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Watermills and Windmills of Middlesex (Second Edition)

Watermill gazetteer H


(1) Early mills

(2) River Lea, Temple Mills

(3) Hackney Brook, tobacco mill at Homerton

(4) Hackney Brook, silk mill at Homerton

(5) Hackney Brook, silk Mill

(6) Hackney Brook, Wick Mill

(7) River Lea, Lea Bridge Mills

(8) Hackney Brook, near Green Lanes

(1) Early mills

In 1337 the prior of St John of Jerusalem at Hackney Manor Court paid a fine for two watermills and forty acres of land. A complaint was made against the Bishop of London in 1448 for allowing too much water to pass through the sluice at his watermill at Hackney(1).

(2) Temple Mills 374856

These mills, situated a little to the south of Lea Bridge, derived their name from having once been owned by the Knights Templar.  There were three of them within the one building, and the mill was used for a variety of purposes including, besides the grinding of corn, pin making, calico printing, and the boring of tree trunks to make water pipes in the days before the use of metal in this process had been perfected. One of the mills was known as Ruckholt mill (the name was still applied to the building in 1834, although by that time it had been corrupted to Rochott), being referred to as such in a lease of the premises in 1601 by Edward Ryder, citizen and haberdasher of London, to George Bromley, yeoman, of Ware. This lease also included “a peece of ground where a lyttle leather mill sometyme stoode with the watercourse thereunto belonginge.”(2)

 One miller involved in the calico printing process was Robert Dymoke, who in 1811 was stated in the London Gazette to be a prisoner in the Castle of Lincoln, probably for debt. In 1834 the mills were purchased by the East London Waterworks Company; they were still standing a few years later but at some point were demolished.

(3) Homerton, tobacco mill

A watermill for the production of tobacco existed at Homerton in the mid-eighteenth century. Of part brick and part timber construction, it was located beside the road leading from Hummerton, as the district was then called, to Old Ford. In 1756 it was owned by Thomas Hills and the structure and machinery together were worth £400. Two years later Samuel Hill was in possession. There were two sets of machinery in the building, one driven by water and the other by a horse. The mill seems to have flourished very briefly as there is no evidence of its existence before or after these dates.

(4) Homerton silk mill 365848

A silk mill is marked on the 1844 Ordnance Survey and Crutchley’s map of 1856. Its site appears to be where Cadogan Terrace meets Wick Road, not far from the church.

(5) Silk mill 363848

This mill stood on the Hackney Brook. Greenwood’s map of London of 1824-6 places it at the east end of Cassland Road. It is first heard of in 1783 when owned by William Morver and Thomas Margrave. Of both brick and timber construction, like the tobacco mill and Lea Bridge mills, and with a tiled roof, it was worth £2,000 when insured against fire in this year. Lyson’s Environs Of London, published in 1811 at which time the mills were owned by Levy Smith, states that the business was “conducted on a larger scale than any in this country.” There were two basic stages to the process; “throwing”, by which the silk was prepared from the raw state and fitted out for the loom, and “craping”, in which it was dressed and finished for the weaver. Six or seven hundred weavers of both sexes were employed, and the 30,000 spindles were worked by two steam engines “of improved construction”. By the Parliamentary Return of Mills and Factories in 1838 business appears to have declined drastically, and the mill probably ceased work soon afterwards. 

(6) Wick Mill

In 1766 the owner of this mill was William Walters. He went bankrupt in 1774, and five years later the mill was the property of Jonathan Loveday. It had until then been a paper mill; no evidence has been found to suggest it functioned as such after this date, and in an 1845 directory Henry Beckwith is listed as corn miller under Hackney Wick. At some time afterwards the mill ceased operation. In 1842 it was one of two mills at Hackney, the other being Temple Mills; both formed parish boundary marks.

(7) Lea Bridge Mills 356867

This mill is first heard of in 1772 when Benjamin Ardley of Bow insured his utensils and stock within it; it was then of timber and tiled construction. In 1776 it was in the possession of Jonathan Rogers and Charles Hammerton, who insured it for £2,000 along with the dwelling rooms and offices adjoining and a kiln.  The advert in the London Gazette describes it as brick- and timber built. By 1782 when a new policy was taken out the value of the mill had risen to £4,000.

 Later in that year the mill passed to Samuel Lewin and Robert Thomas, mealmen. Edward Phillips and William Foster had succeeded them by 1786. The next miller, Richard Rogers, went bankrupt. He was followed by Charles Homerton, who was here in 1792.

