Wash and Stechford Mills
Wash Mill (Yardley Mill)
Because Yardley had no resident lord, there was no one manor house, but several sub-manorial Halls, each with its own mill. The village by the church is a mile from the river, but nearer streams are trickles close to source, and Wash Mill must therefore have served it. One is tempted to claim that ‘Wodemyll’ for which Roger Bradewell was given timber and a site in 1385, was this one: but since all local buildings were then wooden, the name must have referred not to material but to location - the mill in or near the wood. Geology suggests that the area of Yardley between the church and the Coventry Road was or had been heavily wooded, but much of the southern part was too, so there can be no certain identification of ‘Wodemyll’: and ‘Oldemyll’ is impossible to trace. Since Stichford and Greet had mills in the thirteenth century it is reasonable to suppose that Yardley had a mill somewhere not long afterwards.
Very little is known about Wash Mill. The first certain reference to it is 1797, when Richard Shaw was the miller: his set of weights was stolen in that year, perhaps by someone wishing to check the popular belief that they were incorrect! Nineteenth century maps show a wedge-shaped pool of about three acres in the riverside meadow, fed by a half-mile leat which began at the Coventry Road and took in two rills descending from Redhill on the way.
The last buildings, presumably reconstructions, included the usual farmhouse and outbuildings (milling was not a full-time occupation hereabouts) in the local style of brick and tile that had hardly changed in the century after 1750. The mill was working in the 1890s: an extract from ‘Birmingham Faces & Places’ reads: ‘On a summer's day... the clack of the old mill wheel and the murmur of the stream fill one with ... delight...in the evening when the tall poplar trees throw their long shadows across the clear water...’ Like so many others the mill was out of use at the end of World War One. In 1918 it was ‘Wash Mill Farm’, and the pool was at least partially drained.
The building of the Council Housing estate in the 1920s along and east of Millhouse Road necessitated the demolition of the mill and farm, not because the site was required for building, as it was designated as open space in the Town Planning Scheme inherited from Yardley Rural District Council, but because of the danger to those amateur demolition experts, the local children. Removal of the dam had left a marsh which became a shallow pool again each winter, when the mallards returned to it. During World War Two bombed-building rubble was dumped into the lower end of the pool bed, and in 1957 Turriffs drained and levelled the site. It became a dreary waste of coarse growth and brick ends, but may one day look as smoothly green as the patch that represents it on city maps. In the later 1960s Kestrel Avenue and Larch Walk were built over the line of the head-race and the poolbed.
Stechford (Stichford) Mill
The manor house of Stichford and its mill were across the Cole from Yardley in the parish of Aston. Stichford is the original name (the brook is still the Stich Brook), the name having been corrupted by the railway company in 1844. The mill is referred to in a document of 1249, being thus second to Coleshill, in record at least. Giles de Erdington was the first recorded owner of Hall and mill. Edward Este owned both in 1687. The mill was just above the ancient ford, five hundred yards from the Hall. It appears on Beighton's map of 1725 and a plan of Little Bromwich of 1760. The First Edition. O.S. One-Inch Map shows a pool on the river but no race leading to the L-shaped building (1833), but later maps show the races into this century and a channel dug to drain the centre of the pool.
Stichford was probably a corn-mill for most of its working life: it was rebuilt in brick at some time, probably the later eighteenth century, when Cole and Blythe mills were seen to have a future concerned with Birmingham rather than their own locality: its last function before going out of use about 1830 - much earlier than most - was paper-making. A photograph of its ruins, taken about 1900, shows what may have been the brick wheel-chamber: the millhouse survived until 1929. Stepping stones in the river in the early twentieth century were the millstones. The dam and ruins were still traceable in 1960. River works a couple of decades later removed all traces of the mill. A balancing lake has been constructed at what was the upper end of the pool, and another covers the millsite.
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