton, near Cockermouth.  The steel girder framework has been manufactured, galvanised and painted.  On  9-10 September it was transported to the mill and has now been installed in its final location. The motor and gearbox have been ordered, and the machining of other component parts is planned.  Smith Engineering have arranged for the specially shaped buckets to be laser-cut and shaped. The control panel design is complete and the parts have been ordered.
Framework in place

Joiners are assessing timber requirements for the launder (the trough that will carry water from the existing mill leat to the top of the ‘overshot’ waterwheel).  The timber used will probably be European larch and perhaps some green oak. Whilst ensuring that the required flow rate is maintained, water must be fed as slowly and calmly as possible into the buckets.  Otherwise, air gets trapped in the flow and, being much less dense than water, would reduce the efficiency of the waterwheel.  The design of the buckets gives them capacity to develop more power in future, should it be decided to move to a 3-phase electrical system.  They are carefully shaped to hold the water as far out as possible on the radius of the wheel, thus developing the maximum torque (turning force).  A trench will be dug, away from pathways, to take the power cable to the location of the controls for the generator.

We are on track to be generating power by the end of 2015, well within the limit of one year from the approval date allowed for installation and commissioning of the generator, thus qualifying us for the Feed-in Tariff under the government’s renewable energy initiative.  The boost to the mill’s normal income will begin at the same time.
Motor going into position

The similar waterwheel built by Smith Engineering and Border Hydro at Skelwith Bridge, in Great Langdale, has now been operating successfully and very efficiently for almost a year, giving us confidence that the generator will serve our purpose well.  It is designed to produce a maximum 3.5kW of electricity, given a water supply of at least 100 litres per second.  That should be available in all but the driest periods, which used to occur most often in late spring and early summer; but who knows what to expect in the next 25 years ?  If we are able to keep the equipment running for most of the time, say 75% of the year, then at the kilowatt-hour tariff rate of 25 pence per kWh we should earn around £5,000 per annum, provided the efficiency of our wheel and the one at Langdale are the same.

Sunday, 13 September 2015

Dalegarth Hall Open Day

Dalegarth Hall open day in aid of the Eskdale Mill Trust

Earlier this year, Margie Foots agreed to succeed her mother, the late Anne Stanley, as a patron of the Trust. Margie generously responded to our hydro generator appeal, by offering to open her home and gardens at Dalegarth Hall. This was a rare opportunity to view Eskdale’s oldest house, and to learn more about the Stanley family. Eskdale mill belonged to the Stanleys from at least 1633, but was sold to Edward Hartley of Miterdalehead in 1737.

The event on Sunday 9 August was a tremendous success.  By paying for entry and buying tea and cakes, plants, raffle tickets, and some of Anne Stanley's pictures, locals and visitors together contributed the magnificent total of £1,597 for the Trust. People enjoyed themselves in a good cause, and EMHT raised its local profile. 

We are immensely grateful to Margie for allowing all-comers into her home, laying on a guided tour and enlisting other members of the Stanley family to assist. Special thanks to John & Diane Bromage for master-minding and publicising the whole event, with help from Paddy O’Neill and posters provided by Chris Jones. John also ran the raffle, with prizes donated by local businesses.  Many thanks also to the gatekeepers, parking attendants (a stressful task), stall-minders and caterers : Paul and Morag Dean, Bob and Christine Hoye-Turner, Joan Marlow, Rosey Benn, Damian McSweeney, Roger and Mu Putnam, Peter and Kate van Zeller, and Len & Denise Watson, and all the others who helped out.  Finally, thanks to Gill Hart, the new vicar of Eskdale, who by attending with David ensured that the rain held off for the whole afternoon.
Paul Pharaoh

