A corn mill was an important part of the medieval village. Ayton Mill stood on what is now Mill Terrace, and dated back at least to the 13th century. The mill race carried water to power the mill, from upstream of the dam in the River Leven. At this point, the race crossed Goat Lane (now Easby Lane) by a ford, but in 1932 the water was taken under the road surface.
This date can be seen on the stone parapet on the opposite side of Easby Lane. The mill race continued alongside Race Terrace to the mill pond, now the garden of ‘Overbrook’. The upstream concrete parapet of a bridge, originally over the race, can be seen at the entrance to Sunnyfield Terrace and there is a metal bridge at the gateway into No.3 Overbrook.
Until Low Mill was built, after driving Ayton Mill’s water wheel, the tail race carried the water across what is now the Stokesley Road and then directly into the River Leven. It flowed underneath ‘Ivy Cottage’ at the junction of Mill Terrace and the Stokesley Road; Ivy Cottage may have been the mysterious ‘Guinea Pig Inn’.
Low Mill, or Grange Mill, also dates back to medieval times. The present building, now a private house, was probably built in the 18th century. The Ayton Mill tail race was diverted to take water to this mill. This diversion can still be seen on the north side of the Stokesley Road between the houses of ‘Eastbrook’ and ‘Holmlea’. During its life Grange Mill has milled corn and also crushed linseeds to produce linseed oil.
After a disastrous fire early in the 20th century, Ayton Mill was patched up and ran for a few more years before finally being demolished. Grange Mill still relied on water from its tail race, but it too soon closed down.
In 1944 a turbine, taken from the Friends’ School, was installed at Grange Mill to generate electricity for ‘The Grange’, a nearby large house. During the 1953 coronation, the television picture at ‘The Grange’ started to shrink. A man was dispatched to Waterfall Park to open the sluice gate to increase the water flow. As he returned, he noticed that the river was empty since all the water was now flowing along the old mill race.
Great Ayton Parish Council would like to thank gratefully the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development and the LEADER Fund for their incredibly kind support throughout our Cook Family Memorial Garden refurbishment project.