There have been mills in Avoncliff from at least the sixteenth century, when a grist and fulling mill existed, under one roof, and since when it is known that a weir adjoined the mills. The mill on the Winsley side of the river had numerous owners through the centuries and in 1737 it was advertised for sale as a fulling mill.
In 1880 it was used as a flock mill, and was used in the same trade until the Second World War, when it was owned by William Selwyn, who lived in Avonvilla. The present mill is dated 1883.
The mill on the Westwood side of the river was also originally a corn mill, and there are records of a mill standing on the site at the beginning of the eighteenth century. In 1763 it was converted into a fulling mill. In December 1791 an inquest was held on William Gibbence, aged 12, “who with many others, younger as well as older, was employed at Ancliffe Mill in Westwood in managing and working the late improved machines and engines for cloth making, and having inadvertently, in his playtime, buckled one part or end of a long strap of leather round his waist the other end was taken hold of by a large upright piece of timber, called the mainshaft, constantly going round, turning and working the engines, whereby he was whirled round with great force, his body bruised, his limbs shattered and beaten off, so that he was instantly dead”. In the year 2000, the residents and owners of that part of the Mill, now known as Weavers Mill, state that despite its name, the house has never, in fact, been used for weaving and that the ghost of William Gibbence does not trouble them.
The mill has had many owners over the years and, at one stage, appears to have been occupied by the miller, an agricultural labourer and three prostitutes. It was, eventually, bought by William Selwyn, of Avonvilla, and residents of Avoncliff can remember both mills being used as flock mills. Flock was made from old clothes, stripped and washed – local children searched the pockets of the clothes for money and objects of interest. The two mills were connected by a length of wire, above the weir, to which a boat was attached to carry things from one mill to the other.
In 1901, a disastrous fire resulted in the almost total destruction of the Mill, which was known then as the Avoncliff Rag and Flock Mills. After the 1939 – 45 war, the mill on the Winsley side was first used to manufacture chlorophyll and, later, firelighters. It has stood empty for many years.
The mill on the Westwood side was more fortunate – it became a tea garden, with boat~rides on the river. It is now an entirely private residence and still has the mill workings under the house. The mill race is regularly visited by kingfishers and is home to a variety of aquatic life including pike, eels, and tiddly fish of all kinds.
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