OS grid reference:- SD 868 897
Gayle Mill, at the Dales hamlet of Gayle, 1 mile (2 km) south of the popular market town of Hawes is a restored nineteenth century state-of-the-art sawmill, complete with Victorian machinery driven by water-powered turbines. It is run by the voluntary organisation Gayle Mill Trust and supported by the Friends of Gayle Mill. The Grade II listed mill, dates from around 1784 and is thought to be the oldest structurally unaltered cotton mill in existence.
The mill was built by local hosiers and land owners Oswald and Thomas Routh as a water-powered cotton mill, and was powered by a 22 feet (7 metre) diameter overshot waterwheel. It was turned over to flax and wool spinning by 1813 for the local knitting industry. For a period in the nineteenth century, it was used for domestic accommodation. It was converted to a sawmill in around 1879. The waterwheel was removed and replaced with a Thomson double-vortex turbine, built by Williamsons (now Gilbert Gilkes & Gordon Ltd) of Kendal. This is thought to be the only remaining working variety of its type. In its heydey, the 10 hp (7.46 kW) created by the turbine drove a range of woodworking machinery – a rack sawbench, circular saw, thicknesser (planer), and lathes – by a series of belts and pulleys off a central line shaft.
Gayle Mill closed in 1988, after over a century of operation as a sawmill, and it seemed likely it would be converted into luxury flats. In 2004 its plight came to national attention when it featured in the second series of BBC2's Restoration programme. It won the regional heat and came in the top three in the national finals. Restoration of the mill started in the same year and works to bring the site to operational standard took four years and cost over £1m. Gayle Mill re-opened to the public in 2008. Restoration's host Griff Rhys Jones returned to Gayle Mill in 2009 to film an update on the restoration work.
A two hour Demonstration Tour of the mill is available on the first Sunday of each month (excluding January) at 11.00am and 2.30pm.