A brief history of the Stanley family of Dalegarth by Margie Foots

Nicholas Austhwaite Stanley (1909-1985) was 25th in direct line descended from a Noman lord who accompanied William the Conqueror and was given the manor of Stoneleigh in Cheshire. Dalegarth Hall became the seat of this Cumbrian branch of the family in 1345 when Nicholas, son of John Stanley who had moved from Cheshire to Embleton, married Constance, heiress to the manor of Austhwaite. He also bought the manor and demesne of Ponsonby from Adam de Eskdale in 1388.
The descendants of Nicholas continued to accumulate more property and gained status by marrying into other notable families and taking on responsibilities such as becoming High Sheriff, Justice of the Peace and Members of Parliament.
In 1566 / 1567 Thomas Stanley bought the manor of Birkby for a sum of £760, and his son Edward was given the property of Brotherilkeld on the dissolution of Furness Abbey. He was also able to buy the tithes of Eskdale, Mitredale, Wasdale and Nether Wasdale from St Bees Priory.
During the civil war, his son John was an active and zealous royalist and was heavily fined by Parliament. The family have a portrait of him and letters from Oliver Cromwell and General Fairfax at Dalegarth. He was succeeded by his son Edward who bought the manor of Birker from Edward Fletcher of Moresby Hall in 1671 for £212. 5s. He also bought the rights for the holding of Ravenglass Fair and was High Sheriff of Cumberland and proclaimed King William 3rd in 1689.
Edward was the last Stanley to live in Dalegarth Hall as Lord of the Manor. His son John bought the Rectory of Ponsonby and moved his family to Ponsonby Old Hall in 1689 and retained this as the family seat. This would reflect the beginning of changes in farming practices and the role of the Lord of the Manor to “Gentleman Farmer”.
John’s son Edward married Mildred, daughter of Sir George Fleming, Bishop of Carlisle. He was High Sheriff in 1731 and was on the grand jury at the trial of the Jacobite prisoners in Carlisle in 1745. When he died his heir, George Edward, was a young child and his mother organised the running of the estate till he came of age. There are detailed records of his schooling and information about the running of the estate and improvements at a time when land was being enclosed and properties enfranchised. He built a grand new house, Ponsonby Hall, now Pelham House, and in Eskdale planted the woods round Dalegarth and saw to the building of walls as fell-land was being enclosed.
He died aged 58 in 1806 leaving very generous gifts to his children and an annual allowance of £600 to his wife. This presented a problem to his son Edward when he inherited the estate and most of the property had to be mortgaged. Edward was an MP for 20 years and High Sheriff in 1823.
His son William succeeded him and he was followed first by Edward who sold the whole of the Eskdale estate to Muncaster to cover some of the debts, and as he and his brother William died unmarried, their younger brother Philip moved to Ponsonby Hall with his family in 1928. His son Nicholas succeeded him and sold Ponsonby Hall to the Home Office in 1940 and bought back the manor of Austhwaite. He was the last High Sheriff of Cumberland. He moved into Dalegarth Hall in 1959 and it is now the home of his daughter Margaret.

Thursday, 2 April 2015

SPRING NEWSLETTER 2015 Planning Ahead


After examining several options for the Mill’s operation and management after David King’s retirement in February 2016, last autumn the trustees accepted the recommendation of our consultants, Minerva Heritage Ltd, to open it to the public as often as possible, with demonstrations of the machinery by a new custodian. He or she will be an employee of the Trust, not a tenant as at present, and will occupy the refurbished cottage as a condition of employment.

Just before Christmas, we received Minerva’s final review of the Mill as a visitor attraction, and a condition report on all our buildings from Blackett-Ord Conservation Engineers, with estimated repair costs. By February, we also had a specialist millwright’s report on the machinery from Martin Watts, a national authority, again with estimates. We are very grateful to the Heritage Lottery Fund and Lake District National Park Authority Communities Fund for enabling us to obtain these reports, each containing essential information for future planning. Including VAT, capital expenditure will be about £420,000

Also in February three trustees, supported by John Hodgson and Rec Cathey from LDNPA, met HLF representatives to discuss a second and larger funding application. Although of course making no commitments, they gave us generally encouraging advice. There may be a problem with funding internal improvements to the cottage, as payment for privately used residential facilities is not normally allowed. HLF emphasised that grants for capital work on buildings follow on from funding of audience development, interpretation and activities for people, not the other way round. Those activities in the first five years will cost another £108,000, taking the total project cost to around £528,000. We will have to find match funding from other sources of 5% of the amount applied for.

Applying for a heritage grant is a two stage process. If we are successful this year with a first round application, there will be a development period during, and perhaps beyond 2016, with HLF funding for working up a detailed second round application. That will include full activities, action and business plans, specifications and architect’s drawings. Professional support will be needed even for the first round, outline application; we hope to pay for that by making yet another grant application – but are still short of the £600 match funding required.

If we succeed at HLF round two, building work will not begin until 2017, at the earliest. Whilst the Mill may close at the construction stage, we shall do our best to keep it ticking over, and to maintain some income from admissions, during the 2016 season onwards. That will probably mean relying on volunteers to guide people round, at times fixed according to train arrivals at Dalegarth. Identifying & training those people is therefore a priority for this year.

Are we daunted by all this ? Of course we are. But as our newest [trustee/adviser’s] father used to tell him, “It's the job that doesn't get started that takes the longest”.

