Yorkshire Interiors - A mill restoration in the Yorkshire Dales
PUBLISHED: 00:00 25 July 2014
A cold, dark and damp property in the Yorkshire Dales changed the lives of a couple from London. Heather Dixon finds out more
Jane and Neil McNair were living in London when they came to Yorkshire for a weekend break – and made a decision which was to transform their lives.
‘After 20 years in the city we were thinking of moving to the country to run a B&B, but had no intention of moving north,’ says Jane. ‘When Neil saw the details for the mill in an agent’s window I just rolled my eyes thinking he was mad, but we came to see it anyway.’
The mill had been empty for three years so it was cold, dark and damp - the kitchen and bathroom were particularly basic. It had been renovated in the early 1980s and had changed very little since, but the best bit was the mill mechanism. The mill wheel, the cogs and two huge grindstones were still in working order and featured through three stories of the property. ‘We loved it,’ says Jane. ‘We had renovated several houses in London and we knew it could be brilliant.’
Neil was running a building company and Jane was managing a veterinary practice in London at the time, but the lure of the Dales was too powerful to resist. Within a week the property was theirs and they moved north, cramming all their furniture into one room while they decided what to do with the mill. ‘We sold our old house quite quickly so there was no turning back, but the mill is in such a beautiful location that we knew we were doing the right thing,’ says Jane.
They created a bedroom, bathroom and sitting room in the attic area first so that they had somewhere to escape to as the mill became a building site. ‘It was like living on a film set, sitting up there in comfort while everywhere else it was chaos,’ said Neil. ‘We left the room layout pretty much as it was but we had to apply for planning consent to change the use in the parts that were not residential. The previous owner was quite well known for his dolls house collection, so one room had been used like a museum and other rooms had been left just as they were when it was a working mill.’
Jane and Neil were able to do a lot of the renovation work themselves, which involved taking it right back to the stone walls inside. They took out ceilings, installed new windows and laid new floors. They decided to leave some of the walls as bare stone to reflect its history, then plastered and insulated the rest. They also sandblasted clean all the oak beams, which took about three weeks of intensive work because there were so many. Local trades people did the electrics and plumbing.
‘We didn’t want to lose any of the character of Low Mill so we were very keen to make features of the workings, the three foot thick walls and the huge beams,’ says Jane.
Neil cleaned all the mechanisms of the mill and painted the water wheel because he wanted to make sure it stayed in full working order. ‘It’s a great talking point with guests because they all want to see the water wheel and the grind stones turning. They don’t make a huge amount of noise – just a gentle rumbling in the background.’
Low Mill, Yorkshire Dales
Low Mill was built in 1785 is a Grade II listed building and still has the original working machinery inside
Jane and Neil wanted the natural character of the building to be the focus of the sitting room, although the G-plan chairs and Multi-York sofa have been covered in colourful retro-style Lazio fabric by Sanderson. The walls are painted Crown Aged White. The range was taken out of the kitchen in pieces, cleaned and repositioned in the sitting room fireplace
The snug attic room features Sanderson 'Romance' wallpaper. Furniture from Multi York and a coffee table made by Cornish furniture maker Steve Roberts of Wood Design keep the look stylishly simple
Jane chose large, bold patterned wallpaper to make a statement in the bedrooms, including this Lawrence Llwelyn Bowen Shantung wallpaper which set the colour scheme of the room. Jane found the bedding in Camden Market and the curtains were made by a local seamstress using a Sanderson fabric
A mix of furniture styles works well in the large main bedroom which includes a feature wall decorated with Sanderson Birdcage wallpaper. The extra large Emperor bed is from the Big Bed Company, the bedside cabinets are from Stourbridge Antiques and the drawers are from Vintage Vibe. The rug is from the Real Rug Company
The mill mechanisms are suspended over the copper bath which was bought on the internet. All the plumbing is hidden under the plinth and an original doorway now frames the towel rail. The washstand is from Tennants Auctioneers
The old kitchen has been transformed with hand painted country-style units from Dales Kitchens. The limestone floor tiles and wall tiles are from Floors of Stone
Sun pours through the shuttered window in the dining room, which is furnished with antiques from Tennants Auctioneers. Sanderson Swallows wallpaper from their 150th anniversary vintage range and a locally made rug add colour to the restful room
The main water wheel, which dates from the mid 1800s, is in the basement alongside the River Bain. It still turns though Neil is replacing the spokes and the backboard
Although they had to refit the kitchen, there was a beautiful old range in there which was dismantled by a local company, cleaned and refitted in the sitting room fireplace to create a lovely focal point.
‘We don’t have a particular style and we buy most things from auctions. We like individual things but we also found that we had to think big when we bought new furniture. The mill has large rooms with high ceilings so small furniture would have looked completely lost,’ says Jane.
Milners of Leyburn 01969 622208
Tennants Auction House, Leyburn 01969 623780
Dales Kitchens 01969 650975 daleskitchens.com
Big Bed Company 0845 226 1660 thebigbedcompany.co.uk
Stourbridge Antique Pine 01384 825170 stourbridgeantiquepine.co.uk
Vintage Vibe 01622 629029 vintagevibe.co.uk
Real Rug Company 0208 123 0557 therealrugcompany.co.uk
Wood Design 01208 813305 wooddesignfurniture.co.uk
Multi York 01904 674050 multiyork.co.uk