Stepping stones cross the river between Second Coppice Wheel and Third Coppice weir. Photo: Sue Shaw, October 2015.
Stepping stones cross the river between Second Coppice Wheel and Third Coppice weir. Photo: Sue Shaw, October 2015.


The Second Coppice mill dam holds water, but is now very silted. The water level was raised in 2002, which killed some of the trees that had become established when it was dry – the dead trees provide good habitat for wildlife, but can give the dam an eerie feel at times.

Second Coppice has no weir – water from the tail goit and overflow of Upper Coppice feed directly into the head goit of Second Coppice, thereby linking the two sites directly.

Second Coppice Wheel was built in the mid-18th century. It was used for grinding knives, scythe blades and saws, as well as wire drawing. It was in use until at least 1905.

History (C. 1730s–1900s)

Also known as: Darwin Wheel, Middle Coppice Wheel, Rivelin Mill.

Main trades: Knife, scythe and saw grinding, wire-drawing mill, shops.

The overgrown wheel pit area at Second Coppice Wheel. Photo: Sue Shaw, May 2016.
The overgrown wheel pit area at Second Coppice Wheel. Photo: Sue Shaw, May 2016.

Built in 1736 by Joshua Spooner, a ‘respected grinder’, the Spooner family held the lease at Second Coppice Wheel until 1783. In 1794 it was being run by Benjamin Barker who employed three men working at three trows, the wheel pit at this time having a fall of 15 ft 4 in (c. 4.7 m).

The Wheel became known locally as the Darwin Wheel after a widow named Darwin became a tenant in 1815, at which time scythes and saws were ground here. By 1852 the site included a grinding hull, a wire-drawing mill, shops and dwellings. In 1870 it was run by Joel Horsfield, who paid £95 per year for the tenancy of Second and Upper Coppice Wheels, but he subsequently abandoned the tenancy of Second Coppice because it was deemed unsafe. Estimates for the repairs came to £88 in 1871 and £125 in 1872.

The work continued until at least 1905, at which time the site was occupied by Greaves brothers & Hawley.

What's there now?

There is no weir at Second Coppice – water feeds into the head goit directly from the tail goit and overflow of Upper Coppice.

The earth bank retaining wall is still in a fair condition and holds water but the mill dam is now very silted. In 2002, a new sluice gate was fitted on the overflow, which is at the head of the mill dam; water from the overflow travels under the path and into the river.

Some overgrown walls of the buildings are still evident.

The short tail goit can easily be traced to the river by the large retaining wall; this emerges just above the weir of the Third Coppice, by the stepping stones under ‘Cryptogam Cliff’.

Nature and wildlife at Second Coppice Wheel

The RVCG undertook a lot of work on the Second Coppice mill dam in 2002. Then completely dry and overgrown, water was re-introduced by fitting a new sluice gate on the overflow to raise its level. A machine was used to dig a ditch along the edge of the dam to provide a channel for the water. Work still needs to be done to provide an outflow at the downstream end of the dam so that water can move through. Raising the water level killed many of the trees, but the dam is still quite shaded by Alder and Sycamore and a large Beech tree on the northern side. Plants growing in the water include Marsh Marigold and Water Mint. Dog’s Mercury and Celandine are abundant on the dam wall.

Birds recorded in this area include Blue Tit, Coal Tit, Long-tailed Tit, Goldcrest, Great spotted Woodpecker, Nuthatch and Treecreeper.

By the stepping stones at the point where the Second Coppice tail goit meets the river, there is a steep cliff with water running down it – the water is sometimes rusty-coloured from the iron in the rocks. The cliff (known as ‘Cryptogam Cliff’) is made up of softer shales between beds of harder sandstone – water can pass through the porous sandstone but not the shale, so water is forced to run down the cliff-face. This makes ideal wet conditions for ferns (such as the Lady Fern and Hard Fern), mosses and liverworts, as well as Great Woodrush. The small flowering plant on the cliff with tiny yellow flowers from March to May is Golden Saxifrage.