 The mills were destroyed by fire early in 1796 and subsequently rebuilt. The Hampshire Chronicle of 23rd January says of the conflagration: “The fire was so extremely rapid, that the premises were entirely consumed in one hour and a half. The dwelling house is untouched. It is not known how the fire broke out, although several of the workmen were up. A large quantity of wheat and flour is consumed. Mrs Killick, the lady who had lain in only a fewsday, and was obliged to be removed, is doing very well. No horses were burnt, as was at first reported, as they were got out of the stable although with great difficulty.” The account gives the miller’s name as Hamerton.(3)

 By this time a second kiln had been added. In 1809 John Shepherd Killick, who had taken over the mill from Homerton, went bankrupt and the following year his interest in the mill was sold, passing to Thomas and Robert Tweed. They took out their own policy for the mill, one of whose clauses prohibited the installation of a steam engine while another, interestingly, forbade there to be more than seven pairs of stones. The value of the mill had risen steadily over the years and was now £2,000.

 In 1829 the mills were purchased by the East London Waterworks Company, who in 1833 dismantled them and four years later, in 1837, erected a new mill with two large waterwheels and four pumps for raising water, capable altogether of some 50 horsepower. In Antiquities of Hackney (1842) it is stated that prior to the mills’ purchase by the company they had already been used partly for pumping.

(8) Hackney Brook

A watermill on Hackney Brook near Green Lanes is indicated by the name Millfield, by which the land in Hornsey south of the brook was known in 1577(4).

(1) Nicholas Barton, The Lost Rivers of London (Historical Publications 1982, 1992)

(2) Hackney Library M793

(3) Per K Kirsopp, 1999

(4) NA, SP 12/113/17

(10) Lea Bridge and mill house, Hackney (London Borough of Hackney Archives)


River Thames, 13th century mill 224784

In 1448 a watermill stood here near a wharf. This may have been the oil mill from which Oil Mill Lane, which runs south from St Peter’s Road to the river, derives its name.


On the Longford River to the west of Uxbridge Road 131719 (approx.)

In 1808 Allen Anscombe was granted permission to build a watermill to grind grist for the inhabitants of Hampton parish on two days each week.(1) Why it should function on this limited basis is not apparent, unless the work was being split with the village windmill (with which it was at a later date run in conjunction). The first miller that we know of is John Baker in 1823-4; and a John Young was here in 1845. By 1862 the mill was owned by the Deeks family who for a short time ran both it and the windmill. The miller in 1863 was James Deeks, also the parish overseer(2).

 The mill is shown as a flour mill on the 1863 Ordnance Survey map, but latterly its purpose was to pump water to Hampton Court for domestic use there. At some point it ceased to provide the main supply, continuing to serve the cloakrooms for a short period up to the last war.(3) During the nineteenth century, probably at the same time as its conversion to water pumping, the mill was largely rebuilt, losing all trace of its older origins. At what point it disappeared is not known.

 A photograph reproduced in Old Hampton, Hampton Hill and Hampton Wick (Borough of Twickenham Local History Society 1982) shows, according to the caption, part of the “mill house” (by which is probably meant the main mill building) and the bay which formerly housed the waterwheel; the latter was twelve feet high and of sheet metal, though another source states it was wooden(4).

 In the 1990s the site of the mill appeared to be screened by a large fence. It was to the left of the service road leading to Winifred Road, where the Sainsburys superstore is today(5). Mr E G Pratt gives the address of the premises as 213 Uxbridge Road and the site of the mill as about a hundred yards south of the St Clare Nurseries, which the superstore replaced(6). According to the Hampton Hill History Society in 1965, the mill could be reached via a gravel drive behind a set of tall green gates almost opposite the junction of Uxbridge and Burton’s Roads(7).

(1) Old Hampton, Hampton Hill and Hampton Wick (Borough of Twickenham Local History Society 1982)

(2) The Birth and Growth of Hampton Hill (Hampton Hill History Society 1965, p4)

(3) ditto

(4) ditto

(5) BOTLHS, as above

(6) Letter to author 3rd July 1994

(7) Hampton Hill History Society, as above


River Brent

(1) Domesday Mill (see above).


