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Page 7

Newsletter 114, Autumn 2016   © Hampshire Mills Group



Book Review


A review of our books about Hampshire Mills has appeared in the May 2016 edition of Industrial Archaeology Review.  It is reproduced below.


The Mills and Millers of Hampshire, Vol. One: Central, Vol. Two: West
Ashok Vaidya (ed.), Hampshire Mills Group, £12.99 each
David Alderton, Essex





It is possibly a little unfair to start by complaining that the title “The Mills and Millers of Hampshire” on the cover is misleading.  As the title pages make clear, the volumes are concerned with the water-powered mills;  windmills, and with one exception, mills constructed to be powered by fossil fuels are not included, unless on the site of or attached to the water-powered mill.  One form of water-power not covered is the hydraulic ram.  These two volumes form the first two parts of a three volume survey of the water mills and millers of Hampshire:  a third volume has now been published.  The Isle of Wight is not covered, but mills on rivers creeks forming the borders of Hampshire and occasionally on tributaries running into rivers which are originally within the county have been included.  This is obviously useful to readers interested in a particular river or landscape.  Fundamentally, this is a collection of information about sources:  it does not seek to be a history of water milling in Hampshire.  It is heavily illustrated in both black and white and colour, though the reproduction of pictures is rather small, and really only draws attention to works which would repay further study.  There are numerous excellent diagrams and technical drawings covering the more complicated sites.


The Introduction acknowledges the work of Tony Yoward, Archivist of the Hampshire Mills Group (HMG), and his late wife Mary, who collected information about the mills and millers of Hampshire for many years.  Their work has been supplemented by contributions from other members of HMG and of Hampshire Industrial Archaeological Society.  These volumes contain notes drawn from five main sources of information:  publications, intensive research into local records, conclusions drawn from site investigation and sometimes archaeological excavation, oral history;  accounts of restoration work undertaken and the information this has revealed.  Local and some national archives have been extensively trawled, including census, wills and local government and church records, estate records, insurance records, local newspapers, and the journals and records of local societies.  The book is a rare and praiseworthy example of a local history publication whose plan has been clearly thought out to make it helpful to researchers in a variety of fields.  The researchers should be congratulated on the quantity and quality of information gathered, but equally the editor and production team deserve praise for the clarity with which this information has been presented.  The introductions are partially repeated in both volumes and include very helpful guides as how to use the book to recover information.  There are maps showing the rivers of Hampshire and the location of mills in the book, together with information on local groups working in this area of study, a glossary of mill terms, and a clear diagram of the typical layout of a watermill.  Both honest and valuable is an acknowledgement that there remains much undiscovered material, inviting readers to contact HMG with new information.


The sites vary from those still in or restored to working order to those where no trace remains visible and, indeed, whose exact location may be uncertain.  The mills are grouped by river, working down from the source to the sea, with both six-figure grid and GPS reference giving the exact location.  This is followed by a brief summary of the history of the mill as far as it is known.  In Hampshire as elsewhere, a watermill was essentially a power source and, while on the majority of sites in Hampshire this power was used for milling grain, there was a wide range of other uses including tucking (fulling), pumping, iron working, spinning, cloth making and, in later years, electricity generation. Changes of use over the years are noted.  As late as the mid-20th century, waterwheels were still being installed to pump water to large houses.  While on almost all sites the power was initially by a waterwheel, on many sites from the 19th century on waterwheels were replaced or supplemented by water turbines, and on later sites may be the initial installation.  A number of sites also acquired supplementary steam or oil engines.  The initial history is followed by a fully referenced series of notes – sometimes full transcripts, sometimes summaries – of all the information found in the archives.  There are indexes not only on mills, but also on the names of individuals found in the course of the research, with the location of the reference.

This series is designed to be and will be an invaluable tool for researchers in a number of fields, not just industrial history and archaeology, but also local history, business history and family history.  I recently described a book as a quarry for historians;  these volumes are like a builders’ merchant, with everything openly available and very accessible.  It should prove an invaluable aid to researchers into Hampshire history.



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