Out & About …

… on the North York Moors, or wherever I happen to be.

The forgotten High Dam at Cod Beck

In August 2021, in the aftermath of the Covid rules, I went on a guided walk led by a local historian to explore the history of Scarth Wood Moor. During the walk, the historian mentioned that the High Dam at Cod Beck had burst in 1857. According to my notes, a local farmer noticed the leakage and immediately ran to the mill to warn its occupants.

Before the construction of the modern reservoir, there were three dams that served the High Mill, which is now the present hostel. The Low and Middle Dams were located below the current reservoir dam wall, while the High Dam was situated where the Cod Beck car park is now located1‘View Map: Ordnance Survey, Yorkshire 57 (Includes: Snilesworth.) – Ordnance Survey Six-Inch England and Wales, 1842-1952’. 2023. Maps.nls.uk <https://maps.nls.uk/view/102344344#zoom=6&lat=9151&lon=2695&layers=BT> [accessed 5 May 2023]2‘MNA143640 | National Trust Heritage Records’. 2015. Nationaltrust.org.uk <https://heritagerecords.nationaltrust.org.uk/HBSMR/MonRecord.aspx?uid=MNA143640> [accessed 5 May 2023]. The remains of the High Dam earth wall can be seen in the photo, with a few dressed stones visible in the beck.

The only problem is that I could not find any confirmation of the High Dam bursting in 1857. However, I did come across a report in the York Herald indicating that the Middle Dam burst in 1852.3‘COUNTRY NEWS’ (1852) York Herald, 02 Oct, 1852, available: https://link-gale-com.ezproxy.is.ed.ac.uk/apps/doc/R3211073853/GDCS?u=ed_itw&sid=bookmark-GDCS&xid=b54f8aa6 [accessed 06 Aug 2021].:

An accident of a deplorable nature occurred to the “high” spinning mill of the Messrs. Yeoman, on Tuesday night, occasioned by the late heavy rains. The accident was caused by the bursting of one of their dams, commonly called the “middle dam,” which is situated about 200 yards above the mill, and was newly-erected about a year and a half ago. At this point the water runs southward. The mill, which for a long time has been empty, has, within the last six months, been entirely fitted up with new machinery; and a new engine affixed, to assist when scarce of water, stands on the east side of the river at the low side of the “low dam,” which is also entirely new, and from which it receives its supply. The only entrance into the mill is on the north side, facing the dam ; and, the water rushing with such force from the middle dam, caused it to overflow the whole breadth of the low dam, driving the mill door open, and sweeping a great portion of the south wall down, along with the glass roofing, clearing away the machinery and other things from that portion of the building down the stream, a great deal of which was found several miles distant. Fortunate indeed it was that the flood did not happen in the day-time, when the hands were in the mill, for immediately the rush of water came upon the door, all chance of escape was entirely cut off, and it is more than probable that a sacrifice of life must have been the result. It is, however, a matter of deep regret, that anything should happen to the proprietors to mar their designs, as within the last two years they have been at an enormous expense in making improvements, which have considerably benefitted the town, by giving additional labour. The loss will be a serious one to the Messrs. Yeoman, as well as to a great many of the hands, who will be thrown out of employment for a short time.

In 1892, an article in The Fishing Gazette suggested that the High Dam was still operational, even though only the earthworks were shown on the 1890 survey of the 6″ O.S. map. This suggests that the article was based on outdated information, but even so, it is safe to say that the High Dam was still intact in the 1880s.






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