Mersditch (later Longford River)

(1) 14th century mill

(2) Near Hanworth Bridge, standing 1650

In the fourteenth century there were two watermills at Hanworth driven from a dyke called Mersditch, which may be identifiable with the later Longford River. The first mill was standing in 1303(1); its location has not been established. The second was thought by Kenneth Reid to have stood near Hanworth Bridge. It was still standing in 1650. In the fourteenth century one of these mills was indirectly the subject of a dispute between the local sheriff and Roger, bishop of Coventry and Lichfield, who owned the surrounding land, over which of them was responsible for the upkeep of the dyke and the footbridge leading to the mill(2).

(1) CIPM 31 Edward I no 26

(2) CPR 1340-3, p47


Domesday Mills (see above)

Mediaeval and early modern mills, see below

(1) River Colne, Black Jack’s Mill 044904

(2) River Colne, Copper Mills 041913

In the late twelfth century one Hackett held a watermill at Harefield of the Lady of the Manor(1); it was still in the possession of his family a century later(2). In the fifteenth century it formed part of a tenement, called Hacketts, on the banks of the Colne which was included in various conveyances of land between 1436 and 1437(3). The mill owned by the Lord of the Manor, Richard of Batchworth, in 1310 seems to have stood above it on the river(4). The rights to an unspecified mill were quitclaimed to Simon Swanlond in 1346(5). It may have been the fulling mill owned by William Swanlond in 1370(6). By the end of the century it had passed from the ownership of the Swanlond family, becoming attached to the tenement of Knightcotes(7). It was rebuilt in 1348, the contract for the work specifying that the structure was to be underpinned and all the old timber removed. New floodgates and other necessary equipment were to be made and provided.(8) The mill was still used for fulling in 1511, when it was copyhold of the manor(9); the following year there was said to be a bridge between “the house called the fulling mill” and a piece of land called Ravening’s(10). The mill would seem to have gone by 1536 when it is not mentioned in a rental of the manor, though Ravenings is. Knightcotes and Ravenings both stood in the east of the parish; the Victoria County History estimates the mill’s location as on the stream running from Battleswell to Dewes Farm. It is not clear whether the fulling mill (it is described as such in a document of 1545)(11) in the village mentioned in 1521(12) was that near Ravenings or another, which belonged to the tenement called Gapes and was included in a rental of 1536(13). In 1545 it was tenanted at will from the Lord(14). By 1560, according to the County History, it was either disused or had been demolished. The VCH places the site on the “Colney stream”, a subsidiary of the main river which ran to the south of it in the northwest corner of the parish; nearby Gapes House probably stood where Nokes or Springwell Farm was later(15). 

 A corn mill, held directly by the Lord, stood on the demesne of the manor in 1559(16); it was probably the “Harefield mill” recorded as standing in 1564(17), and also the demesne watermill noted in 1593(18), which had been joined by another by 1601(19). It stood on the site of the later copper mills(20). It was rebuilt sometime before 1674(21). In 1692 it was stated to have been used for grinding corn for more than sixty years(22), the implication being that at one time it performed another purpose, most likely (going by the other mills in the area) fulling.

(1) Black Jack’s Mill

This, said to be the most westerly building in Middlesex, is sometimes assumed to be one of the three mentioned under Harefield in Domesday Book, but the evidence suggests it owed its construction to that of the Grand Junction Canal, which would have brought it a substantial trade. No mill is shown on a surveyor’s sketch of the site in 1699, or on a map drawn up for the canal company in the 1790s. It would have been built in or shortly before 1797, in which year the canal authorities were informed of its construction; it was served by a cut from the canal which had been dug without their permission. At this time the owner of the property was George Cooke of Harefield Park.

 How the mill acquired its name is a subject of controversy; one theory is that Black Jack was a negro servant of the Derby family, who gave him his own mill. Another suggests he was a renowned bad character; he is said to have had a donkey, kept tethered on an island in the mill-stream, which he treated cruelly. A weathervane on a nearby building shows him hauling the reluctant animal, laden with sacks of corn, towards the mill. 

 About the mill’s subsequent history we know little until 1873, when it was offered for sale along with the nearby copper mills. The notice describes it as a “capital water corn mill called Jack’s Mills, with…land, fisheries, cottage etc.” It was then  used as a paper mill. The sale seems not to have taken place, for in the following year it was on the market again. The mill was evidently a large one, with five floors. There were three pairs of stones driven by an iron waterwheel fifteen feet in diameter and ten feet wide. Ihe premises were to be let at £70 per year.

