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Newsletter 130 Autumn  2020   © Hampshire Mills Group



Essex and South Suffolk Field Visit, August 1985



Keith Andrews

From the 1960s to the 1990s, the University of Southampton Adult Education Department in conjunction with Southampton University Industrial Archaeology Group (SUIAG) – as was, now Hampshire Industrial Archaeology Society (HIAS) – organised week and weekend field visits to all parts of the country. There were generally at most only one or two mills – and sometimes none – featured in the trips, but exceptionally the visit to Essex and South Suffolk in August 1985 involved lots of mills, because of the nature of the area.
So here are the mills that we visited on that trip. The information about each mill is taken as is from the notes for the visit prepared by the leader Dr Edwin Course. Remember that they relate to the situation in 1985! The pictures are mostly from the slides I took at the time; the picture quality is not especially good, a combination of the age of the slides and the limitations of the converter. The cost of slide film limited the number of pictures I took, so in some cases there is no picture, or one from a later visit.




Mountnessing Windmill, near Brentwood  (TQ 632979)

This post mill, owned by Essex County Council, has recently been restored. It stands on the site of a previous mill, which was demolished in the late 18th century, and bears the date 1807. Its unusual sixteen-sided roundhouse had a thatched roof until the end of the First World War. The mill, which worked until the 1930s, has a cast iron windshaft, and retains much of its original machinery.


Flatford Mill (TM 077344)

Flatford Mill, with the nearby Willy Lott’s Cottage, is best known through the paintings of John Constable. The mill is now being used by the Field Studies Council, for courses. The mill pond survives. No picture available.


Bourne Mill, Colchester  (TM 006238)

Although it is no longer working, this 16th century structure is of considerable interest.  The building, originally erected as a fishing lodge, bears a date of 1591, and was constructed of flint, bricks, stones, and tiles from the ruins of St John's Abbey.  With its ornately finished gables and chimneys with octagonal shafts, the architecture reflects that of the Low Countries, and it is possible that Sir Thomas Lucas may have employed Dutch Protestant refugees in its construction.  For a time it was a cloth mill, but in the first half of the 19th century, following the decline of the wool trade in Colchester, it was converted to flour production.  The mill ceased to operate around the turn of the century.  Although not all of the machinery survives, the 26 foot diameter cast iron overshot wheel, located internally, now turns again. Pit wheel, wallower, mainshaft, and great spur wheel also remain.


Framsden Windmill, near Debenham  (TM 192597)

This post mill, which stands 48 feet high, dates from 1760, with additions, including the two storey roundhouse, in 1836.  It has been restored in recent years, having become derelict following disuse since 1934.  Flour is now ground occasionally.


Pakenham Watermill
(TL 937695)


The mill, of 18th century date, though on a Domesday site, last worked commercially in 1974.  It has been restored by members of Suffolk Preserv-ation Society, and corn is now being ground.  The exterior of the building is unusual, originally weather-boarded, but in 1810 given a brick frontage in the Georgian style.


Woodbridge Tide Mill
(TM 275487)


Although there has been a mill on the site since the 12th century, the present building dates from 1793.  A weather-boarded structure, the mill was restored a decade ago, and is now in working order.  Unfortunately, during the mill's period of disuse, the mill pond was sold for a marina, but in 1978 work commenced on the creation of a small pond which allows the mill to be worked for demonstration purposes.


Marriages Mill, Chelmsford  (TL 711075)



This large roller flour mill dates from the turn of the century.  It was formerly powered by a 120hp steam engine, but this was removed in 1952.  Powered since then by electricity, the mill produces both white and stoneground flour.  Marriages have been producing flour in Essex since the 1820s, owning at various times mills powered by water, wind, steam, and electricity.


Vanners Silk Mill, Sudbury


As with many East Anglian silk weavers, Messrs Vanners trace their origins to the French Protestant refugees who settled in the Spitalfields district of East London.  They were established in the 18th century there, but later moved out to the Essex and Suffolk borders.  Initially, they used handloom weavers working in their own homes, but later concentrated production in factories.  Their present premises in Sudbury are in a range of buildings built at various times between the 1930s and the present day.  All the stages of production, from the receipt of raw silk from China and Brazil, to the weaving of silk for ties, will be seen at Vanners.  Although on a larger scale, the processes may be similar to those followed by Ede and Ravenscroft at Whitchurch.  No picture available.


Ramsay Windmill, near Harwich

(TM 208305)


This post mill, which dates from 1842, was built with all the automatic devices of the new cast iron technology of the late 18th and early 19th centuries, and represents the ultimate development of the post mill.  It is 49 feet high, with a three storey brick roundhouse, which was used for storage.  The mill was used until the outbreak of the Second World War.  It remained, abandoned, until 1964 when it was purchased by its present owner.  During the 1970s, restoration tock place – over 60 volunteers giving about 6000 hours to the project.



Thorrington Tide Mill, near Brightlingsea  (TM 083194)


This early 19th century three storey weather-boarded mill still contains all its machinery.  The exterior iron waterwheel also survives, though in poor condition.


Pictured in October 1994.  Looking at the wheel, there looks to have been some restoration since 1985.


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