Paul Pharaoh



We are still working to secure the funding required to manufacture and install a new waterwheel, that will supply ‘green’ renewable electricity to the grid, and offer an added attraction to visitors coming to see the last working corn mill in the Lake District National Park.

The only outstanding regulatory requirement is the granting of preliminary accreditation by Ofgem, who are currently examining our application. Once they give us the final go-ahead, and the money is in place, we are ready to sign a contract with our preferred supplier, who has recently completed the successful installation of a similar system in Langdale at Skelwith Bridge, near Ambleside.

The output from our new waterwheel should produce enough electricity to give the Trust an income of between £3,000 and £4,000 each year, which would enable us to pay the Mill’s fixed overheads and some maintenance costs. In addition, the electricity produced will reduce the cost of power used at the cottage. Without this boost to our income we are unlikely to achieve financial sustainability, even if visitor numbers and revenue increase in line with our consultants’ projections. If the financial performance of the last few years were to remain unchanged, the Trust could not survive for more than another three or four years.

The total cost of the hydro project will not exceed £50,000, reducing to £40,000 if, as we think is likely, we qualify for a lower than standard rate of VAT. So far, we have raised £27,000 from Trusts and individuals, and some other potential donors have yet to respond to applications. Projects which will benefit from the feed-in tariff, by selling the energy produced, are not eligible for capital funding from public bodies, because of a perceived double benefit. So the new waterwheel, which is so necessary to our continued existence, must be paid for only from private sources.

The funding gap of only £13,000 is frustratingly small. But we are still some way off securing sufficient financial support to make us sure of achieving the Trust’s principal object of protecting the survival of this wonderful historic feature of the Lake District, and of being able to offer an enhanced visitor experience in future, that will inform and enthral those who come to see it.

As the Trust’s very survival is doubtful unless the hydro project is successfully completed, the trustees are appealing to patrons, advisers and members to donate to the Eskdale Mill Generator Fund. All contributions will be acknowledged, and their value can be increased by 25% through Gift Aid if you are a UK tax payer.

Please send your donation with the membership renewal form which accompanies this Newsletter, or to Peter van Zeller, Company Secretary & Treasurer, Inglenook, Main Street, Ravenglass, Cumbria CA18 1SD; cheques payable to Eskdale Mill & Heritage Trust.

Len Watson

HYDRO PROGRESS autumn 2014

Our efforts to put in place an electricity generating waterwheel are progressing steadily. We intend to position the new free-standing wheel so that it may be seen by people as they approach the Mill from the village and cross the packhorse bridge which spans the Whillan Beck. The Mill’s integral waterwheels are not visible from the road, so the location of the new wheel should serve to increase visual interest for potential visitors. It will also add educational value as a demonstration of the power of water, one of Cumbria’s greatest natural resources, taking part of the flow from the existing millrace via a new wooden launder.

The energy produced from this renewable source will reduce our carbon footprint and, what is more, earn us income to keep the Mill and Trust going. We need around £3,000 each year for insurance and maintenance costs alone.

With the support of Eskdale Parish Council, we have made good progress in obtaining firstly the necessary planning permission from the Lake District National Park Authority, and secondly agreement to installation of the generator from the electrical network authority, Electricity North West. We are currently waiting to hear about our third necessary application from Ofgem, the authority which controls access to the Feed-in Tariff system for renewable energy providers. If that is successful, we are then in the position of being able to make final arrangements with the wheel’s manufacturer, who has already installed a similar waterwheel generator in Langdale.

The one major problem still confronting us is that so far we have secured less than half of the funds required, about £50,000. Fundraising is made more difficult because organisations benefitting from Feed-in Tariff payments are ineligible for grant aid for the project cost from ‘public bodies’, for example Lottery Funds, local government agencies or any organisation funded by national taxation. We cannot therefore approach many of the most likely sources of funding, and are limited to appealing for help to trusts, companies and individuals.

The wheel’s design should enable it to generate up to 4 kilowatts of power from the water flow we normally experience. If that power is maintained for 75% of the year at 60% efficiency, then we could produce annually about 16,000 kilowatt hours of energy, which would currently earn £3,800 from the FIT scheme. That would cover the Trust’s insurance costs and routine maintenance and repairs to the Mill and cottage.

There are limits on for how long the various permissions remain valid. We must build, install and commission the generator within the next twelve months, or we would have to re-apply to at least one authority. We therefore need to reach our funding target quite soon. So, although we have made really encouraging progress with the regulatory regime, and the manufacturer is ready to start work, we are still at a critical phase in the project.

Len Watson