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Watermills and Windmills of Middlesex (Second Edition)

Watermill gazetteer T-Y


River Lea

(1) 13th century mill

(2) 14th century mill

(3) Standing 16th and 17th centuries; gone by 1680

(4) Oil mill, standing early 17th century

(5) Leather mill, standing 17th century

(6) Paper mill, later corn mill; rebuilt 1788, burnt 1852  349895

(7) Oil mill; built 18th century, rebuilt 1788, burnt 1852 349895

(8) Lace and cotton mill, standing 1829

In 1254 a watermill at Tottenham was divided along with the rest of the manor among several owners(1). One is again mentioned in 1321 when William atte Hagh received “the property of the Lord’s watermill with bakery, pond…ten quarters of corn and half a mark for the fishery, the said William to maintain the structure.” In 1374 Sir Thomas Heath’s part of the mill was in a ruinous condition(2). At a manor court held about 1523 it was reported that “the watermill of the manor is in great decay for want of repairs by timber in the rooms and in other houses of the same mill and in grounde works, and that the ditch of the same mill is not cleared water and “le ossyers” trodden down and destroyed which formerly were of the yearly value of twenty shillings a year; and that one John Kyrton is held to repair the aforesaid mill and all the premises with appurtenances by reason of a certain demise made to one John Davy, to whom John Risley, knight, then Lord of the Manor granted the said mill…”. 

 The miller was fined for excessive tolls in 1530(3), and a tenant of the Manor for refusing to take his corn to the mill in 1558(4). It was leased along with twelve acres of the nearby meadow in 1585(5).

 In 1619 there was a leather mill here in addition to the corn mill. The site of the mills was on Mill Mead, and was approached by a lane south of the later Ferry Lane(6). By 1622 they had been joined by an oil mill, which was to be short-lived; in June that year the Justices of the Peace of the County of Middlesex were instructed by the Privy Council to inform its owners that the noise and smells given off by the oil-making process offended the King whenever he passed that way, and as he was about to make another visit to the area it would be advisable to cease their business.

 In November 1656 the lord of the manor was taken to court for converting the corn mill to a gunpowder mill, to the injury of the locals’ welfare(7).

 The corn and leather mills appear to have gone by 1680, when a paper mill alone is shown on John Seller’s map of the county. It was owned in 1735 by Israel Johannot, one of a well-known firm of French paper-makers(8). His widow later married Thomas Cooke, an excise officer who had been apprenticed to the paper trade, whereupon he became tenant of the property. Cooke appears to have been rather a nasty piece of work, although his audacity in certain matters is almost admirable. He is presumably the same Thomas Cooke who was rewarded by the Royal Society of Arts in 1763 and 1764 for his skill in making paper with copper plates(9). In 1770, on the expiry of Cooke’s lease on the mill, a new one was granted to Edward Wyburd with permission to convert it to corn grinding. Shortly afterwards Cooke applied to cancel this lease. Wyburd objected strongly, but it was only after physical violence and court action that he was able to gain possession.

 The following account of Cooke’s life and activities, which I have been given by the Bruce Castle Museum, is worth mentioning.

 Cooke had risen by his own efforts to the position of exciseman from very unpropitious beginnings. He was born near Windsor in 1726, the son of a wandering fiddler who earned a living by playing in alehouses. When still an infant he was sent to live with his ancient grandmother at Norwich. As a boy he worked in a local factory; the other boys clubbed together to provide refreshments which they ate together, but Thomas had no part in this arrangement, preferring instead to retire to a secluded spot and dine off a halfpenny loaf, an apple and a draught of water from a brook. With money he saved he paid a boy who was a monitor at the village school to instruct him in reading, writing and arithmetic. When he reached maturity he was employed at a paper factory, pleasing his boss by his sobriety and hard work.

