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Page 9

Newsletter 106, Autumn 2014  © Hampshire Mills Group


Twyford’s Historic Landscape

 The five millers of Twyford in 1346 and their mills


Words:  Chris Corcoran  Drawings: Mike Matthews     



“He has cheated you, you simpleton” shouted the wife to her tired husband; “This flour is half chalk. He robbed you last time and he has done it again.   When will you learn?” This is a familiar rant.  The husband set off as usual  to the mill of North Twyford with the monthly grain;  the 7lb daily loaf  for the family of five needs 5lbs of flour, which makes a hundredweight and a half a month.  He has borrowed his neighbour’s donkey to carry this weight from the store on his holding to the mill.  His large sack of grain has been milled and is now in three smaller sacks of flour; they weigh 56lbs all right, but there how much of this is now chalk?  With chalk in it, the bread will not rise properly or taste as good and will leave her and her husband and the children short of energy.

What has the miller done?  He has somehow added ground chalk to the flour when the peasant’s attention was distracted so that he can cream off some extra grain for himself.  In this way, the miller who has, as of right, 1/12 of the grain as his fee for the grinding, has taken an extra 1/12.  No wonder the wife is cross.  But the miller is a consummate cheat.  He cheats his neighbours and  he cheats the Reeve (his landlords agent) and the two hate each other.



The Miller & his Family - described by the Reeve in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales

The Miller “A thief he was forsooth of grain and flour.” His Wife “She was proud and pert as a magpie.” 
The Daughter
“Thick set, plump, snub nose, broad buttocks, high round breasts and very pretty hair.



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 surrounding villages.

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 rent.

The Pipe Roll of 1300/01 (see note 1) lists the five mills as follows:

          Compton:          Rented out for £2   

          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: profit £1:5s

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 Plan shows.

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?

Note 1: 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……..

Part Two has been published in the Winter 2014 Newsletter   Part Two



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