Hampshire Mills Group





J Percival Chap
lin c1929


Portsmouth is on an island, Portsea Island, and in the C18th consisted of a number of villages, the town of Portsmouth, a port and the Naval Dockyard.   From the C15th fortifications were constructed and with a presence of the Army, the Navy and the civilian population there was a great potential for milling and baking. 

Without a river, windmills were the answer to the mill-power problem and many were constructed on the island and the Portsdown hills.   Anyone who has stood on Southsea beach will know there is no lack of wind.  Later on, tidal mills were to be exploited.




During the Napoleonic War, the price of flour and bread rose dramatically, and the Dockyard employees formed a co-operative society on May 10th 1796, known as the ‘United Society’,

“for the purpose of purchasing land, erecting a mill, bakehouse and other necessary buildings, intended for the cheaper supplying with bread and flour.”

“That this Society consist of the people belonging to the Dock Yard, and them only, and that from them a committee shall be chosen, consisting of 2 Quartermen Shipwrights, 2 Shipwrights, 2 Caulkers, 2 Smiths, 2 Joiners, 2 House Carpenters, 1 Bricklayer, 2 Sail makers, 2 Sawyers, 2 Ropemakers, 2 Scavelmen and 3 Labourers.”

The money for purchasing the land, erecting the mill and bakehouse was raised by subscription

“each Mechanic to pay 6 shillings per quarter and Labourers 4 shillings” 

till the Mill and Bakehouse were complete.

The letting of contract to build a mill 36 ft in diameter with a gallery 22ft above ground level was advertised in Hants Chronicle on 4th June 1796.    The foundation stone was laid on Midsummer Day the same year.

The mill, later to be known as the Old Dock Mill, also as the Shipwright’s Mill, was built in 1796-7 in Pesthouse fields, Portsea (196-SU-640 013) and was working by 1799.

It was a towermill with a domed cap, originally with humanoid statue as finial, chain drive and common sails with outrigger.

When built it was insured with the Sun Fire Insurance Policy 696876 dated 31 Dec 1799 by the Trustees of the Dock Mill Society for £3,300

A wind corn mill with storehouse communicating in Pesthouse Field, Portsea; 

Brick & timber, no kiln    £900

Standing & going gears & other machinery     £860

Stock & moveable utensils     £1100

Two tenements       £100

Bakehouse, 3 ovens (no sea biscuits baked therein)    £  200

Stock & Utensils therein   £ 100

Stable & carthouse, timber & tiled       £ 70

Stock & Utensils therein        £    30

 The United Society, later known as the Dockyard Mill Society, was wound up in 1815 when the mill was compulsorily taken over by the Board of Ordnance. 

This is noted in the Hampshire Courier in November 1815:   

“NOTICE - All persons having demands on the estate of the Dockyard Mill Society, Portsea, will please to send in their claims immediately & all Persons indebted to the Society will also [please to discharge the same on or before 9 Dec.]

By order of the Committee, Society Mill      24 Nov 1815”.

and in December an auction was held at the Mill when the valuable stock and utensils of the mill and bakehouse adjoining were offered for sale including three horses with harness and three carts.

It was then leased by the Board of Ordnance to various millers including Edward & Peter Houghton, William Alfield, and to J & G Curtis from 1834 until 29th September

1856 when it was let to James Dennison.

But it was still standing in 1866 and finally demolished in 1868 when the Dockyard was extended over the site.

Like most mills it had its problems, one of which is mentioned in the Hampshire Chronicle in November 1817: 

“This morning about 11 a.m.  fire broke out at the windmill at Pesthouse, Portsea, a property of the Board of Ordnance, occupied by the Dock Society, occasioned by the mill getting loose during a heavy squall of wind, but was put out by 12 without any material damage.”

Latterly it is said to have had  patent sails, ball finial and fantail, possibly after the fire. 

Another problem was reported in the Hampshire Courier in 1816

“Portsmouth 13 March    Some of the bakers in the town have forwarded a petition to the Admiralty against the Dock Yard Mill, which has been referred to Sir George Bray, Bart, to report upon.   It may be recollected that a Society in the Dockyard have for many years ground their own corn in a mill at the Flathouses, Portsea; which being included in the purchase made by the Government of lands without the fortifications, the said Society has it in contemplation to purchase ground & erect another mill at Southsea.”

The Society was reputed to have undercut the other bakers by 2d a quartern loaf.

So ends the story of the Old Dock Mill.


After having their mill compulsorily taken over the Shipwrights Co-operative, the Union Society, went into voluntary liquidation in 1815 and reformed immediately as the Dock Mill Society, which purchased a site on Southsea Common and built the new mill in 1816.  .    This was the last windmill to be built on Portsea Island and was the one illustrated on the front of MILL NEWS, often referred to as New Dock Mill.

This was a seven storey  brick tower, 100ft high, 40ft diameter at the base, tarred, with a domed cap, patent sails and fantail and a gallery around the second floor.    The Army Board of Ordnance supplied a million bricks and all were used in the building of the mill. 

Hampshire Chronicle reported in March 1816: 

“A new Dock Mill Society has been formed by the mechanics employed in the Dockyard, from which their families will be constantly supplied with bread & flour.”

The following year a contract was offered for building a bakehouse, store, engine house, dwelling houses, stable, carthouse, etc.   A large bakery was built and they opened shops on the co-op principle in the town, but it was not a success.

The mill was situated in Napier Road, off Albert Road, in a position about six furlongs south of Fratton Junction, on what was then open ground well away from habitation at 196-SZ-649989. 

The Hampshire Chronicle of 16th December 1816 reported that 

“during the gale of wind which blew with such violence on the night of Thursday, the upper part of the new Mill belonging to the Dockyard Society was blown off”.

There is a record of a tragedy and in 1825 the Hants Chronicle reports:

          “At Southsea, inquest on John Richards a boy who, without the knowledge of the miller employed in the windmill belonging to the Dock Society at Southsea, got out on to the stage at the time the mill was at work, when he was struck on the head by one of the sweeps so violently as to force him off the stage, and he fell a considerable distance to the ground below;  he was picked up dead, having his skull fractured, his leg broken & otherwise bruised.    Verdict  accidental death.”

The same paper in 1821 reported that:

“The Dock Mill Committee threatened to prosecute Edward Baigent, labourer, for falsely accusing them of adulterating flour with rice -- he apologised publicly.”

Depression in 1834 caused the voluntary liquidation of the Dock Mill Society and closure of the mill, but the tithe map of 1842 gives the building as No 902a, the owners as the Dock Mill Society and the tenants Charles Seaford and others while the directory of 1852 lists Charles Barnes as miller at the Dock Society's mill. 

After changing hands several times, it was bought in 1868 by Maurice Welch, who had been the  miller at the Admiralty’s Kings Tide Mill, which had burnt down that year.  He installed a steam engine and used the sails for auxiliary power.

The directory of 1898 gives Moses Welch and Son at Dock Mill.    In 1900 the stones were replaced by rollers and in 1905 a gas engine was installed.  

In 1922 the mill was put up for auction and, not being sold, was demolished the following year. 

Monica Ellis’s publication on Hampshire mills in 1978 stated that there is now no trace of the mill and the block of flats occupying the mill site is named “Moulin Court”.  

The associated mill cottages were renovated in 1971 and a plaque on these cottages gives details of the mill.  

Tony Yoward  11/98



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