 It continued to operate as a corn mill until c1900, after which it ground sawdust used in the manufacture of linoleum. At some time it is also said to have been employed in making vegetable mats. It ceased work around 1908 and at about the same time was extensively damaged by fire; several conflicting dates have been given for both the fire and the closure, and it is possible that one was the cause of the other. Prior to the First World War the remaining parts were incorporated in a private house, and to this a restaurant was later added. In the 1970s the wheel mechanism remained but the wheel itself had gone, although a small replica of it had been installed in the millstream by the owner. A few millstones survived as garden ornaments. 

 The building’s delightful setting, amid well-kept gardens traversed by winding watercourses, led to part of the film “The Pickwick Papers” being set there some years ago. It is now a Listed Building, which should hopefully ensure its long-term future.

(2) Copper mills 

In 1674 a paper mill at Harefield was described as “lately built”(23). It was mentioned again nine years later when it was being rented from a family named Newdigate(24). It was one of two mills which seem to have stood until at least 1710(25). Rocque’s map of 1754 shows it where the other, a corn mill, stood before being moved further downstream. In 1752 the mills were sold by the Newdigates(26) and became part of the estate of Sir George Cooke. 

 In 1781 the paper and corn mills were let to the Mines Royal Company(27) who converted them both to copper mills in 1803(28). In their new capacity they benefited enormously from the coming to the area of the Grand Union Canal, which made transport of the copper from Glamorgan, where it was smelted, to the Harefield mills where it was rolled, a much easier process. The mills were much enlarged under the direction of Robert George Spedding. The majority of the copper was used in sheathing the bottoms of boats although it is reported that the ball on the top of St Paul’s Cathedral came from Harefield. The mills acquired quite a reputation, John Hassall describing them as “the celebrated copper mills” in his Tour of the Grand Junction Canal. They, along with the United Asbestos Works later built nearby, were the principal employers in Harefield in the nineteenth century. Despite the Factory Acts labour conditions were harsh, the number of hours worked being limited only by human endurance. Production continued even on Sundays, and holidays were unknown, with the exception of Christmas Day. In 1803 about one-eighth of the population of the village were employed at the works. 

 Gradually iron boats, which did not need copper sheathing, replaced wooden ones and business was consequently affected, until in 1863 the Mines Royal Company, which owned the Welsh copper mines, ceased working, the Harefield mills following. The mills remained disused until Thomas Newell, a Baptist clergyman who had previously run a paper-making concern in Paris, bought them in September 1870 with the intention of producing superfine quality paper. He introduced French methods and French workmen to the business. Unfortunately the enterprise was not a success, largely because of lack of discipline among the staff; this was unfortunate as Mr Newell took a keen interest in the welfare of his employees, among other things building a lecture hall for their benefit. The mill was put up for sale in July 1873, but as with Jack’s Mill which came on the market at the same time no-one seems to have bought it. Production continued until Mr Newell became the subject of a bankruptcy case, in which it was stated that his debts exceeded his assets by £7,000. This forced him to make another attempt to sell the mills. A notice for the auction in February 1879 reads “Harefield paper mills – waterpower, machinery etc., capable of producing 12 tons of writing per week also including store, office, engine house, envelope factory, lecture rooms, two steam engines, two Cornish boilers, 24 acres, two roods, 20 perches – unexpired portion of lease 44 years”. What happened next isn’t clear but three years later the mills were leased by United Asbestos Company, an amalgamation of two Italian, one Scottish and one English firm, with the object of bringing asbestos into commercial use. Motive power came from nine waterwheels, and the mill also produced millboard and textiles. The company secured its first contract in 1884. Nine years later amalgamation took place with Bells Asbestos Company. After the First World War Bells sold the factory to Turner and Newall who shortly afterwards closed the mills and moved to Kent, much of the machinery going to their other works at Trafford Park, Manchester. This caused much unemployment; in 1930-31 during the Great Depression Harefield village green was said to be full of men doing nothing.

Today the mill building, with its large, nicely made metal-framed windows in the shape of rounded arches, still stands within the industrial estate at Copper Mill Lock.

