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The grind stone

All the main upright timbers used when the house was built rest on pads of stone to level them up and to keep the wood off the ground and dampness. On the north side of the house, in the middle of the wall, you can see a vertical row of stones where one of these timbers has been blocked in, next to a blocked-up door. But the stone at the very bottom isn’t like any of the others. It is rounded and smooth. I think that it may be an old grindstone, once used to sharpen sickles and scythes but then used to help support Bishops House when it was built. If so, it must date to before the building itself. Jos Kingston, who died in 2007, wrote a history of the area and said that the parish of Norton was the principal scythe making community in the north of England. She said that the parish had all the necessary ingredients – iron, stone and the fuel, both coal and extensive woodlands.

There is an intriguing possibility for the source of this stone. In The map of Norton from the survey of W & J Fairbank in the year 1804 and 1805’ the nearest fields to the east are named Upper Windmill field (field 755), then Middle Windmill field (field 754) and Lower Windmill field (field 753). This naming is paralleled in the next large scale map, the ‘Plan of the Parish of Norton in the County of Derby 1845’ by Paul Bright. The nearest field is Upper Windmill field (field 715) and the adjacent field is Lower and Middle Windmill field (field 714). No structures are shown on the maps but do the field names retain the memory of a medieval windmill? It would certainly be well placed, at the top of what is now Bishops Court Road, to catch the wind coming up the steep hill. And why not use a worn grindstone from a mill as a pad or stylobate at the base of a post?

The evidence is both suggestive and circumstantial. Perhaps one day I’ll find out more.

 Source: Kingston J [2007] Life and Death in Elizabethan Norton. Published on the internet.


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