Mansfield councillor's sadness after historic mill destroyed by fire

A councillor has posted an emotional response after a historic Mansfield mill was destroyed by fire.

Wednesday, 6th April 2022, 11:12 am

Coun June Stendall, Mansfield Council member for Grange Farm, was one of the original trustees of Hermitage Mill and says she is “devastated” by the loss of such an important piece of Mansfield’s history.

She said that the mill held the story of the ‘blood sweat and toil’ of Mansfield people going back to the industrial revolution.

The Hermitage Lane mill, built in the 18th Century, on Hermitage Lane, was gutted when flames ripped through the building on Monday, March 28.

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The devastating fire at Hermitage Mill

Emergency services were called at 3am but despite the efforts of firefighters, with 20 appliances, they were unable to save the the Grade ll-listed building.

Much of what was left has since been demolished, after the remaining shell was deemed too dangerous to remain.

Coun Stendall said she spent a sleepless night after realising with a ‘heavy heart’ the shocking fire she could see from her bedroom window, was in fact at the building she had fought for more than 20 years to save.

Councillor June Stendhall who is "devastated" by the fire at Hermitage Mill

Originally a water-powered textile mill, it was built in 1782 for the fourth Duke of Portland, who established several similar mills in the district.

It had been empty since 2008. A number of planning applications had been proposed over the years, with plans unveiled last year to convert it into a 70-bedroom care home.

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Emotional

The historic Hermitage Mill building left in ruins after the fire

Coun Stendall wrote on Facebook...“It’s 3am, in the early hours of Monday, and for some unknown reason I woke, got up and pulled back the curtain on my side bedroom window.

A glance, not really taking in the unusual glow in the distance, at first, believing it to be the Pentagon Vauxhall car sales, I made a call to the fire service and was told pumps were already in attendance.

Like many of you, I stood watching the flames and clouds of smoke, realising there were no blue flashing lights on Sutton Road. It was at this point I stared into the dark with a heavy heart realising ‘The Mill’ was on fire.

With no sleep for the rest of the night, constantly watching social media for information, when finally pictures confirmed the dreaded but expected truth.

Hermitage Mill demolition underway.

I am devastated at the loss of this mill, built in the 1780s its history and connections with Cromford Mill, Cromford and Pinxton Canals, borne out of blood sweat and toil from people in poverty just trying to make a living.

In the background I was always keeping a close eye on this building, planning applications, damage to it and the state of the grounds.

I continually kept bringing it to people’s attention, but it seems it was not enough.

On more than three occasions I spoke to the mayor. I told him ‘we should be looking to buy this mill’.

The last correspondence I had with officers was on March 14, reporting issues which the enforcement officer was dealing with.

For two years, I have asked questions on lifting the mill grading status above Grade II, looking at how to place it as an asset of ‘Community Value’.

Nothing left of the once noble Hermitage Mill demolition mill

I am so sorry I did not succeed in this. I can assure you it wasn’t for the lack of effort. Please forgive me if you feel I have let you down.

It was 2003 when I, as chairman of select commission one, housing and environment, and the committee undertook a three part piece of scrutiny called ‘The Swan Project.

Part one was about the mill, part two was the Viaduct and footpaths around the area and part three was the nature reserve.

Unfortunately our recommendations were not taken on board and no action was taken to implement them.

It was from here my connection to and my 20-year journey to save Hermitage Mill began.

Part one of the report and its recommendations was to create a mill trail across Mansfield ending at Dawson’s Mill in Warsop and on to Pleasley Mills.

I was part of the team who initially set up the Hermitage Mill Partnership Trust. We undertook much work. The main stumbling block was acquiring funds to purchase the mill for the trust. Work continued until the current owners purchased the mill, which is when the Trust closed.

Report

Coun Stendall also shared part of the 2003 report to cabinet.

It said…

Hermitage Mill is one of the series built in 1780s by the fourth Duke of Portland. In a record of 1832, seven mills were described as extensive cotton mills each with the capacious dams of crystal water reflecting the buildings and the adjacent hills. One of these seven was Hermitage Mill.

The mill is adjacent to the viaduct at Kings Mill Reservoir. In 1832 it was occupied by James Hayate, who carried on a business as a cotton doubler and lace thread manufacturer. He was succeeded by J&W Taylor who carried on the same trade in the 1880s. It was occupied by Samuel Eden and the Duke constructed the Sutton Reservoir in 1838 to provide the water power for a series of mills he had built on the Maun.

A very good example of possible appropriate use by a developer is given by the Masson Mill between Matlock and Cromford, where a visitor centre demonstration area is combined with a booming indoor retail market with many small medium shops selling household goods, crafts, woollens, clothes etc. There is also a restaurant and coffee bars, a farmers’ market and factory shop outlet.