(1)  VCH, per Mr F H M of Fitzroy Newdegate, Arbury Hall, Warwickshire

(2)   Ibid; BM Cott. MS Nero E vi (1), folio 87b; CCP25(1)/148/38/338, 149/52/353

(3)   As (1)

(4)   Ibid

(5)   CCP25(1)/150/61/222; as (1) and (3)

(6)   Ibid

(7)   LMA Acc. 312/63; Ibid 64-67, 73; CCP25(1)/151/83/33, 84/72

(8)   LMA Acc 312/308

(9)   LMA CR 136

(10) Ibid, M3

(11) LMA CR136/Mx/EF.2

(12) LMA CR136/Mx/M11

(13) As (1), (3), (5)

(14) LMA CR136/Mx/EF.2

(15) As 12, M26; Harefield Inclosure Award; OS 1/2500 map of Middlesex

(16) As 12

(17) As 12, M30

(18) As 12, EM1

(19) As 12, M37c

(20) As 12, EM2

(21) As 12, EM5b

(22) As 12, M74

(23) Warwickshire Record Office, CR 136/C20/11282

(24) Parish Records, Poor Assessment Books 1687-99, 1699-1708,1709-11

(25) LMA CR 136/Mx/EM.12

(26) W F Vernon, “Notes on Harefield Parish” (copy in BM), 3

(27) Redford and Riches, History of Uxbridge (1818), 96; Brewer, Beauties of England and Wales, 10 (5), 565

(28) As (27)

(11) Harefield copper mills, 1995 (Guy Blythman)

(12) Black Jack’s Mill Restaurant, Harefield, 1995 (Guy Blythman). At this time the mill race still flowed under the building.


River Colne.

(1-3) Domesday Mills (see above)

(4)    Standing from 12th century to 17th; two mills within same building

(5-7) Paper mills, operating until 18th century

(8)   Calico mills, gone by mid-19th century

In 1293-4 there were only two watermills on the manor(1), one of the Domesday mills having apparently disappeared. They both stood within the same building. In 1325 one was (probably) a corn mill and the other a malt mill(2). The mills were repaired in 1398(3), two carpenters working for eight days at a cost of 8s – the rate being 6d per man a day. The base of the mill, its top, the “cogwheel”, the waterwheel, a bridge and a beam needed attention. Other expenditure included 14d on four planks and 5s 10d for a “ryne”, a spyndele” and eight stirrups, partly of old and partly of new iron. A hopper was fashioned from a cask worth 2s 3d on which two coopers worked for two days, earning 20d. At this time the mill was let at £6 13s a year(4). By 1406 the rent had increased to £8, since the premises now included a fishery in the river(5). From time to time eels became trapped in the mill weirs, and could be used in paying the rent as well as those supplied by the fishery. This also seems to have happened at Hillingdon, West Drayton and Stanwell. 

 Both corn and malt mills were standing in 1433-4(6). The situation of two mills within the same building led to their being sometimes referred to in the singular and sometimes in the plural. Only one mill is mentioned in 1451, when it was rented at £10(7), but in 1501 Harmondsworth mills, which stood at Longford and comprised a wheat mill and malt mill then in separate buildings, and the fishery were leased by Winchester College to John Smallbroke for twenty years at a rate of £10. Smallbroke agreed to re-thatch the roof in straw and to repair the walls up to a height of seven feet. In addition he would repair the banks of the mill ponds.(8)

 In 1543, when the manor was exchanged with the King, there appears to have been only one mill(9), that mentioned in a grant to William Paget in 1547(10), although in the preceding year the King had leased “Longford mills” for sixty years to Sir Philip Hoby(11). Hoby sold the mill in 1548 to Sir Thomas Paston; in 1560 Edward Fitzgarret, who had married Paston’s widow, sold the lease to Thomas Warde. It then passed, in 1565, to Edmund Downing and from him in 1566 to John Tamworth, who in turn sold it to Arnold Lumley in 1568.(12) Longford mills are again mentioned in 1583 and 1587(13), though in the latter year Edward Fitzgarret was returned in a rental as holding the only mill on the manor(14). A lease of 1615 to Thomas, Lord Knyvett, and William Steere of Loughborough, Leicestershire, uses the plural(15), and in 1622 a lease of Barnards manor farm granted to Thomas Northcott included two corn watermills, together worth £25, and one formerly a fulling mill, in one building(16). By 1647 the building described as having been a fulling mill had been converted into a malt mill. The wheat mill, “furnished with French stones”, stood on Colney stream, and was again called Longford mills. Later references to mills at Longford probably refer to the paper mills.(17)

