Seeking the Stainton Snuff Mill!

I was invited by a local History Group to visit Stainton village near Penrith, in the hope that my experience might throw some light on the exact whereabouts of the former local Snuff Mill, which had according to legend been demolished in the early 19th Century by customs officers for non­payment of tobacco duty.

The position of the buildings shown as ‘Snuff Mill’ on the 1861 map made it very unlikely that they had ever employed water power, and there were no structural dues. So we tracked a nearby beck as it made its way to the River Eamont, and noticed a trickle of water on the other side ­possibly a tail race. We crossed the beck and discovered slates and stones, probably the site of a former building.
Evidence of a mill race ran parallel to the beck with a stone wall between, and upstream an area that would have served as the mill dam, where sluice gates would have controlled the available water power to the wheel which was either an undershot or a pitchback. Presumably product­ion of snuff would not have required excessive power. An excavation could reveal more.

When the mill ceased operating, it is likely that most equipment would have been taken for use elsewhere. But I have been informed since my visit that workmen in the loft of a nearby building could not stop sneezing!

My own experience of snuff dates back to my time working in a coal mine, where taking snuff helped to clear the airways. It was very much a social ritual underground; the owner of the snuff tin would tap the lid before removal and offer its contents to the gathering, each of whom would take a pinch. This was divided into two mounds on the back of the left hand, an equal amount for each nostril. It was unsociable to refuse!