Eller Beck Lauder
Eller Beck is a small stream that flows through the south-east corner of the Poor Grass below Yarnbury to join Hebden Beck just above the gate on the Hebden Gill track beyond the Bolton Gill dressing floor. It is now a modest feature, but it once played a significant role in the water utilisation of the Grassington and Hebden mining companies.
In the 1820s the Duke of Devonshire's agents developed a large dressing floor on the south-east side of the road at Yarnbury. This required considerable water power, and so reservoirs were built on Blea Beck, and a leat over 5½-km long constructed to transport the water to a reservoir on the Poor Grass. After use, the now polluted water drained into Eller Beck, increasing its natural flow considerably.
Some time between 1854 and 1855, the Hebden Moor Mining Company developed a dressing floor in Hebden Gill just below its confluence with Bolton Gill, to process the ore extracted from Bottle Level. This required a water supply to drive the waterwheel, which in turn powered the crushing machinery. Some water was extracted from Loss Gill Beck. This was piped as far as the Hebden township boundary, where the water entered a leat which crossed Bolton Gill Beck. From an 1866 account, the Hebden Moor Mining Company were charged a nominal amount for the privilege for having a water intake on his land: "for being allowed to fix a sluice in the gill near the boundary of the Hebden & Grassington Mines, below Cockbur Old Hilllock at 1/- per year. From December 25th, 1857 to December 25th, 1865."
This must not have been sufficient, for as shewn on an 1866 map of the mines, water was also captured from Eller Beck, and carried across Hebden Beck on high pillars to the same leat on the far side. The land on the west side of Hebden Gill belonged to the Duke of Devonshire, having been bought from the Trust Lords of Hebden Manor in 1796 to enable Duke's Level to be constructed. There is, however, no known record of the agreement between the two parties.
In the above map, with north to the left, Eller Beck is the blue line at the bottom centre entering Hebden Beck, the wide blue line. The black line branching off from Eller Beck is the lauder carrying water from Eller Beck to the leat on the far side of Hebden Beck which carried water from Loss Gill. The water then flowed south where it was dropped onto the waterwheel at the dressing floor.
The water was captured just before the beck drops down towards the gill at a point where it could be easily diverted into a 40-metre long stone leat. Stone pillars was constructed on both sides of the beck to carry a 40-metre long wooden lauder high over Hebden Beck to join the leat on the far side which carried water from Loss Gill Beck. An 1867 map of the area marks a third pillar on the other side of Bottle level, although there is no unambiguous sign of it now.
It is likely that the original section of the field wall on the east side has been rebuilt since, as there is no sign of a gap for the leat. A second wall was built around the leat and Eller Beck within the field, presumable to protect it from stock. That wall is not shewn on the 1866 map, as its depiction of walls was based on the 1857 Enclosure Map, but much of it is still standing.
The Hebden Moor Mining Company continued to make use of the water without problems until late 1869, when there was a threat by the Grassington Mines to divert the Eller Beck water to provide power for a new shaft on Grassington Mire. Thomas Kirkby, the Chairman of Hebden Moor Mining Company wrote to the Grassington Mining agent on the 8th December:
It having come to the knowledge of the Hebden Moor Mining Co, that a new wheel is being erected upon the Grassington ground, by which (if report speaks truly) the water will be diverted from its present course into the beck which runs past our works and thereby proving a serious injury to the Hebden Moor Mining Co, I beg to call your attention to this matter as I feel sure you will see it will be the duty of the company to prevent all rights they are entitled to bring interfered with, more especially so important a matter as a water supply.
I remain, Yours very truly, Thomas Kirkby, Chairman of the Hebden Moor Mining Company."
Nothing much seems to have happened in response to that letter, but their fears were proved justified, as William Chadwick wrote a firm letter to James Eddy a little over a year later on the 7th January 1871:
Mr Armstrong informs me that you have refused to go into the Hebden Moor Beck water abstraction with him.
