1) In its earliest history the word ‘axle-tree’ was associated chiefly with vehicles such as carts and carriages: it was the bar which had a revolving wheel at each end and it was made of wood.
1485 xxj axiltrees, vs, Ripon
1558 Item in axeltreys & beames ijs, South Cave. The meaning soon expanded, and from c.1400 it readily came to refer also to any bar on which a wheel could turn, particularly one made of iron for a grindstone: 1541 my gryndinge stones … with all the axiltreis and crookes, Halifax. The frequent references to iron axle-trees in the cutlers’ records are linked to the possession of water-powered grindstones: in 1547 Richard King mentioned in his will an axiltree of yron at Thomas Hobson’s of Wadsley Bridge, which he passed on to his son, whilst other property which included his wheile was bequeathed to his wife. In 1639 William Nailor of Ecclesall was accused of stealing six dozen of knives, value 2s, two pieces of iron called axiltrees and two other pieces of iron called hammers, value 6s. When a filesmith called Joseph Brammall died in 1698 the contents of his smithy included two grinding stones with their axletrees. The term is usually found in contexts which emphasise the importance of this item to the cutler-grinders. In 1631-2, William Blithe had att Heeley Wheele … an axletree, a pair of spindles, a trough, a little stithy, a paire of bellowes, 2 paire of tongs and 6 loads of stones valued at Ł5.