Babbs, other Sheldon, Kingsford and Coleshill Mills
Babbs Mill, Sheldon
This mill is still standing, one of the two surviving buildings on the Cole. Like Sarehole, it has long since ceased to be a working mill. It was the property of nearby Sheldon Hall, one of the two halls in the manor, and was perhaps a fourteenth century foundation. The present building is eighteenth century, two storeys of brick with a millhouse alongside. The pool, of less than an acre, was fed by a furlong race from the river, of which it was probably an old course, and by a brook that descended from a spring which fed the Hall moat. The external wheel has left a scour-mark on the brick wall, a millstone serves as a doorstep: the pool and a small tail-pond, to which the water formerly flowed beneath the mill, are dry and overgrown. The installation was perhaps a nine-foot breast wheel.
The mill has kept its name for several centuries, one Babb having been the miller. Having ground corn during its last years, as probably it had always done, the mill went out of use in 1914. All machinery was removed, and the premises became a dwelling. In recent years, the millstream has become the river: the former channel of the Cole, the manor boundary, is now a reedy ditch, while the widened and stone-lined river flows past the mill garden.
Sheldon also had two windmills, one near the church and one towards Kents Moat, both on higher ground, and apparently two other watermills, one at Hatchford and the other near the confluence of the Hatchford Brook with two others. The only evidence of the northern windmill and the two watermills is the Sheldon Tithe Map, which shows Mill Fields at those sites. The southern windmill hill is named on Beighton’s map without a mill symbol: if the ‘old windmill’ had been demolished, it must have been rebuilt, since it was working during the nineteenth century.
Kingsford Mill, Olton End
This mill is shown on Sharp's map of 1787. Lode Lane crosses the mill dam. The two-acre pool survives, but the watermill buildings were demolished in the mid-twentieth century prior to the building of a cul-de-sac of new houses between the road and the canal, the stream being culverted. A nearby windmill, whose presence suggests that the watermill had been converted to uses other than corn-grinding, had been razed long before. I have no other information at present.
There has been a settlement at Coleshill since 799, perhaps earlier, and the mill could well be more than ten centuries old, since it was recorded in Domesday Book. The foundations that remain are eighteenth century brick, but that must have been the last of several rebuildings. It was fed by quite a short race and a small pool, from which one may deduce either a plentiful supply of water or a good fall at this point, the former being most likely. The last miller was one Stevens, who was still grinding intermittently until 1930. This makes Coleshill not only the first Cole mill of which there is evidence, but also the last to close down.
Was there another mill closer to Coleshill Hall, the moated stronghold of Clintons and Montforts one and a half miles upriver from the town? There are dry watercourses associated with the former moat, and a mill may well have been placed at the downstream end of these.
Provisional list of Cole valley watermills
Peterbrook, Dobbs, Crab, Kilcop and Forshaw Mills
Colebrook Priory and Old Mills
Broomhall and Lady Mills
Possible mills in Greet and Tyseley, Medley's Mill