LAST week, we featured a fabulous array of pictures showing Peases Mill in the centre of Darlington being demolished in late 1982. We included a picture of a safety valve counterbalance which we believed had been rescued from the wreckage as a souvenir.

“I went into the machine shop, off Crown Street, when it was being demolished and bought the counterbalance, a forge and a very large anvil that weighed 300cwt,” says Mike Pedelty, “because I like cast iron bits.”

The forge and the anvil have been moved on to other enthusiasts, but he still has the valve.

The Peases founded their mill beside the Skerne in 1752, and in its earliest days, it would have been waterpowered. However, over the generations, it was rebuilt, most notably in the 1870s, when it became fully steampower, with seven boilers generating the necessary steam.

“I remember everything was belt driven,” says Mike. “There were massive belts in the shop I went in, hundreds and hundreds of yards of them, and there was also a massive lathe.”

All five storeys of the mill had steampowered machines on them so there must have been an immense amount of steampower to keep them all moving.

The safety valve prevented the boilers exploding. The heavy counterbalance held the valve shut until the pressure in the boiler built up and blew it aside, allowing the excess pressure to escape rather than cause the boiler to explode.

The counterbalance is hollow with lead inside it. The amount of lead could be varied so that it was just under the maximum capacity of the boiler.

The very last piece of the mill to come down was the chimney.

“It was on the opposite side of Lower Priestgate, behind the library,” says Gill Wootten. “A flue ran under the road to the mill and that was where the snow always melted first in winter.”

The octagonal chimney bore the date “1872”, although it was probably constructed a couple of years later, with donkeys a vital part of the workforce. The unfortunate animal was attached to a rope, which passed through to a pulley system to a basket full of bricks.

A carrot was dangled in front of the donkey’s nose so it set off down Lower Priestgate after it. This caused the basket to rise to the top of the chimney.

When the donkey reached the bottom of the street, it was turned around, and, with the carrot still dangling there, it walked back thus causing the basket to be lowered.

As the chimney was 180ft tall, an awful lot of carrots must have been required.

The footprint of the chimney can still be seen behind the library. It has a scratty tree growing on it and you can park one or two cars, but not if a traffic warden spots you.

Any other mill memories?