 In 1636 Longford mill was among the Middlesex paper mills closed temporarily because of the plague(18). It must have later been rebuilt, for in 1647 there were three newly-erected paper mills adjoining the wheat mill, one driving twenty-four hammers and the others fifteen hammers each(19). In 1656 Thomas Holland agreed to carry out repairs and enlarge the mills(20). In 1662 they were let at £33 10s, and in 1694 were valued at £90(21). In 1697 it was reported that the “mills, Houses, outhouses, wharfes, waters and premises are very ruinous and not only stand in need of being repaired, but doe also require serverall additions and alterations to make them fitt for use in the manner and forme as in and by Schedule thereof to these premises annexed is particullarly mencioned and described”. The necessary work was carried out by Edward White of London at a cost of £250, and new machinery to make fine white writing paper was installed.(22) In the same year the two writing-paper mills were let to Nicholas Faulcon of St Giles’, Cripplegate, at £65 a year, the lease being renewed in 1701. The mills stood on opposite sides of the river, one being “next to Longford town”.(23) Further repairs were carried out in 1704, and between January 1705 and May 1707 the mills sold slightly over 8,576 reams of paper(24). After 1762 there are no references to any mills until the mid-nineteenth century, when a map of the Colne and its tributaries showed the site of former calico mills at Longford.(25) 

(1)   BM Add.MS 6164 p98

(2)   Ibid p96, 98

(3)   SC 12/11/20

(4)   Ibid; Winchester College Muniments {hereafter WCM} 11502

(5)   WCM 11503

(6)   SC 6/1126/7

(7)   WCM 11504

(8)   WCM 11402

(9)   MOE 315/463; 318/1233

(10) CPR 1547-8, 45

(11) L & P Henry VIII, 21(2), p435

(12) BM Harl. Ch.80 folio 36

(13) LMA Acc.446/EM 37; Ibid/EM 40

(14) MOE 178/1430

(15) LMA Acc.446/ED 167

(16) Ibid/ED.136, ED165

(17) LMA Acc.446/ED 168

(18) LMA.Acc.249/822

(19) LMA.Acc.446/ED 168

(20) Ibid; ED.170

(21) LMA Acc.446/EM 15; F34/114

(22) LMA Acc.446/EF 28/2

(23) Ibid; EF 171

(24) Ibid; EF29

(25) Ibid; ED 122


River Brent, early mill

This mill stood on the Brent at Alperton, and gave its name to a field called Mill Acre(1). It was in existence by 1236(2).  Milling on the Brent was a hazardous business due to frequent flooding; in 1273-4 repairs to the watermill included salvaging  timber which had become submerged in the water(3). This seems to have led eventually to its complete replacement by the windmill; an account for repairs carried out to buildings on the manor in 1348 mentions only the latter(4). It had gone by 1470-71(5).

(1) LMA Acc 76/2418, mm.26, 47; BM Add MS 29794, M Id

(2) Lambeth Palace Estate MSS 1193, 2068; BM Add.Ms 29794

(3) BM Add. MS 29794, M.Id SC 6/1128

(4) SC 6/1128/12

(5) LMA Acc.76/248


Domesday mill (see above).

HILLINGDON (including Colham and Cowley)

(1-3)  Domesday Mills (see above)

(4)     River Colne, Port Mill, later Lower Colham Mill 057801

(5-6)  Cowley mills

(7)     Kelsey Mill

Information on the watermills of Hillingdon is often fragmentary, and some have more than one name, so that it is difficult to identify a mill for certain or to connect a mediaeval mill with one that remained at work into the nineteenth century or later. In the seventeenth century two unidentified mills at Hillingdon were included in grants of Swakeleys manor in Ickenham(1). A map of 1842 shows eight corn mills in the locality, three of which were in Uxbridge(2). There were said to be thirteen altogether at this time in Robson’s Directory 1839 and Home Counties Directory 1845, but again some would have been in Uxbridge while the location of others is uncertain.

(1) Lower Colham Mill

In Domesday Book, as mentioned above, there were two and a half mills in Colham manor; presumably the “half” represents a mill driven by the main stream of the Colne, and therefore probably belonging in part to a manor on the Buckinghamshire side. Later during the Middle Ages two mills belonging to Colham, presumably occupying the sites of the Domesday mills, were called Port Mill and Bury Mill. Later they became respectively Colham or Lower Colham Mill and Yiewsley mill. The latter is considered under a separate heading. Colham Mill was separated from the Manor in 1771 and sold to John Hubbard, a mealman, members of whose family had tenanted it since at least 1690(3). Hubbard leased it within the next year or so to James Barrett & Co. In 1788, when insured against fire, the mill was worth £600.