 It became his ambition to be a customs officer, for he had been listening carefully to their conversation and knew they were highly paid. His employer recommended him to the authorities and Cooke set off for London. Here he obtained his Excise Appointment and because of his experience of paper manufacture was sent to Tottenham mills. It did not take him long to realise that certain infractions of the tax laws were being committed there, and he kept a careful record of them. In August 1749 Israel Johannot died and his widow tried to carry on the business with the assistance of the foreman. Cooke now informed her that the sum total of the penalties which had been incurred would amount to double the value of the mills, thus ruining her, and he proposed marriage as the only means of ensuring his secrecy. As he was a handsome man she accepted the offer, and Cooke thus became possessed of her very considerable property. When the lease of the Tottenham mills expired in 1770 he could not obtain a new one because it had already been granted to Edward Wyburd. Cooke was furious and refused to give up the premises. Wyburd responded by taking off part of the roof; this so angered Cooke that he  took him by the breeches and threw him into the Lea. Cooke was sued for this and eventually left Tottenham; he took on a sugar factory near London Bridge but this enterprise soon failed owing to his lack of experience in the trade. To redeem his losses he became a miser, and as such grew to be notorious. It was said he would pretend to faint outside a stranger’s house and on receiving assistance from the tenants would make himself known and would notice the children, making such enquiries as to lead their parents to suppose they might be remembered in his will. He made many “friends” in this way and from the presents he received of turkeys, pheasants and wine managed to cut his household expenditure almost to nothing, while making money by selling these gifts. His wife died broken-hearted by his ill-treatment, while Cooke lived on in squalor and decrepitude. He left the bulk of his money to charitable institutions. 

 The mill was soon joined by an oil mill on the opposite (south) side of the river, which Wyburd also leased from Cooke, with the right to sublet it. This seems to have been built between 1770 and 1773; in a deed of 1770 the corn mill is mortgaged to a Charles Mesman for a loan to effect improvements and another deed dated 1773 confirming the mortgage mentions “the new erected oil mill.”  An indenture dated 1st May 1780 between Barnard Turner of Paul’s Wharf, London, sugar refiner, and Richard Grindall of Austin Friars transferred “all that new erected oil mill situate…in the parish of Tottenham…near to the corn mill of the said Edward Wyburd from Wyburd to Turner with assignment of mortgage to Grindall.” Shortly afterwards another paper mill was built in the area, but it seems to have been short-lived. It is shown on Andrews and Drury’s map of the country 65 miles around London in 1777, but no reference to paper-making at this site at a later date has been found. 

 On 23rd February 1788 both corn and oil mills were destroyed by fire(10) but new mills on opposite sides of the road, the oil mill on the south, were soon erected. The oil mill was at the time of the fire still in the possession of Barnard Turner. Soon after the general auction of the estates of the lord of the manor, Sir Henry Hare Townsend, the mills were sold to John Cook, being described thus in the sale catalogue of the estate on 25th September 1789:

“Lot XXX – the corn and oil mill, with outbuildings for conducting and carrying on extensive works; and also, several enclosed and common marshlands; containing in the whole about 53 acres; let to Mr Wyburd, at a ground rent of £210 p.a.” 

 The property was considered to be of a greater annual value than it was then let for. The catalogue noted that the River Lea Navigation Act of 1779 safeguarded the flow of water to the mills. The lessee had the liberty to underlet or sell the oil mill during his term, discharged from all demands on account of the said rent of £210, the corn mill being considered sufficient to answer the same.

 In about 1809 the mills and lands came into the occupation of Charles Pratt, who had bought the remaining seventeen years of Wyburd’s lease. In 1815 the remaining six were sold to a firm named Curtoys and Matthews. The tenant of the mills received from the River Lea Company a yearly payment of £50(11) and there was a toll payable for persons and livestock passing over the mill bridge. In 1810 tolls were also paid by the landowners in Mitchley Marsh, who had to cross the miller’s land after the parish declined to rebuild a bridge to the marsh from Down Lane.  The mills were badly damaged by flooding in 1817 and were not at work for nearly the whole of that year. In 1824 a coal wharf was added(13), indicating that by this time a steam engine was supplementing the waterwheels. Nathaniel Matthew obtained a fourteen-year lease of the property from John Cook in 1826 at £800 per year, and a few years later, in about 1832, disposed of it to Edward Bell. The documentation describes it as “all that timber-built mill containing in length from east to west 126 feet and from north to south 110 feet together with the waterwheel shaft and old waterwheel and the other wheels and machinery thereto belonging specified in the schedule hereunder…and also all that messuage or tenement and drying kiln, and all that workshops, stables, outhouses, and also all those 13 several parcels of land containing 24 acres 1 rood 16 perches, and all those 3 parcels of marshland  containing 2 acres 2 roods 10 perches…”

