Walking through Mulgrave Woods towards Foss Castle, you’ll come across Barnby Beck, a river running east to west through North York Moors National Park. Crossing this stream at an old ford, you’ll see what looks like a miniature dam upstream, a set of ruins slowly being reclaimed by Mother Nature. These are the ruins of Lythe Mill.
The ruins were once a three-story, water-powered corn mill built deep within Mulgrave Woods dating—as per an inscription in stone—to 1809.
The mill had an overshot waterwheel, a design in which water is released onto the top of the waterwheel to encourage circulation.
You’re still able to see what’s left of the mill race, including the mechanism for operating the sluice gate. If you proceed up the steps for a better view, watch your step—the millpond is deep and the structure is not terribly sturdy.
There is an old folktale about Jeannie O’Biggersdale who is said to haunt the woods near the old mill, taking great pleasure in terrifying passersby. Either a witch or a fairy, she’s said to have lived in Hob’s Cave nearby the mill. Townsfolk blamed her for local misfortune and she was left to live a solitary life in her cave. One day, a local named John Roe, who took pity on the town scapegoat, mustered up the courage to coax her out of exile. Perhaps, he thought, she was actually a misunderstood spirit who needed care and affection. However, he was greeted with a hairy, shrieking creature that struck down his horse and sent him running back across the river to town with a story to tell.
Know Before You Go
Do not enter the mill building, the floors have fallen through and the ground is littered with broken roof tiles, fallen branches and crumbled walls.