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Howstrake
Corn Mills

 

The privileges of the Lord of Mann in the middle ages were extensive and included the right to receive any porpoise, sturgeon and whale which were taken, together with hawk, heron, hart and hind, as well as wreck and treasure trove. He was also entitled to free supplies of food for his castles of Rushen and Peel together with turf and ling, (heather branches), for fuel. Apart from exacting toll on his subjects' produce, he also imposed taxes on fishing for herring, the import and export of goods, and on the grinding of corn at the Lord's mills. Milling, as in England at that time, was a monopoly of the Lord. To avoid this latter tax the people used querns, or hand-mills, which were liable to seizure and destruction if discovered.

The earliest recorded corn mill in Howstrake was at Crawdall, or Groudle, and is mentioned in the 1511 Manorial Roll in which it was noted that Patric Macray paid an annual Lord's rent of 4/2d. The exact site of this mill is not known but it is likely to have been at the mouth of the Groudle river where it would be accessible both by the Groudle Road towards Onchan and the track from Lonan Old Church to the North. The mill marked at this site on the 1864-69 Ordnance Survey was built in 1854 by John Banks of Howstrake. (The date 1854 and the initials J B were cut into its stonework). The structure probably replaced an earlier mill.

On the side of Bank's Howe, above the junction of the Groudle Road with King Edward Road, stands a small underground reservoir, covered over by steel inspection hatches and surrounded by a stone wall. This facility was built in 1866 by the Douglas Waterworks Company following their purchase of the Groudle Mill from Samuel Shallcross Callow, the new owner of Howstrake. Water from the Groudle River was pumped up to it from the mill and was then piped overland, by gravity feed, to Douglas. A supply of water was taken from the Groudle river by means of a sluice and this was retained by a pair of water tanks constructed of red brick. There were also a number of deep wells on the site.

A photograph by the late Tim Quayle, monumental mason of Douglas, depicts the Groudle mill as having a tall chimney on the landward side of the building. This served the boiler which powered the steam pumping equipment. Another photograph, taken by a visitor to the Island in 1948 and entered into the Tourist Board's photographic competition, shows a second building, probably a dwelling house, in the vicinity of the mill.

Another mill on the Groudle River was the Wellington Mill at the head of Molly Quirk's Glen. This was listed in 1881 as being in the possession of a widow, Mrs Jane Poland, and was presumably in use at that date as a corn mill. In 1897 the Village Commissioners considered its conversion into an electric power station to supply the village.

The marsh land to the North of Church Road, or the Butt as it is known locally, on which the 1864-69 Ordnance Survey marked a dam, was the source of a stream which ran parallel to Royal Avenue, although a little to the Eastern side. This powered a mill, also marked on the Ordnance Survey, and which was sited, when this area was still open fields, a little to the landward side of the junction of what are now Royal Avenue and Furman Road. The 1841 Census lists a miller living on Howstrake who had the appropriate surname of Oats.

The names of two houses built in Royal Avenue in the 1930s, "Mill Site" and "Mill Brook", commemorate this mill. Building work at "Mill Brook", number 90, in July 1994, unearthed stone work in the garden between the two houses which indicated the position of the mill's water wheel The stream is now piped underground except for its brief appearance through Port Jack Glen.

A further mill is mentioned by George Woods in his account of the Island written in 1811. He recorded that as he was coming down from Onchan to return to Douglas by way of the foreshore, he passed "..the wheel of a corn mill, now burned down..". (Kneen's Place Names suggests that the mill might have been a snuff mill). This mill, which was burnt down in 1768 was on the site of the present Min-y-Don restaurant and is the origin of the name of Burnt Mill Hill, the name by which Summer Hill was formerly known.