 A watercolour of c1805 depicts the mill as a timber building on a brick lower storey with a tiled roof in which two dormer windows are visible as well as a couple of dovecote-like structures which may have been for ventilation purposes. In 1800 it was owned by John Hubbard’s son, also John, who was the Rector of Shepperton(4), but by 1832 it had been acquired by Thomas Smith, the latter and his son Joseph working in partnership as mealmen and millers(5). They ceased to trade in the former capacity in 1839, but continued as millers until that partnership too was dissolved at the end of 1843. After this Joseph Smith ran the business on his own for a number of years. By 1862 he had been succeeded by Edward and John Fountain, later of Fountains Mill in Uxbridge, the mill itself becoming known as “Fountains Mill” as did that at Uxbridge in its turn. They operated the mill up to 1895. In 1891 they offered it for sale; an advertisement in a local paper tells us it had two waterwheels driving eight pairs of stones. Attention was drawn to its advantageous position close to West Drayton station. The sale was unsuccessful and the mill was readvertised the following year, an attempt being made to enhance its appeal by pointing out that it could turn out about five hundred sacks of flour per week, and that this output was capable of being considerably increased. 

The mill was later acquired by the Rotary Photographic Works. It is probable that by the time it ceased work the largely timber building had been rebuilt in brick. No trace of the structure remains today.

The site of the mill was less than half a mile west of Colham manor house and about half a mile downstream from Yiewsley mill  (6). 

(2) Cowley

(a) Domesday Mill (see above)

In 1327 three watermills called Crouch Mill, Wode Mill and Town Mill were included in an extent of Cowley Hall Manor(7). In recent centuries two mills are known with certainty, Rabbs Mill and Cowley Hall mill.

(b) Fray’s River, Rabb’s Mill  054833

Rabbs or Robbs Mill (later also known as Cowley Mill, and often confused with Cowley Hall Mill), is first mentioned in 1636(8). It was situated on the Frays stream at the junction of Cowley Road and the modern Cowley Mill Road. In 1769 it was in the occupation of Thomas Dagnall Senior. Insurance policy notices describe it as “timber and tiled”, the tiled part most likely being the roof. In 1783 and 1804 the tenant miller was Richard Biggs. By the first of these dates part of the structure had been rebuilt in brick, in common with many watermills of the period. Mark Burr was the miller in 1823-4 and 1832-4. He appears later to have been succeeded by a William Burr, who combined the duties of miller with those of a commission agent and was declared bankrupt in 1847. In 1851 and 1862 John Benbow was in charge; in 1856 it appears he was being assisted by a relative named Clifton Benbow. It was totally destroyed by fire in 1898, shortly after being refurbished with new machinery and a powerful gas engine, but was subsequently rebuilt. The cause of the blaze was a mystery as the mill was not in operation at the time. The new mill ran until March 1928 when it too was burnt down. The heat from this second conflagration was so intense that one fire engine remained on the scene for two days, while the ruins were still smouldering over a week later. The insurance company were not satisfied regarding certain aspects of the case and this time the mill was not rebuilt, Dobells subsequently being wound up. The remaining walls were demolished in the late 1930s and a laundry built on the site; at the same time the waterwheel, which had also survived the blaze, was removed. The mill race was still to be seen in the early 1970s.

 A photograph shows the mill as a rather grim Victorian affair, brick-built with a tiled mansard roof, on which at one point stands a square wooden structure whose purpose is unclear. The wheel here was entirely enclosed within the mill building. An inscription on the iron sluice gate declared it to be the work of Joseph J Armfield of Ringwood, Hampshire, whose engineering firm specialised in manufacturing equipment associated with watermilling.

(c) Frays River, Cowley Hall Mill  049819

This mill is shown on a map of 1641(9), and first mentioned by name in 1733(10). The miller in 1823-4 and 1832-4 was John Austin of Hillingdon, later succeeded by E Fountain and Son, also of Uxbridge and Colham mills, who were there in 1851 and 1855. By 1878 it had been acquired by Grimsdale and Sons, corn merchants of Uxbridge, who also traded under the name of Dobell and Co. 

 The mill was destroyed by fire in February 1864, but a new mill was built to replace it which is still standing. Photographs taken in the late twentieth century show a two-storey building of mixed construction. The west side is of wood as is the upper storey on all the other sides except for the north which is all brick apart from last few feet. The upper storey, which at one time housed a joiner’s workshop, is of interest in that on the south and east sides at least, until very recently, the weatherboarding was laid vertically and inside the main framing. To leave the timbers exposed to the elements in this fashion was rare, and not perhaps a sensible practice. The intermediary framing between the upright timbers on each side was arranged in a herringbone fashion. The truss of the roof possessed a series of wrought iron rods creating a through tie effect. The west side of the building had conventional weatherboarding and framing.

