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Crawley Mill

Three miles downstream from Worsham on the south side of the river Windrush.

Physical structure

Crawley Mill, the site complex showing the 19th century chimney.
Crawley Mill, the site complex showing the 19th century chimney.
The oldest part of the existing Crawley Mill buildings appears to date from the 18th century but a corn mill probably stood on this site from around 1220. A fulling mill was added around 1520 when the lease passed to a Richard Box, who was from a family of Witney fullers [1].

The original Crawley Mill is a two-storey Cotswold stone structure built across the mill race. It had an enclosed water wheel with curved iron paddles that drove spinning and other machinery in the mill. This wheel seems to have survived into the 1960s although water power had not been used there for around forty years by this time [2]. A small, square brick chimney stack at the rear suggests that water power was assisted by a steam engine from around the 1860s. The building is of traditional construction and appearance, with thick load-bearing walls and timber beams upon which the upper floor is supported [3].

Crawley Mill, the sulphur bleaching sheds.
Crawley Mill, the sulphur bleaching sheds.
A larger mill, built after the original stone building, lies a little to the south. It was constructed from red brick and was steam powered; the chimney associated with this still stands above the mill complex today. The single storey wooden sheds around the road were used until the 1960s for sulphur bleaching blankets: they are the last standing examples of bleaching sheds in the Witney area [4]. A large part of the mill has survived and is currently used to house a range of different businesses.

The Collier family originally owned Crawley Mill and used it for blanket production. W. Smith and Co. took it on after them, later merging with Philips to become Messrs W. Smith and J.N. Philips, but they in turn were acquired by the General Guarantee Corporation in 1967. After further takeovers Smith and Philips' were bought out by Moderna Ltd of Yorkshire, who made all the staff at Crawley Mill redundant in 1974, except for four people employed in raising blankets. The mill was closed completely the following year.

What was the site used for?
Originally used for most stages of blanket production by the Colliers. Smith's used the site chiefly for fulling, bleaching and dyeing operations until they re-equipped it in the 1930s; after this it was used largely for blanket finishing processes [5].

Crawley Mill remained open throughout the Second World War for finishing blankets at a time when Bridge Street Mill, Smith's other premises, was temporarily closed and its workforce had been transferred to Early's at Witney Mill.

Clare Sumner