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26 June 2004 - Archaeological discovery made at the Fosse (Press Release)

An important part of Richmond's industrial heritage has been uncovered during construction work at the town's waterfalls.

Work to repair and safeguard the riverside wall at the Fosse undertaken by Richmondshire District Council has revealed the remains of a former mill building that once occupied the site.

The discovery was made when workmen went to remove the roots of an old tree and found themselves looking down into part of a stone arched tunnel, almost 4 metres wide and 12 metres long.

It is thought to be part of the headrace that used to channel water to power the old paper mill built by James Cooke in the mid 19th century. The mill played an important part in the town's economy for a number of years before being destroyed by a flood in 1883.

David Elliott, Richmondshire District Council's Conservation Officer, said: "The underground chamber that we have found is remarkably intact and its construction shows great workmanship, with a superb dressed stone vaulted roof.

"Both ends are completely blocked off but it appears to be part of the headrace which channelled water to power the mill. It's an amazing find, made by pure chance."

The area has now been resealed until the Council has decided on the best way to preserve this important part of Richmond's industrial past.

The work at the Fosse is part of a £237,000 scheme to construct a new 40-metre long concrete retaining wall, to the rear of the existing stone wall. The corner of the stone wall is also being rebuilt and the height of the parapet increased. The pedestrian area to the rear of the wall will be upgraded with new picnic tables, litterbins and York Stone paving. The works will be completed on 28 July 2004.

Historical information

Castle Mill was Richmond's most important and earliest recorded corn watermill, with references dating back to 1136. Corn milling ceased at Castle Mill in the late 1820's or early 1830's, and was transferred to the nearby Church Mill. James Cooke, son of Henry Cooke who had built the successful Whitcliffe Paper Mill, expanded the family business by establishing a second paper mill on the site of the then derelict Castle Mill in 1865. However, disaster struck in January 1883, when the mill was destroyed in a great flood, recorded by artist and photographer William Sanderson.

Sources :
A Richmond Miscellany  (L.P. Wenham and C.J. Hatcher)
The History of Richmond (Jane Hatcher)

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