The Mill Race

A corn mill was an important part of the medieval village. Ayton Mill stood on what is now Mill Terrace, and dated back at least to the 13th century. The mill race carried water to power the mill, from upstream of the dam in the River Leven. At this point, the race crossed Goat Lane (now Easby Lane) by a ford, but in 1932 the water was taken under the road surface.

This date can be seen on the stone parapet on the opposite side of Easby Lane. The mill race continued alongside Race Terrace to the mill pond, now the garden of ‘Overbrook’. The upstream concrete parapet of a bridge, originally over the race, can be seen at the entrance to Sunnyfield Terrace and there is a metal bridge at the gateway into No.3 Overbrook.

The Mill Race

Until Low Mill was built, after driving Ayton Mill’s water wheel, the tail race carried the water across what is now the Stokesley Road and then directly into the River Leven. It flowed underneath ‘Ivy Cottage’ at the junction of Mill Terrace and the Stokesley Road; Ivy Cottage may have been the mysterious ‘Guinea Pig Inn’.

Low Mill, or Grange Mill, also dates back to medieval times. The present building, now a private house, was probably built in the 18th century. The Ayton Mill tail race was diverted to take water to this mill. This diversion can still be seen on the north side of the Stokesley Road between the houses of ‘Eastbrook’ and ‘Holmlea’. During its life Grange Mill has milled corn and also crushed linseeds to produce linseed oil.

After a disastrous fire early in the 20th century, Ayton Mill was patched up and ran for a few more years before finally being demolished. Grange Mill still relied on water from its tail race, but it too soon closed down.

In 1944 a turbine, taken from the Friends’ School, was installed at Grange Mill to generate electricity for ‘The Grange’, a nearby large house. During the 1953 coronation, the television picture at ‘The Grange’ started to shrink. A man was dispatched to Waterfall Park to open the sluice gate to increase the water flow. As he returned, he noticed that the river was empty since all the water was now flowing along the old mill race.

Download our infographic for The Mill Race

Download Here
Gribdale Gate

The surrounding moorland was laid down in the Jurassic Period, making the North York Moors National Park the original Jurassic Park! To the north, Ayton Moor has many prehistoric sites. A Neolithic chambered cairn there continued in use into the Bronze Age, and there is much evidence of Iron Age settlement.

learn more
High Green

For many years treeless and used as rough pasture, the High Green is now the centre of the village. The far side of the green is dominated by the former Ayton Friends’ School, opened by the Quakers in 1841 as the North of England Agricultural School. The school began in the property with the imposing porch (previously this had been the house of Philip Hesleton, the merchant who ran the village linen industry in the 18th century).

learn more
Low Green

Great Ayton grew up as a village around Low Green, with its Church, Manor House and Corn Mill, three key buildings of an early settlement. The Domesday survey includes ‘Aytun’ and All Saints’ Church. Northerners had an unfortunate habit of rebelling against the monarchs in the south. Two Ayton men paid for their involvement in the 1489 rebellion by being hung in chains from the walls of York. Following the Rising of the North in 1569, many Aytonians were fined and some probably executed.

learn more
Cook's Cottage

Captain Cook’s father retired from Aireyholme Farm in 1755 and bought this site for ‘twenty-six lawfull shillings’. He built two cottages, living in one with his wife Grace while renting out the other. After Grace’s death, James Cook senior left the village in 1772 to live closer to his daughter Margaret in Redcar.

learn more
The Obelisk

Before the cottage was taken to Australia, the Government of Victoria wished to place a memorial on this site. The initial idea was for a block of stone from the promontory of Point Hicks, believed to be where Lieutenant Zachary Hicks of the Endeavour first sighted the new continent.

learn more
Waterfall Park

The River Leven winds its way through Great Ayton. In the past there were three water-powered mills in the village, the earliest being Ayton Mill.

learn more

contact information

Supported by…
  • Great Ayton Parish
  • Funded by EU
  • Green and White Logo

Great Ayton Parish Council would like to thank gratefully the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development and the LEADER Fund for their incredibly kind support throughout our Cook Family Memorial Garden refurbishment project.