Most medieval villages had a mill. Flour was a necessity of life and by building a Manorial mill a Lord of the Manor had a reliable source of income. Soke Rights (Thirlage) compelled the villeins to take their grain to the manorial mill and the penalties for not doing so were severe. Even the use of hand querns was suppressed during this time.
The Domesday Book mentions a mill at Stokesley but none within the several Manors which subsequently became Great Ayton Parish. Three watermills were, however, presently established.
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