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Page 3

Newsletter 110, Autumn 2015  © Hampshire Mills Group



A History of Beaulieu Mill

Anthony Norris



There has been a water-mill in Beaulieu since the thirteenth century. It was built within the precincts of the Monastery adjacent to the outer Gate House. The Beaulieu Accounts of 1270 detail the money spent on stone, timber and ironwork in repairing the mill by the gatehouse. This is evidence that the mill was built around the time of the founding of the monastery. Archaeological research in 1906 by Sir St. John Hope and Harold Brakspear revealed the exact location of this mill together with the mill flume. It was positioned by the Outer Gatehouse of the Abbey. This mill had two chambers within which each had an undershot wheel. Details of the monastic mill are to be found in the Archaeological Journal of September 1906. The 1270 Beaulieu accounts also revealed two newly-built windmills, and the materials used in their construction – as the cloth for the sails and the pick for dressing the millstones. Their original location is a mystery. 

When a mill was built on the present site is uncertain though the Dissolution accounts of 1537/8 record ’40s from the farm of the watermill within the vill of Beaulue demised to William Couper’. This mill was built just outside the abbey walls where it stands today.

The Survey of the Manor of Beaulieu dated October 1578 has the following extract. ‘Henry Welles gentleman holds by Indenture one corn mill with one tenement and curtilage upon (super) Bewley bridge for the rent by the year of £7. Also he holds one piece of land at Fullingmille pound for one fulling mill to be made by himself by the rent of the year of 20s.’ It also includes the requirement to provide the landlord, Henry Wriothesley 2nd Earl of Southampton, with ‘4 couple of capons’.

Estate records enable a complete record of all the tenants of the mill until 1976 to be made.

A painting of 1730 of Beaulieu Mill and Palace House shows the mill to be thatched and the roofs of some of the other buildings to be of slate.

 In 1744, Stephen Barney took over the tenancy of the mill and it remained so for three generations until the grandson of the first Stephen Barney, with the same name, moved to Bishopstoke Mill in 1845. Soon after Stephen Barney (Sen) took over the mill, estate records show the mill to have been tiled in 1748.

The Barney family were very influential members of the community during their time at Beaulieu, Stephen Barney being both an Overseer and Church Warden [a very important position in those days]. Also he held Ashlett Mill and Calshot Salt works. Stephen Barney died in 1768 and the tenancy was carried on firstly by his widow until 1773 when his son Thomas, born 1755, was considered old enough to take on the tenancy which he did so until his death in 1833.

Thomas Barney and his servant, Sansom, were suspected of being the biggest poachers in the village. John Fry was employed by the Duke of Montagu’s steward John Warner to prevent poaching. In 1777 when Barney was fishing by the mill he threw Fry into the river. Fry and Barney then had a fight, and Sansom joined in. Warner thought the incident was “an insult to himself and the Lords of the Manor” and made Barney pay 3 guineas in compensation. Thomas was most keen to provide a son and heir, and it was only after the birth of eight daughters was a son, Stephen, born.

Stephen married Elizabeth and they had thirteen children and only left Beaulieu in 1845 as the result of a melancholy incident in which he imprisoned his daughter Frances in the Mill House in an upstairs room, only allowing her to be fed through a round hole in the door. I was brought up in the Mill House and the bars on the window and the round hole, with its cover were still intact. The reason for his actions: Frances wanted to marry the groom. What happened next is uncertain but Frances (Fanny) Barney died in 1848 and is buried in Bishopstoke Churchyard.

For most of the period from 1845 until 1976, the mill was in the occupation of, firstly, the Burden family, and from 1922 until 1976, the Norris family.

Photographs of the interior of the mill, one showing the beam balance which I remember we used, the exterior and a scale drawing of the mill machinery are to be found in the excellent book Windmills and Watermills by J. Reynolds [Publisher: Hugh Evelyn Ltd].

The mill wheel ceased to be used at the end of the Second World War. In its latter years the mill was used to grind grain for animal feed rather than for flour.

Most of the milling took place at harvest time. Once the wheel started turning, my Uncle Fred, who worked in the mill all his life, told me that the sound of the mechanism, the splash of the water, the smell and scent of grinding barley all combined to make the building sing – and when the sun shone through, the drops coming off the mill wheel was a wonderful sight. It could grind 2-3 hundredweights an hour, for up to eight hours, by which time the tide would be coming in again.

