It’s one of the paradoxes of country living that some of the finest homes available were once anything but rural idylls.
Converted mills, for example, tend to be rustic and beautiful, but used to be hives of industry – a far cry from the sought-after havens of peace they often are now.
Water-powered mills have existed since at least Roman times, and at the time of the Domesday survey in 1086 there was one for every 300 people in England – including ones at Ripon, Spofforth and Wilsill (between Low Laithe and Glasshouses). By 1300, there were about 17,000 of them.
With industrialisation, many of the old-style mills were made redundant and replaced with large new mills that could employ hundreds, but in time these too were replaced by mains-powered equivalents.
So it’s a happy irony that many old mills are now being fitted with hydroelectric turbines to harness the power of the millstreams once again, often enabling the owners to sell electricity back to the grid.
Although one or more of the following three properties may have potential for water-powered electricity generation, none of them has a mini power station installed. They are, though, all converted mills – two of them the old, “stand-alone” type, and one of them a portion of a larger building.
Little Mill at Smelthouses in Nidderdale is a converted rope mill next to Fell Beck, which feeds the River Nidd. The property, which dates from the early 1800s, has been converted with respect given to the building’s history, and the mill workings, including the original waterwheel, are on display in the hall.
Upstairs, the house has four bedrooms, two bathrooms and a spacious sitting room currently used as an artist’s studio with a fireplace and south-facing balcony with views over the fields.
Downstairs there is a dining kitchen, utility room and drawing room with stone-flagged flooring, exposed beams and stonework. In the corner is a boiler room with wood-pellet boiler, silo and additional storage.
Outside, there are south-facing gardens with wildlife pond, plus three storage sheds, a greenhouse and plenty of off-street parking.
Down the dale, on the other side of the Nidd, Cornmill Cottage is one of three properties converted in the 1990s from an old cornmill at Tang. On the ground floor there’s a reception hall, utility room and 32ft-wide dining kitchen, and upstairs there are two en suite bedrooms (one with adjoining dressing room or nursery). There’s an optional third bedroom in the basement, where there is also a sitting room; both these open onto a sun deck overlooking Tang Beck.
There are gardens, seating areas, a single garage and a visitor parking space.
Over the hill in the Washburn Valley, the Old Sawmill at Blubberhouses is for sale along with outbuildings and two Grade II listed cottages – one with two bedrooms, the other with three. The mill has recent planning permission for conversion into two homes (three and four bedrooms) plus garaging.
There is also a range of unconverted buildings on the northern side known as The Reading Rooms that may have additional potential.