 In 1836 John Cook sold the freehold of the mills to the New River Company, who granted a fresh lease to Edward Bell when the first expired in 1840. In that year Robinson wrote in his History of Tottenham, “There are six pairs of stones in the corn mill, capable of grinding 300 quarters of wheat per week in the autumn, and in the winter months when there is an abundant supply of water; and in the summer months when the supply of water is scanty and uncertain, about 150 quarters per week may be ground on the average. This mill is chargeable with annual payment of £10.00 as a composition for small tithes to the Vicar of Tottenham.”

 In 1852 the mills were again devastated by fire. At the time they were undergoing considerable alteration to enable the business to be expanded. Just before four o’clock on Sunday morning a watchman noticed a cloud of dense black smoke coming from the oil mill. He immediately raised the alarm, but the fire spread very rapidly due to the highly inflammable nature of both the oil and the seeds being stored prior to crushing. The sight of it was described as one of “fearful grandeur”, with the flames mounting to a terrifying height and the blazing oil running over the road and into the river. Both the oil and corn mills were totally destroyed.

 The buildings belonged to the New River Company; they do not seem to have been insured, and were not rebuilt after the disaster(14). The origin of the misfortune, which threw about fifty families out of work, was never discovered. Some buildings associated with the mills, including a chimney stack, were still standing in a ruined condition in 1923.

Lace and Cotton Mill

This mill was offered for sale in February 1829, when it consisted of two lace factories, with an engine house and a steam engine of 18 horsepower. The Parliamentary Return of Mills and Factories in 1838 lists it as a cotton mill and silk mill. The former had a 50 horsepower steam engine and employed seventeen people who were all juveniles; the latter had an 18 horsepower engine and employed 154 persons, of which forty-six were between 9 and 13 years old and sixty-four between 13 and 18.  

(1)   CIPM 7 p248, 9 p113

(2)   CIPM 14, p35

(3)   Tottenham Manorial Rolls (1510-31), 243

(4)   Ibid 1547-58, 151

(5)   Bruce Castle Museum MR/121

(6)   LMA Acc.695/9, folio 27-9; Robinson, Tottenham, map of 1619

(7)   LMA Acc.695/1, folio 88

(8)   A H Shorter, Paper Mills etc., 48, 86, 213

(9)   ditto

(10) Except where otherwise stated the rest of this section is based on Robinson p136-7

(11) Oldfield and Dyson, History of Tottenham p38-9

(12) Pigot’s General Directory 1824, p74

(14) Mrs J W Couchman, Reminiscences of Tottenham, p16

(23) Tottenham Mill (LMA)


(1) River Crane, early mill near Hanworth Bridge

(2) Mill of unidentified type, standing 15th century

(3) River Crane, Fulwell Mill 144728

(4) River Crane, gunpowder mills 128728

In the Middle Ages there was a mill on the Crane at a place called Oldford, near Hanworth Bridge(1). It was partly in Hanworth and partly in Isleworth manor and Twickenham parish. It disappeared between 1340 and 1351.(2) In 1486 Elizabeth York(3) owned “a mill-house with querns” which stood on part of the manor-house grounds(4); it is not quite what kind of mill this represents, but “querns” may simply have been another way of describing the grinding stones.

 A copper mill was standing in Twickenham Park in 1672 according to Richard Blome’s map of Middlesex(5).

