From The Neolithic To The Sea: A Journey From The Past To The Present

Kings Mill Reservoir

53°07'53.5"N 1°13'47.4"W
SK 5162759651

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Kings Mill Reservoir is located between Sutton in Ashfield and Mansfield, Nottinghamshire.

A mill was recorded on the site of the Kings Mill area in the Domesday book of 1086, with further mills recorded in 1302 and 1370.

When Richard Arkwright invented the Water Frame spinning machine in 1769, it revolutionised the cotton industry as it could spin 96 strands of yarn at once. This new innovation destroyed the cottage industry, by speeding up and centralising production. The Luddite movement was started by organised protests and the smashing up the frames. One of the Luddite leaders, Jeremiah Brandreth, lived in Sutton and died for the cause.

Samuel Unwin, a Londoner who moved to Sutton and became a wealthy farmer and textiles merchant, he built his first factory on what is now Sutton Lawns. The mill was built for cotton spinning and was powered by horse capstan. In 1770 Samuel’s son William, upgraded the mill into an impressive four storey castellated factory which incorporated the water frame which was powered by a 24-foot wheel supplied by Lawn Dam. The factory created many jobs and young apprentices were drafted in from London and elsewhere. Remnants of the original mills have been retained in the modern residential buildings. After Samuel and William died in June 1774, the 30-year-old Samuel junior took over the factory and earned a reputation for the excellence of his fabrics.

Between the 1780s and late 1830s many more mills along the River Maun were either built or converted. The land around Kings Mill site was part of the 15,000-acre Welbeck Estate, owned by the Dukes of Portland from 1734, until it became a Limited Company in 1923. In 1837 William Bentinck, the 4th Duke of Portland, commissioned the flooding of the 72 acres of farmland, including the ancient mill pond near the old King’s Mill, to create a reservoir that would supply water all year round to the mills further down the river Maun so that they could stay competitive.

The reservoir took two years to dig out by men who had returned from the Napoleonic wars, as well as the unemployed stockingers in the town. According to the historian Albert Sorby Buxton the labourers were helped by donkeys who were used to trample down the banks.

The goods the mills produced were transported by waggons pulled by horses or mules along roads. The creation of the Cromford to Nottingham canal opened up new markets for Sutton's industrialists in Nottingham, Derby, Leicester - the nearest wharf for loading being at Pinxton. By the early 1800s local businessmen began to discuss plans for a railway from Mansfield to Pinxton which would enable them to transport produce at a lower cost by connecting directly to the canal, thus removing the need for road waggons and pack horses.

Construction of the Mansfield end of the railway was overseen by James Heygate, the owner of Hermitage Mill. The Portland Viaduct is an important remaining feature of the original line, located at the west end of the Hermitage Pond. In 1847, after almost 30 years as a horse drawn operation, it was sold to the newly formed Midland Railway. Steam engines were introduced at that time as the line became part of the MR Nottingham to Mansfield route. The Viaduct became redundant in 1871 when the line was straightened. The structure is Grade II listed.