As time went on, the old building started to creak and shudder, so they decided to stop before any damage was done. Fred told me that the last time it worked was in 1945. The building was then used solely was storing animal feed, though a motor had been installed which enabled the sack hoist to be used and also oats to be crushed.

By 1976, the business at the mill necessitated the loading and unloading of lorries of grain and animal feed and as a consequence of the increase of road traffic, it was felt the business should move to other premises.

The mill then remained unoccupied as the Estate sought assistance in the mammoth task of restoring the mill, possibly as a working mill.

Unfortunately the existence of a similar tidal mill at Eling, meant requests for funding were refused. It was then necessary for the Estate to finance all the alterations themselves.

Much of the work on the roof had been done by March 2006 when the mill was badly damaged by an arsonist. In the next few years restoration took place and in 2014 the newly restored mill was let to a boat designing company.



1537-8                William Couper  ‘40s from the farm of the watermill within the vill of Beaulue demised to William Couper’
[First Dissolution Account of the Ministers]

1575                    Henry Well(e)s

1576                    ‘May 2nd 21 year lease by Henry, Earl of Southampton to Henry Wells, Gentleman of the Mill of Beaulieu, Mill House and lands’

1616                    Thomas Kempe [22 year lease from 1616]

1626                    John Kempe [Executor of Thomas Kempe]

1646-85              Richard Lambert [Susanna Lambert, wife of Richard d1654, has burial stone just N of the font in Beaulieu Church – not original site; The Bishopric Pipe Roll of Fawley for 1605, which almost certainly refers to Ashlett, records ‘Nicholas Lambert pays a rent of five shillings for one corn mill’ Would Nicholas be the father of Richard?] 

1686-89              Tristram Mayn

1690                    Estate run

1691                    Widow Semar

1692-96              Estate run

1697                    William Eldridge [Mill and Ryehill]

1698-1702         Robert Scott [Robbard Scot buried July 1st 1702]

1703-09              Mr Corbett [1708 Mill and Palace and Sowley]

1710-21              Roger Seager [died March 29th 1721]

1721                    Widow Seager

1722-23              Thomas Wyatt [died of smallpox – I think]

1724-25              John Harfield

1726-43              John Gold

1744-                  Stephen Barney [died June or August 1768  burial record unclear]

1769-72              Widow Barney

1773-1833         Thomas Barney [died July 1833]

1833-45              Stephen Barney [moved to Bishopstoke Mill]

1845-49              Edward Godrich [moved to Durley Mill]

1850-59              Estate run

1859-61              William Groves

1861-78              James Burden

1878-91              Emily Burden

1891-1922         Miss Jane Burden

1922-48              Fred Norris [Sen] [died February 1948]

1948-76              Fred and Stan Norris [business moved to Home Farm]

1976-2014          Restoration

2014-                  Leased to boat designing company



HMG Visit to Beaulieu Tide Mill


David Plunkett


On the morning of Friday 29th May, around 20 HMG members gathered in the carpark of Beaulieu parish church to be met by Tony Norris, a local historian from an agricultural and former milling family.  We viewed the extensive display at the church hall before listening to Tony telling us of the little known history of farming and milling at the head of the Beaulieu River and the role of his family.  The principal land owners being ‘The Beaulieu Settled Estate’, headed by Lord Montagu and his family.  There have been many mills at Beaulieu over the centuries, including two windmills, two tide mills and a fulling mill.  Not all active at one and the same time though.  In early 2006 the mill was badly damaged by fire (arson).

We then walked down to the tide mill, passing the millers house and front of the restored mill, into the courtyard.  The view of the tidal pond is largely obscured by old cottages on the western side.  The site of the former early Abbey tide mill is to the west edge of the old stone gatehouse.  Our access was limited to the ground floor but much of the first and upper levels are left exposed to view up to the underside of the roof.   The northern main gearing once powered by a former turbine has been lost many years ago but the southern set is virtually complete and open to view.  Two sets of millstones inside their tun’s are retained as well as the old iron hurst frame carrying the under driven great spur wheel and stone nuts.  The fixed, all timber, waterwheel restored in two parts with a horizontal glass screen separating the two parts.  The former rear store, on timber piles is retained but transformed to a Board Room or display space with modern lighting, green walls and glazed doors opening to a beautiful river view.

Our grateful thanks to Tony Norris and the Beaulieu Estate for allowing us this insight into the past and the modern renewal of Beaulieu Tide Mill.


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