 A mill was built by Thomas Betts on a reinforced stretch of the Crane in Fulwell, where Mill Road meets the southern stream of the river by the former Fulwell Park, some time before 1753(6). In the latter year it is referred to as the New Mill, suggesting it had replaced an older structure(7). The mill was to go through a variety of uses during its working life. It functioned as a copper mill for a time, during which it had a low breast shot wheel installed by John Smeaton, a famous engineer of the period who among other things built the Eddystone lighthouse. By 1767 it was crushing linseed to produce oil, following considerable alterations to the buildings(8). The owner in this year according to the Poor Rate Book was John Merchant or Marchant who operated the mill (referred to at this time as the “New Oil Mill”) with the assistance of his brothers, Geoffrey and George. Geoffrey appears to be the owner in 1770 according to the Rate Book. By 1771 the Marchants had been succeeded by Charles Barrow of Barrow and Smith, oilmen of Upper Thames Street.(9)

 In 1784 both house and mill changed hands again, passing to Addis of Addis and Winslow. The following year Thomas Winslow purchased the estate from his partner, along with the surrounding land, Warren House and Fulwell Lodge, for the sum of £7,800. All the above-mentioned owners tended to live at Fulwell Lodge and own land in the area on which they grew crops, although we do not know whether these were processed at the mill. Under Barrow and Winslow, and especially the latter, under whom it was expanded somewhat as the employment of a clerk in 1791 indicates, the business appears to have been an extremely successful one. Ironside writes in his Memoirs Of Twickenham of the great quantities of linseed oil which were sent to London every day. The mill was by Winslow’s time also manufacturing cattle cake.

 By 1799 part of the building was being used for drying tobacco, while another functioned rated as a windmill(10). After Winslow’s death in 1805 his business partner George Thackrah purchased the mill, the Lodge being sold separately. Thackrah also bought the house, office, and the Warren Farm containing 48 acres, for £4,600. He was not very popular with the local inhabitants; in 1820 and 1832 he was involved in litigation because he closed the right of way which led from the mills across the fields to Whitton. He had departed in or soon after the latter year and the business was carried on by Messrs Allan and Pitcairn until the mid-1840s when the mill was converted to the manufacture of paper.(11) At this time the owner of the mill was one Timothy Healey; he is described as “paper, millboard and pasteboard maker”, so presumably the last two commodities were also being produced here.

 Not long after this the mill passed to William Brindley and Thomas Boyle, who used it to produce papier mache. Their partnership was dissolved in 1850 after which Brindley ran it on his own for a while. In 1851 the mill was stated to have two beating engines. Around 1867 the paper-making business ceased, and at some point during the 1870s the mill was badly damaged by fire. A photograph of c1890 shows it as a roofless but impressive derelict. At what date it was demolished we do not know.  The waterwheel was still in place when the photograph was taken, and in fact survived the mill itself by a number of years, still being there in 1900, but all traces of the structure and machinery have now gone.

 As far as watermills are concerned, Twickenham is most famous for the Hounslow Gunpowder Mills (as they tended to be known, although the site actually lay within Twickenham parish). As with the gunpowder mills at Bedfont these have already been dealt with competently by other researchers, but some mention of them is nonetheless appropriate.

 Like so much of the land in this area the site was originally leased from the Duke of Northumberland. The original mill was built in or shortly before 1757 as a corn mill and was converted to the manufacture of gunpowder in 1768(10). Edmund Hill (died 1809), who was joint lessee in 1768 and later sole lessee(11), was reputed to have made £80,000 by exporting gunpowder to Turkey and trading there(12). Messrs Curtis and Harvey leased the mills in 1820, along with those at Bedfont, and bought them outright from the Duke in 1871(13). They stopped work in the 1920s, and part of the site was built over, while the remainder was incorporated into Crane Park.

 By 1850 steam power had superseded the waterwheels. The remains which may be seen today are less substantial than those at Bedfont, with the exception of a possible windmill tower, which certainly had a part to play in the functioning of the works; they consist of a number of millstones, a few fragments of brickwork here and there, and the baffle mounds constructed to contain the blast from an explosion. As with the Bedfont remains, the site lies within pleasant surroundings, in this case those of the Park, which contains a nature reserve and is altogether an agreeable spot for recreation.

