If you have any doubt on this, read
Chaucer’s view of the Miller in the prologue
to the Canterbury Tales and the Reeve’s tale
about a miller and his wife, as illustrated
in the drawing.
Mills were vital to elements in the
mediaeval way of life. As Tony Yoward shows
in his short introduction to the History of
Milling (Mills Group Website) there were
already over 5000 mills by Domesday at the
rate of one per 50 households. Hampshire was
a centre of grain production and trade and
population (Winchester and Southampton). It
had, I suspect, a more highly developed
milling industry than many counties. For
instance Winchester, in the early 1300’s
before the Black Death had, according to
Biddle and Keen, about 10,000 inhabitants.
If each person consumed 2lbs bread per day
then that is 15,000 lbs or 6½ tons of flour
daily, requiring a lot of mills, all in
good working order, and a steady power
supply. Then there are the needs of all the
In the villages, as Tony Yoward points out,
the mills are all under the control of the
lord of the manor, though not all
necessarily operated by him. Within the
village, the tenants are required as one of
their customary duties to have their grain
milled at the lord’s mill, paying the
customary 1/12 fee; the lord maintained the
mill; the miller paid rent.
Mills were major features, whether in the
village or in the landscape of the valley.
Besides being by the water, they had to be
accessible and were often at valley
crossings. The mill buildings were
engineered with larger dimension timber and
stone. The miller’s house may well have
been grander than the little cruck houses
of the tenant farmers and smallholders.
Around the mill complex, the race, the
sluices, weirs and channels all made the
mills more prominent.
In Twyford in 1300 you have five mills, one
of which is in Compton. All are controlled
by the Bishop of Winchester, because it was
he who owned the whole of the flow of the
Itchen and could say who used the flow of
the river and for what. Of course he charged
The Pipe Roll of 1300/01 (see note 1) lists
the five mills as follows:
Compton: Rented out for
North Twyford: run by
manor; profit £2:10s:1½d; spindle repair 8d
South Twyford: empty in 1300;
but run by the manor .
Shawford: Shawford Mill:
Brambridge: Rented out for £2
This concentration of mills – all in the one
village – is (I think) unique to any village
in Hampshire. Of the towns, only Winchester
has as many.
But why did Twyford need so many mills? The
manor of Twyford was of course larger than
the parish is now, but the five mills could
not have been for the inhabitants of Twyford
alone, who might have supported two mills
but not five. One obvious reason is that
not all villages had mills; how could they
have done, without the rivers to drive
them? Otterbourne must have used Brambridge
Mill; Hursley, Silkstead, Morestead,
Owslebury and Marwell were all without a
mill of their own, so it is likely that all
used the mills in Twyford. This is what our
But the proximity of Winchester and the
evidence of a substantial trade in grain in
local markets suggest that the Twyford mills
worked for Winchester merchants and bakers;
the wife in Mike’s picture was the daughter
of a merchant in the neighbouring town.
But what of the millers themselves? Was any
one of the five millers of Twyford an honest
man; were they friends? Did they help each
other with repairs or mill for others when
their mill was shut down? Did they sit
together as a group in church?
The Pipe Rolls of the Bishop of Winchester
run from 1208 to 1711 with some years
missing. They follow a standard format.
They record all income due to the Bishop
from his Estate, which was the largest of
any English Bishop. It comprised 57 manors,
and several towns. Twyford is one of the
more valuable properties. The Pipe Roll
entry for 1300/01 (HRO ed. Mark Page) runs
to 10 pages.
It records, for instance, all the grain
produced (wheat, barley, oats), the cost of
the harvest, the quantity sold at market,
the number of mills, their rents and costs
of maintenance. All other manors are
recorded in similar detail. Apart from the
1301 Pipe Roll, the 1409/10 has also been
transcribed and translated by Mark Page for
HRO. Both are a mine of information on the
life of a medieval manor, including mills.
to be continued……..
has been published in the Winter 2014