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Page 2

Newsletter 134 Autumn 2021   © Hampshire Mills Group

 

 

Kings Worthy Sawmill

 

 

Derek Brockway

 

This mystery photo  has been identified as being Kings Worthy Mill and it is part of the archive of the Worthys Local History Group.

Hampshire Mills Group in The Mills and Millers of Hampshire has two references to Kings Worthy Mills. Most people think the mill at the bottom of Mill Lane in Abbots Worthy is Kings Worthy Mill but it’s actually Abbots Worthy Mill and the other mill mentioned is at Lovington further up the Itchen valley.

Editor: So our book does not include this mill site.


 

Immediately east of St Mary’s Church in Kings Worthy is a short track and gateway which once gave access to Kings Worthy Mill yard and thence to the mill itself.

We know from Domesday the village had a mill, in fact several, but it wasn’t till a map of 1701 showing the Itchen from Abbots Worthy to Durngate that we get an idea of its position, and then we have to wait another 50 years before the Godson map reveals its precise location.

The mill would have originally ground corn for the local farmers but from the mid-19th century the import of cheaper and different grain from North America and Russia that used roller mills led to a decline in work for local mills and a need to use the water power and equipment for other purposes. In 1862 we know from the bankruptcy of its owner that it had become a water-powered sawmill and that’s how it continued for the next 60 years or so under a number of different owners. The writing was on the wall for the sort of operation that simply reduced tree trunks to planks as vast quantities of ready-sawn timber were imported from the Baltic and North America. It seems added value came from making the wood into toys, manufacturing brooms, cricket bats, and lathe-turned goods.

By the 1890s the mill owner also had an interest in a mill at the Butts in Alton, where there is no water so we can assume that he recognised the efficiency, if not the sustainability, of steam.

 

After his death, there followed a period of slow decline and dereliction pictured in a few enigmatic photos.  They show unromantic images of insubstantial timber framed buildings clad in corrugated iron that were all demolished during the construction of the Winchester bypass in the late 1930s when a stretch of the river was realigned.

Whilst these photos show an undershot wheel and a shaft into one of the sheds we have to rely on part of an estate agents description of the equipment in a 1909 letter to a client:

The premises comprise drying sheds, stabling, offices, store sheds etc. The machinery consists of a 20hp water wheel, a 3ft 6ins horizontal saw, 4 large and small circular saws, veneer machine, lathes etc.

Anyone interested in finding out more is welcome to contact me via the Worthy Local History Group website or the newsletter editor.

 

 

 

Worthys Local History Group

HMG member Ivor New had already commented:

I have seen the picture you published but the only other version I can find is in a history group email I received years ago. The mill and local water courses are now under the bypass with the river being diverted alongside. I think the only remaining evidence of the mill is a road sign Mill Lane near the church.

The bypass was more or less finished in 1938 but not opened to traffic until the end of World War 2 – my father described how the carriageways had been  covered with camouflaged storage units, protected by the Spitfire Bridge – which, while small aircraft have flown under it Spitfires have not.  The name is supposed to have come from the fact that many of the storage units stored Spitfire components and subassemblies for the early manufacture of Spitfires, certainly before the main production moved to the Midlands. 

 

Editor:   Ivor had initially sent me a copy of Derek’s talk to the Worthys Local History Group, in which he mentions that the Ings family were probably the most well-known owners of the business.  I think that the mill was known locally as Ings Mill because in 2007, I photographed a picture which was labelled Ings Mill which was identical to the picture below that was supplied by Derek.  It was on display in the King Charles pub at Springvale.

I wondered why – was it just typical pub decoration?  I had assumed that 'Ings' was the place where the mill was located, not the owner's name.   I even went to Ings in Cumbria to look for it!

 

 

Worthys Local History Group

 

 

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