 This section would not be complete without an account of the various explosions which took place at the works during their history, even if some of these occurred long after the mills ceased to use water power. It appears the baffle mounds were ineffective in reducing the damage they caused. During the nineteenth century, in the effort to mitigate the effects of blast the buildings were spread over a wider area until they covered much of the land between Powder Mill Lane and the Crane. By no means all incidents were recorded, particularly if they did not result in fatalities. Those we know about took place in 1758, 1772, between 1796 and 1813 (when a particularly high number appear to have occurred, this probably being connected with the increased activity at the works during the Napoleonic Wars), 1826, 1839, 1842, 1850, 1859 and 1915. They were heard, and the shock felt, for quite a distance. That of 1772 was audible in Weybridge and Walton-on-Thames, about five or six miles away, while the writer Horace Walpole recorded in his diaries that reverberations from the blast had shattered two marble busts in the entrance hall of his house at Strawberry Hill. In 1850 shock waves were experienced in Brighton and Hove. The effects on the bodies of those killed were often gruesome. Cavalry from Hounslow Barracks were sometimes employed in the unsavoury task of collecting the severed heads and limbs and mangled torsos; one imagines they were more likely to be used to such sights than the jurors at the numerous inquests, who as part of their duties were often called upon to examine these remains. Twelve people died in 1796, two in 1839 and in 1842, and seven in 1850 and 1859. By the late 1850s there was increasing concern, among both the workforce and the general public, over standards of safety. At least one strike is recorded and one “senior and very experienced” foreman resigned in 1858 over the installation of a new press, which he felt to be dangerous and which in fact played a major role in the following year’s disaster. After the 1859 tragedy new safeguards were introduced and there were no really serious incidents apart from that of 1915, in which no-one perished. 

 On the subject of explosions, mention might be made that in 1675 John Davis of Bedfont was charged with “threatening to throw a squib to blow uppe (the) powder mills” at Hounslow.

(1)   Chanc.133/95, no.14; VCH vol 2 p394

(2)   Chanc.133/95, no.14; VCH vol 2 p394; SC 6/916/17, 18, 22

(3)   VCH vol.3 p148

(4)   Cal Anct. D, 6, p398; E317/Middlesex.95

(5)   Mr Norman Haig of Hanworth, April 2001

(6)   LMA, Twickenham Enclosure Award

(7)   Syon House, Catalogue of Evidence Room, sub D.14.14.b

(8)   BM Maps K30, 19, ee-ii

(9)   “Twickenham 1600-1900; People and Places”, Twickenham Local History Society 1981 (Twickenham Public Library L725.4 T4A)

(10)  Syon House MSS M.13.2.h,n; LMA Acc.32/DDX 883; Cobbett, Memoirs of Twickenham, 393; OS Map 1/2500 Middlesex, 1st edition

(11)  Letters of Horace Walpole; Lysons, Supplement to Environs, 312; contemporary newspaper cuttings in LMA, PR17/50

(12)  OS Maps 1/2500 Middlesex (first and later editions)

(13)  Syon House MSS M.13.2.e, f, g; Lysons, Supplement to  Environs, 312; Scatcherd and Letterman, London and Environs or General Ambulator (1820), 324n.; Syon House MSS. M.13.2.k; Report on Duke of Northumberland’s River, LMA;          Middlesex Chronicle 28th September 1956

(24) Twickenham: Fulwell mill in decay, c1890 (Richmond-upon-Thames Local Studies Library and Archive)


(1-3) 13th century mills

(4-6) 14th century mills

(7)    Mede mill, standing 14th century

(8)   17th century mill

(9)   Crouch Mill, standing 1649

(10)  River Colne, standing 1746

(11)  Frays River, Town Mill (predecessor of Fountains Mill); standing 1636 053844

