The Black Mill stood on the south side of the A15 between Yaxley and Norman Cross. The stone and brick structure was plastered and tarred.
It is mentioned in the old rhyme –
“Glatton Round Hill,
Yaxley Stone Mill.
And Whittlesea Mere,
Are the three great wonders-
In the wall was a panel with the initials and date MW IRC, 1677 JWM. According to a 4th January 1927 edition of the Peterborough Advertiser, the black mill was supposed to have been a fen lighthouse, to have the dates 1500, 1677 and 1742 and a cellar eighteen feet deep. The mill was demolished in 1935.
Newspaper extract from 1934-
YAXLEY, Thursday (1934)
The work of pulling down Yaxley’s historic fifteenth century landmark and one-time light·house to Whittlesey Mere – ceased this morning.
With the upper storeys to the level of the white cross in our picture, and surrounded by the debris of ancient stones and hand·made bricks from the four-foot thick walls, the romantic structure presents a derelict with the worn-out millstones, the massive appearance at the moment. But all this, 16ft. cast-iron spindle on which the sails revolved, the robust oaken rafters of the floors and the rotting cone of the roof, scattered higgledy-piggledy round the base will be cleared away and stacked and the inside cleaned out to enable the foundations to be investigated.
The wonderful historic interest of the ”Black Mill” so called from its sombre colour-has saved it from the breaker’s chisel. Startling stories of buried gold, supported by chapter and verse; suggestions of old-time money and curios immured within its mysterious masonry; records of ownership through the centuries graven into its stones wherever one turns; a dark and forbidding “dungeon,” now partly filled in, but reasonably said to connect secretly with Yaxley Church. a mile away and to the site of the Norman Cross prison; all these considerations have stayed the destroyer’s hand.
THE WATCH TOWER
Commanding, on a clear day, a view of Ely Minster thirty miles away. and of a long stretch of the Great North Road towards London, the Mill, in the words of its owner. Mr. A. Sheppard, is too fine and noble to be hounded ignominiously out of human memory. Other mills, perhaps lacking dungeons, buried gold and an existence contemporary with that of the Armada,. but Yaxley’s Black Mill-it is unthinkable.
“I wandered amongst the debris this morning”, writes our Special Commissioner, “climbed to the second floor where the corn was stored against its helter skelter passage through canvas chutes, to the whirring, pulverising millstones below. I stood on the section of the walls, four feet wide at this level, just below the point at which the great spindle emerged at an angle. I marvelled that the scientific efforts of two men only – he owner and another – with a small scew-jack, should have been sufficient to dislodge those great stones and to lower the ton-and-a-half to the ground. Mr. Sheppard told me how he took over the mill, ten years ago, from Mr. T. Everitt, of Stilton, and removed the sales, which almost touched the ground. The sails had the sinister reputation of having once lifted a miller bodily for a complete revolution, depositing him, shaken but unhurt, in an adjoining field!”
Dates and initials abound. The earliest visible at the moment is that of 1742 from the uppermost course, immediately below the cover, but earlier dates will doubtless be revealed in the foundations. Mr. Sheppard has documentary records traceable to the ownership of Mrs. Jane Martin of Yaxley in 1781, when it was sold to Isaac Arlidge for £260.
Bought and sold many times since, for prices between £80 and £800, this feature of the Huntingdonshire landscape now reaches the end of its vicissitudes, and is, one hopes, destined for a century or so of quiet. When the”dungeon” is cleared out and the foundations are exposed, who knows what curiosities, what dark deeds, what quaint fragments of history may be revealed?