Glasshouses Mill incorporates historic features to create standout properties

Features such as original stone stairs, vaulted redbrick ceilings, restored beams, the historic clock tower and even the original turbine cog within certain properties within the mill Properties seamlessly blend together in this historic and beautiful rural setting with the best of contemporary living Grade II listed Glasshouses Mill in the Nidd Valley can trace its history back hundreds of years. It is currently undergoing a careful renovation by North Yorkshire property developer Newby into a stunning collection of 32 luxury family homes, apartments and cottages. Situated in the village of Glasshouses, just one mile from Pateley Bridge and 12 miles from Harrogate, the mill sits directly on the River Nidd, alongside the picturesque Glasshouses Dam. Glasshouses Mill or ‘Glass House Mills’ has always been a significant building in Upper Nidderdale. The first mention of the hamlet of Glasshouses is in 1387 in the Cartulary of Fountains Abbey, referring to “Our Glasshouse in Nidderdale” – presumed to be where glass for the great abbey’s windows was produced.


By the 1700s Glasshouses Mill was a corn mill and when the local roads were turnpiked it allowed expansion to take place. In the early 19th century the Nidd Valley was discovered to be the ideal location for cotton and flax mills, and in 1812 part of the mill was leased for the spinning of ‘Tow’ – short fibres of flax and hemp. At this stage Glasshouses Mill was a two-story block parallel to the river and powered by two small water wheels fed by a ‘goit’ or mill race. The corn mill operated at night and the flax mill during the day to efficiently use the then un-dammed water. The flax mill expanded, and the corn mill declined and from 1836 to 1844 the East Wing and West Wing were built and extended to add offices, stores and a school room.


Glasshouses Mill was run by the Metcalfe family from 1828 onwards and was a prosperous business that employed hundreds of people. Running out of power for the machinery was a constant issue and so in 1850 the Metcalfe family bought and then excavated the Mill Pond. This had both functional uses and was ornamental, with the island at the centre being used for music and fireworks on important occasions such as the end of the Crimean War and the marriage of the Metcalfe’s daughter. A 120-horsepower water wheel, which was 25 feet in diameter, was installed by Fairburn Lawson of Manchester, to generate more reliable power. In 1856 a steam engine and turbine were added to the big 25ft diameter Fairburn water wheel, which had been installed in 1850. It was the most powerful in the country at that time and the outline of it can still be seen in the mill’s basement. The wheel went out of use when the mill line-shafting was electrified. It is now fully restored and can be viewed at the National Trust property at Quarry Bank Mills in Cheshire. In 1862 the mill buildings were enlarged to become three-storeys with a clock and bell, still present today, to summon people to work. The workforce had grown from 70 in 1833 to over 400 by 1871. Gas works started in 1864 which subsequently provided heat and light for the mill and the village. The mill owners, the Metcalfes, also built the reservoir at Blue Plain to bring drinking water to the village and water to the mill. The Metcalfes also paid for 50% of the railway, owned local quarries, breweries, shops and sponsored the local school. The family were said to be model employers and benefactors and they and Glasshouses Mill were very much the powerhouse of Upper Nidderdale until the end of the 19th Century.


By 1899 business declined and the mill went into bankruptcy and closed in 1907. In 1912 it was bought by Frederick Atkinson, making tug ropes and hawsers for the Royal Navy and other large ships during the First World War and producing camouflage netting during the Second World War. It is said that the mill supplied rope used on the ill-fated Titanic. String and rope were made at the mill until the late 1960s when the war between East and West Pakistan made it difficult to get supplies of the necessary raw materials. In 1971 the Mill was bought by Chris Hawkesworth, primarily for his own water sport manufacturing requirements. The rest of the space was converted into offices and small commercial units for occupants making everything from curtains and soft furnishings to sails for boats and pieces of artwork. The mill flourished again and at its peak had 150 people employed there working with 30 different companies. But by the mid-1990s the mill was again in decline, with rents failing to keep up with the level of repairs needed. By 2000 it was clear Glasshouses Mill would become derelict without a radical change in direction. Fifteen years later permission to change the use was granted, allowing the mill to become predominantly residential, and in 2016 Newby started work on creating a very special place to live. Today the mill is a Grade II Listed building and remains a magnificent structure with many of its traditional features.


The redeveloped mill is based around the spectacular central courtyard, with a range of two, three and four-bedroom homes and one, two and three-bedroom apartments. Each is individually designed around the features of the historic building, maximising original stonework, exposed beams and heritage windows, seamlessly blending together the historic, rural setting with the best of contemporary living. It is anticipated that the development will be complete in Spring 2021 to include the restoration of the old café and shop, with a selection of homes available to move into sooner.

Some of the properties have additional unique historic features, which give a nod back to the mill’s former life. Two currently in particular include:

PLOT 8 – THE CROWNWHEEL TURBINE This three-bedroom, three-bathroom ground floor apartment has an enviable view of the River Nidd – but it also has a fantastic talking point and feature within its open plan living area. The apartment is home to a historic Crown wheel turbine cog which goes down into the original Fourneyron turbine which sits beneath, dating back to the 1850s. The water wheel it would have turned, once the most powerful in the country, is no longer resident but has been restored by the National Trust and is now fully operational at Quarry Bank Mills in Styal, Cheshire.


Over the years many additions were made to Glasshouses Mill, but its central range, with the iconic clock tower, is one of the oldest surviving parts. Plot 13 includes the fully restored, working mill clock. Set over three floors and with two bedrooms and two bathrooms, the property also includes an original red brick barrel vaulted ceiling and the tower’s original stone steps – which thousands of mill workers will have used over the centuries. Help to buy is available on all the properties at Glasshouses Mill. For more information about Glasshouses visit

The show home at Glasshouses is open to view by appointment only and virtual viewings are also available, by calling 01423 326336 or emailing