(12)  New Mill 

(13)  Frays River, Fountains Mill 053844

(14)  River Colne, Upper Colham Mill 047836

In the mediaeval and early modern period it is difficult to establish which of the watermills in this area belonged to Uxbridge and which to Hillingdon. In 1265 Godfrey de Heddesore was said to hold three mills at the former place(1). Two of them may have been Town (later Frays or Mercer’s mill) and Crouch Mill, which are both mentioned along with Wode Mill in an extent of the manor in 1327(2). From the latter part of that century the lord of Colham owned two watermills within one building in the town in addition to two south of it(3). One may have been Mede Mill, which was in his possession in 1409; it was then horse-driven but was later converted to a watermill, with a wharf being constructed in 1419(4). In 1537 permission was granted to install an additional mill for grinding malt within the building. At this time there were two mills, one driven by the Frays and the other by the Colne near the Oxford road, located  at the west end of the town(5).

 In the seventeenth century a watermill at Uxbridge belonged to Stanwell Manor(6). Town/Frays/Mercer’s and Crouch mills are again mentioned in 1636(7) and 1649(8) respectively. Crouch Mill along with the adjacent house was leased to Samuel Bonsey, a London merchant. In the eighteenth century and possibly earlier one or more of the Uxbridge mills may have been used for paper making(9).

 The mills attracted the attention of early travellers. Leland in 1540 describes the two bridges from which the town gets its name, “one over the great arme of Colne River while the lesser arm {Frays River} goeth under the other bridge, and each of them serve a great mill…”(10)

A map of 1842(11) shows eight corn mills on the Hillingdon stretch of the rivers, of which three were in Uxbridge. These, the New Mill, Town or Fountains Mill, and Upper Colham Mill all survived into the twentieth century and in fact the second is still with us today.

New Mill

This was erected in 1836, the building being the work of J Shoppee and the millwrighting of J Penn. It functioned as a stone mill until 1902 when converted to a roller mill, the change increasing the mill’s output from six sacks per hour to two. From 1890 it was run by William King. Kings Ltd operated the mill in 1902 but some time after this date it appears to have gone out of use.

Fountains Mill (also Frays Mill, Town Mill and Mercer’s Mill)

This undistinguished-looking brick building, which still stands at the western end of the High Street, is the descendant of a mill which existed in 1767. This was of brick and timber with a tiled roof and was in the occupation of the Mercers, a well-known milling family in the area whom we have already encountered in relation to the mill at West Drayton. In these days it was known as the Great Mill, suggesting a building of considerable size. In 1782 the mill was run by John and Nicholas Mercer, who insured it against fire for £700. It was in fact burnt down in 1796(12), but subsequently rebuilt. In 1805 a Commission of Bankruptcy was awarded against John and Nicholas, yet the business seems to have continued to function and the mill was to remain in the family until taken over by E and J Fountain, from whom the name by which it is still known is derived, shortly before 1895. 

 In 1909 the mill was driven by a 60-80 horsepower compound condensing steam engine assisted by a 40 horsepower Action turbine. The waterwheel, which was a large affair enclosed within the building, had by now been relegated to driving just an elevator and the provender plant. A roller plant by Simons of Manchester had been installed although the stones remained and were still being used for wholemeal flour production in 1956.  Water continued to be employed in some small capacity at the mill until quite a late stage, although probably via the turbine only. The mill was badly damaged by fire in 1954, a series of photographs of the incident, now to be seen at Uxbridge Library, being taken by a local resident; however it continued to operate for a couple more years at least. Since ceasing to be a mill it has served the community in several different and very important ways; until 1981 it was the home of an Industrial Training Unit, and from 1985 a Youth Centre and Substance Abuse Unit.

Upper Colham Mill

This mill, which stood on Uxbridge Moor off the road to Iver, is probably identifiable with that shown on a map of 1746 as standing on the Colne west of Uxbridge(13). There is no firm evidence of its existence before 1832-4, when Spencer Homewood was the miller.  His successors were Robert Tate Junior (1851), D Russell (1862, 1866), and finally William Edwin Hamaton (1895, 1899) who also worked the mill at Denham in Buckinghamshire. The mill passed in 1919 to the Bell Punch Company, who were the owners in 1942.  There is no evidence that it survived for long after the latter date.

