Walkergate Development

Project Profile

Project Title :

Walkergate Development, Durham

Client :

Howarth Litchfield Partnership

Type of Work :

Desk-Based Assessment/Historic Building Appraisal

Project Gallery 

Old drawing showing mill in the foreground   Pre-demolition  
Clearing the weir-mill in background   Logwood mill elevation  
Ice rink compressor (right) and generator (left)   The remains of the mill today  


Walkergate Development

On the trail of the Bishops's Mill, Durham

In AD1183, under the heading for Durham, the compiler of the Boldon Book wrote; "Erat autem Civitas Dunelmensis ad firmam et reddebat lx marcas. Molendina eiusdem ville et de Querindonshire xxxvi marcas. (The City of Durham, then, was leased out and was yielding 60 marks. The mills of the same township, and of Quarringtonshire, 36 marks)"

This is the earliest record of the presence of mills within Durham, of which there were several on the River Wear at Durham at one time or another. Of these, four were once located at either end of a weir between Prebends and Framwellgate Bridges, one on the Mill Burn at Millburngate, one on the eastern side of the river at a point below the market-place and another further downstream serving Kepier Hospital.

In 2004 NAA were commissioned by Howarth Litchfield Partnership to undertake a desk-based assessment of a proposed development area at Walkergate, Durham, on part of which the remains of a watermill, known by tradition as the Bishop's Mill, were located. The mill was originally a corn-mill but part had been adapted to act as a logwood mill associated with Henderson's carpet factory which had been built immediately adjacent to the mill, on the former site of Shacklock Hall, in 1848. The mill building was further altered in the early post-war years to act as a power station and refrigeration plant for an ice-rink which had been built to its north. This involved the insertion of a large water turbine and the provision of compressors and generators in those parts of the building that had earlier acted as the logwood mill and part of the corn-mill. At this time the remainder of the complex was used as offices for the carpet factory.

The earliest depiction of a mill in this part of Durham is that by Christopher Schwytzer in 1595 (copied by John Speed in 1611). This is a sketch perspective view of the town showing a mill building with an external undershot water-wheel located at the riverside outside the Walkergate. In textual sources the Bishop's Mill was described as being ruinous in 1543, and there was no certainty that the building depicted in this map was its replacement, or even if the "ruinous" mill once stood on this particular site at all. The development of a mill in this area is further chartered by various cartographic sources and by 1860, the 1st Edition OS map identified the mill complex at Walkergate as 'Market Place Mill (corn)' and a smaller building to the west as a 'Logwood Mill'. The Bishop's Mill was not named as such by the Ordnance Survey until the 1939 edition map; however there does seem to be an earlier tradition for the name. In 1848 William Henderson purchased "all that messuage or mansion house with orchard and garden in the parish of St Nicholas known as Shacklock Hall..And also the two closes near adjoining known as the Milne Closes..And secondly all the water corn mills on the R Wear called the Bishops Mills..." in order to build his carpet factory.

Until the 1960s the main mill buildings stood to a height of three or four storeys, however part of the adjacent carpet factory was destroyed by a fire in 1969 and Henderson's relocated to Dragonville. Much of the former mill building was also demolished in this period, and piecemeal demolition of the complex continued intermittently up until 2004. A rapid fabric appraisal of the surviving structure confirmed that very little of the original fabric of the mill survived in situ, but acknowledged the possibility that subsurface remains, potentially of medieval date, may exist at the site.

As a partial result of the association of the mill building and the Prince Bishops of Durham, the planning application for the development was called in by the Government Office for the North East, and the scheme became the subject of a Public Inquiry. NAA were required to act as an expert witness with respect to archaeology at the Inquiry, and the Planning Inspector subsequently approved the development proposals.

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