 At the time of the photographs the mill was getting into a bad state of repair. It still contained two turbines which were under a permanent head of water. Latterly it was used to generate electricity for the nearby house, and some of the equipment for this remained in place; whether they still do I have not yet had the opportunity to find out.(11)

 Sadly, the upper storey has since been much altered as part of renovations to the structure; it now has conventional horizontally laid boarding over the framing on all sides, and is tarred or creosoted. On the side facing the road the boarding extends all the way down the ground, the brickwork having been demolished. The roof retains its scalloped eaves.(12) In 2008 building works appeared to be going on at the site, involving demolition or restoration of the house.

(1)   CCP25(2)/6 James I; CCP25(2) James I, Easter

(2)   LMA F32

(3)   LMA Acc.591/29

(4)   Lysons, Middlesex Parishes, p152

(5)   LMA F32

(6)   Hillingdon Inclosure Award Plan 1825, LMA

(7)   Chanc.131/3/3

(8)   LMA Acc.448/1

(9)   Forde, Design for River from Rickmansworth to St Giles in the Fields

(10) CCP43/600/346

(11) Information from the late J Kenneth Major

(12) Site visit by author, 21st September 2005

(13) Colham Mill, c1805 (LMA)

(14) Rabb’s Mill, Cowley, late C19 (Hillingdon Local Studies, Archives and Museum Service)

(15) The east side of the Old Mill, Old Mill Lane, Cowley. Note the unusual arrangement by which the weatherboarding is inside the framing. The arch on the wall marks the positiom of a former wheel.(JKM)

(16) The Old Mill, Cowley. This downstream view shows the three original waterways. These were still in use at the time the photograph was taken in the late twentieth century.(JKM)

(17) The Old Mill, Cowley, April 2008 (Guy Blythman)


14th century mill

A fourteenth-century lawsuit mentions a “Stowelmyll” attached to Farnecroft, later Farnefields, Manor. It stood very close to the mill of Islington and it is thought the two may be the same, unless the “Stowelmyll” stood on the Moselle stream of which “Stowell” is a variant.

In 1577 the land in Hornsey south of the Hackney Brook, near Green Lanes, was known as Millfield, which suggests the one-time presence of a watermill there.


(1) River Colne, flax Mills; standing 19th century

(2) River Colne, paper mill, standing 1680

(3) Possible combined wind- and watermill, Hounslow Heath

(1) Flax Mills

The first map to mark these mills, which were driven by the River Colne and used to manufacture flax into yarn, is the 1816 Ordnance Survey; their last appearance is on Davies’ of 1859, which shows them situated very close to the Hounslow gunpowder mills. Along with many other mills in the area they were owned by the Duke of Northumberland. The lease was sold in October 1817 after the tenant had become bankrupt. The property included warehouses, hackling(1) shops, a dwelling house, several cottages, drying houses, and stables. The lease was again sold in 1820, in accordance with a legal case after John Petrie and John Ward, who had been running the business under the name of the Flax Mill Company, had like the previous occupant been declared bankrupt. The mills were worked by two waterwheels sixteen feet in diameter.

(2) Paper mills

A visitation of the plague in the years 1636-7 led to the Privy Council directing the JPs of Middlesex on 12th September to search for and burn the contents of all shops selling rags and to ban the gathering of rags near London so as to prevent their being transported or used in paper-making, in order to halt the spread of the contagion. These instructions may not have been effective, for six days later an order was issued for the closing of all paper mills in the county. Later in 1636 William Bushee had to answer at the Middlesex Sessions for disobeying the order and grinding rags that came from London and from which one of his servants had become infected. Bushee’s mill is thought to have been that shown on Seller’s map of 1680. It is not clear how long paper making continued at Hounslow after this date. 

(3) Hounslow Heath

K G Farries and M T Mason in Windmills of Surrey and London believed the structure on which a six-sailed smock mill stands in a print of 1757 (see below) to have been a watermill. If so the two would have been combined, in that one power source could be used whenever the other was unavailable, the wind having dropped or the water source dried up or frozen. Surviving examples of this arrangement may be seen at Totternhoe (Bedfordshire), Hibaldstow (Lincolnshire) and Little Cressingham (Norfolk).  

(1) As far as I can establish, this term applies to a process used to treat flax prior to its being woven into linen. The more common spelling is “heckling.”