Parnham's Water Mill is off Millgate Road, in Newark, Nottinghamshire. As well as being a distinctive local landmark it was an important survivor from the time of Britain's Industrial Revolution,
until unfortunately its destruction by fire in 1965.
The mill was built in the late 18th Century and, for most of its life, it was producing of flour. It was originally built for the spinning of cotton, taking advantage of the water frame, invented by Sir Richard Arkwright. Over succeeding years many other cotton spinning factories were opened, with the number increasing still further after 1785 when the High Court ruled against Arkwright in his attempts to restrict the use of his machine by unregistered users. Plans to build the cotton mill at Newark were drawn up just two years after Arkwright's unsuccessful court case. The Duke of Newcastle owned the site of the cotton mill in 1787. In the following year some 50,000 bricks were brought to the site, all of which were paid for by the Duke.
Timber for the building, meanwhile, was supplied by Messrs. Handley and Sketchley of Newark who were also partners in the cotton mill venture.
By 1790 construction of the cotton mill was virtually complete and in the following year 1791, the Universal British Directory clearly records the business of Sketchley, Handley, Jessop and Marshall, cotton manufacturers, as operating on Millgate. The mill was five storeys high and 13 bays wide with initially two water wheels rated at 50hp each.
It was used exclusively for the spinning of cotton thread which was then transported by water to the great weaving factories in Manchester.
At the height of its production, the mill is said to have employed around 300 people, mainly women and children who earned between one shilling and five shillings a week. After a profitable existence of over 20 years cotton manufacture at the Newark mill ceased in the early 19th Century. From this time onwards the mill was used exclusively for the production of flour.
The mill was extended in 1835, adding a third water wheel, and in 1850 adapted the mechanism for steam power. It was taken over by the Parnhams' in 1886 in whose hands it remained until the disastrous fire of 1965.