I, as Director of Hebden Moor Mines, complain of the Duke of Devonshire's turning the old beck of Hebden from its legitimate course to our great inconvenience and loss.
We are not prepared to submit to the injustice after having had full and undisputed possession of the water for upwards of twenty years.
I, on behalf of the Company, demand the full restitution of that water supply, in all its integrity.
Perhaps you, or the Duke, would inform me whether you intend to make the required restitution.
I am, sir, Yours respectfully, William Chadwick."
The Mire Shaft leat extracted the water some 650 metres north-west of the Bolton Gill dressing floor, and it must have affected the Hebden Moor Mining Company considerably. At this time the company was already in some difficulty, production having plummeted from 158 tons of lead in 1866, to just 47 tons the previous year.
The reply from Eddy written on 17th February was polite, but not particularly helpful, emphasising that the water in question was, after all, Grassington Mines water.
Of course we do not wish to cause more inconvenience to our neighbours than circumstances necessitate, and in this case we are sorry that our poverty compels us to use our water at a more remote point than hitherto.
It is not quite correct to say that I "refused to go into" the matter with Mr Armstrong. I was told, by one of my agents, that Mr Armstrong would like to see me on the subject, when next at Grassington; to which I replied that I thought it would be better that one of the company should do so, rather than the Barmaster.
Yours truly, J.R. Eddy"
Chadwick's reply on the 17th February 1871 was a little more conciliatory. There must previously have been some discussion about returning the water into Eller Beck further down after it had been used to power the Mire Shaft waterwheel, as Chadwick indicates that the Hebden Moor Mining Company would be happy to bear the expense. Moreover, three years earlier, there had been an acrimonious dispute between the two parties concerning the amount that the Duke of Devonshire's operation was charging for smelting Hebden ore that Chadwick is at pains to disassociate himself from.
I thank you for your letter and for the tone of it. Your taking the water North, South, East or West is of no moment whatsoever to us, so long as we may have the use of it when you have done with it. As to the trouble and expense of constructing a covered 15" square drain for the conveyance of the above named water; we will do all that, and make all fair compensation for damage done to the tennants; over whose lands we may be compelled to pass with our drain.
If you could fix a day, when I could see you in Skipton or elsewhere on this subject, I should be glad to meet you, and arrange for carrying out any project which might be agreed upon by us.
As to any lawsuits contested in times gone by, I need not tell you that I had nothing to do with them, when I state that we employed Mr Fearne, of Leeds, as our attorney.
I am, Dear Sir, Yours truly, William Chadwick.
The Hebden Moor Mining Company did ask John Varley, a civil engineer from Skipton, to investigate the possibility of constructing a return leat from where the waste water crossed Tinker's Lane 115 metres north of High Garnshaw. He recommended laying a 12" ceramic pipe round the hillside between the 925' and 950' contours which would have returned the water back into Eller Beck where it crosses Tinker's Lane, but nothing came of it. It is likely that a steam engine was purchased to provide the power for the dressing floor instead, for in April of that year there was, according to the census, an "Attendant to wheels and pumps" and his family living at "the Engine House". The "Engine House" is considered to be the building above the dressing floor. Also, listed in the assets when the company was liquidated in 1889 were "8 horse power vertical boiler; 9 feet by 3½ feet, a 6 horse power horizontal engine with necessary fittings complete and equal to new...". The term "equal to new" probable indicates that the engine had little use, as less than 64 tons of ore was to be processed before the dressing floor was abandoned. The building immediately south of the dressing floor does not appear on the 1866 map, and has obviously been added to an existing structure, and that may been built to house the boiler and engine. Slag has been found at the start of the Charger Level spoil heap, 35 metres away.
From the available evidence, it seems that the Eller Beck lauder was probably built when the dressing floor was constructed in 1854 or 1855, and abandoned due to lack of water at the end of 1870.