(1)   Chanc.145/28/37

(2)   Chanc.131/3/3

(3)   Lancashire Record Office, DDK/1746/1-10

(4)   Ibid, 1746/6-10

(5)   Leland, Itinerary (ed. L Toulmin-Smith), i. 113-14

(6)   CCP 25(2)/1657-8, Hilary

(7)   LMA Acc.448/1

(8)   Chanc.3/459/64

(9)   CSP(D) 1636-7, 409; see also A H Shorter, Paper Mills and Paper Makers in England 1495-1800, p213, 215

(10) Leland, as above

(11) LMA F.32

(12) A sketch showing the fire may be seen in Uxbridge Library

(13) Warburton, Map of Middlesex, 1746; OS Map 1/2500 Middlesex (1866 edition)

(25) Fountains Mill, Uxbridge, 1995 (Guy Blythman)

(26) Steam wagon at Fountains Mill in an earlier era (Hillingdon Local Studies, Archives and Museum Service)


(1) Tyburn; early mill, Westminster Abbey  302793

(2) 18th century mill, 303792

In the twelfth century one of the rules of Westminster Abbey, which then belonged to the Benedictine order of monks, was that there should always be a mill attached to it; the principle behind this was that the monks should be dependent on the outside world for their needs as little as possible. It was Abbot Litlington who built the “molendinus aquaticum”, driven by the Tyburn, between 1362 and 1385. It is from this mill that the name “Millbank” is thought to originate. The mill was not operated by the monks themselves, but they took a certain share of the rent. The Abbot, like secular magnates, was allowed to have his corn ground free. 

 The mill is recorded in 1557, when on the night of 22nd January one John Harris drowned after getting drunk and falling into the dam in which the water was stored(1), and in 1644 when 11 shillings were paid to John Redwood for “charges upon sundrie indictments touching the bridge at the watermill”. Kipp does not show it in his view of this part of London in 1724, suggesting it had disappeared by then.

Norden’s map of seventeenth-century London indicates a second mill in the vicinity, at the meeting of Millbank and Abingdon Street.

(1) Kenneth C Reid, Transactions of the London and Middlesex Archaeological Society, new series, vol.6, part 3


River Brent

(1) 14th century mill

(2) Possible 19th century mill near Parish Church

A mill which formed part of a grant in 1325 from Richard of Cornhill to John, Vicar of Willesden, is believed to have been a watermill and to have been situated on the Brent(1).

 The Grange Museum at Neasden has in its possession a slide of a watercolour, dated 1824, which depicts a watermill near Willesden Parish Church. It is a small building with a thatched roof. As there is no other evidence for a watermill in the area after the fourteenth century it is likely to have been a figment of the artist’s imagination – as, I suspect, were many wind- and watermills which are only recorded in art.

(1) CCP 25(1)/149/52 no 328


River Colne, Kelsey Mill, burnt down 1873  049816

This mill stood at the rear of Huntsmoor Park. It was in existence in 1816 when it appears on the Ordnance Survey Map. It was known either as New Mill or Kelsey Mill. Henry Kelsey is given as miller in directories of 1862 and 1870.

 It was destroyed by fire in January 1873(1), when as far as we can tell it was still in use. The mill house still stands today.

(1) S Springall, Country Rambles Round Uxbridge (1907) p154


A number of boat mills, watermills built on pontoons moored stationary in the river and with the wheels driven by the current, are known to have been operated on the Thames in London over several centuries. One was advertised for sale in the Morning Chronicle of 1st August 1808. It had been set up in the hulk of a newly-built gun brig, apparently never used for its intended purpose, between Blackfriars and London Bridges. It had three pairs of stones and rent was paid for it to the City.(1)

 Floating watermills were common in many parts of Europe, but do not appear to have been known in Britain apart from those of London, further information on which can be found in Daniela Graf, Boat Mills in Europe from Mediaeval to Modern Times (Dresden 2006), translated by M Harverson and L van der Drift and published by the International Molinological Society as Bibliothetica Molinologica vol.19, p269-70. 

(1) B Reynolds, “Windmill Hoppers” website 19th September 2015