When I was researching the men from Old Whittington remembered on the war memorials (https://oldwhittingtonops.com/the-fallen-of-old-whittington-1914-1918/) I noticed that a couple of them were employed at the Blacking Mills.

I had heard of flour mills, water mills even silk mills but I had never heard of a Blacking mill!

The Blacking mill was situated in what was Foxley Oaks, this is the area between Newbridge Lane and the River Whitting.

This map is dated 1916-1919 and is the first map I can find showing the Blacking Mills.


Copy of map from Chesterfield Local Studies Library

A fellow researcher, Elizabeth Pemberton, has recently been looking into the mills of Old Whittington and kindly sent this information on the Blacking Mills, taken from the Historic England website.

The Blacking mill

The blacking industry was predominantly a by-product of the iron industry and is generally concentrated around areas high in forge and foundry work, especially where there is a predominance of coppice woodland used for charcoal making. Blacking is a fine charcoal dust or powder used to coat the face of moulding sand when producing good quality metal castings, the powder giving a smooth finish to the casting and helping to release the casting after it had solidified. It was also used as a filter for clarifying domestic water in the days before piped supplies became common. Blacking was also applied to fire grates, boilers and kitchen ranges. Features associated with the blacking industry include drying stores, grinding mills within which grinding pans and edge grinders would be housed, water wheels for driving the grinders, and leats, dams and mill ponds for supplying the water power to drive the water wheels.

 A gentleman called Bob Greaves also supplied some information about the Blacking Mills. He thought it was called Cummings and it closed in approx. 1965.

As to the date it started, the buildings were erected in 1897.  It is not showing on the map for 1899 but as the excerpt below indicates the mill was definitely owned by  Cummings in 1899.

cumming sheff dail 10 oct 1899 Sheffield DailyTelegraph 10 October 1899

On the 1901 census Edward O’Donnell is listed as a black miller, James O’Brien is listed as a blackmill labourer with Thomas Livesey listed as a blackmill storeman. All three are listed as boarders residing at Duke St.

By 1911 the census shows that the foreman of the Blacking Mills was John Hamilton who lived on Newbridge Lane and his next door neighbour Robert Cayzer is listed as a general engineer.

All of the men were born in different parts of the United Kingdom, which emphasises how the population of Old Whittington was ever increasing due to  the industries based there.

In February 1925 there was a tragic accident at the Blacking mills when a workman, William Tyers,  died after becoming entangled in the machinery.  The Sheffield Daily Telegraph (24 March 1925) reported that the case had been dismissed.


However, at a later hearing the company were fines £5 5s!

insecure fencing caseSheffield Daily Telegraph 3 June 1925

The man who died was Edward William Tyers, he was 34 years old and lived on the premises in one of the seven bungalows owned by W Cumming. The inquest report records a verdict of ‘accidental death’, the Cumming family being represented by another well known Whittington family member, E D Swanwick.

sheff dt 5 mar 1925caught in shafting inquestSheffield DailyTelegraph 5 March 1925

The same family were still owners in 1931 as this  cutting confirms.

sheff daily telegraph 22 aug 1931

In 1935 the Derbyshire Times and Chesterfield printed an informative piece about the Blacking Mills.   There were seven bungalows and four houses on the works premises let out to workers at a rent of 7s 6d a week including electric lights and rates and each property had a bathroom!

derbyshire industries

derbyshire industries part 2

dtimescherald6 feb 1932pic of engine house

If anyone has any other information or pictures of the Blacking mills please get in touch.

Thanks to Elizabeth Pemberton for her research, without which I would probably not have got round to this!

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