Eling Tide Mill
Eling Tide Mill
Eling is the only original tide mill in the country still open and working as it has done for centuries. Situated at the edge of Southampton Water, Eling mill dates back to the 11th century. The current mill is a comparative youngster, built in the late 18th century.
The mill at Eling carries on a 900 year old heritage of milling by using the power of the tide. We know that there has been a mill on this site on the edge of Southampton Water since at least the time of the Domesday Book in 1086. The Domesday Book mentions a mill at Eling, but even that may not be the first mill on the site, for there is reason to believe that the Romans had a mill here as early as the 3rd century AD. If true, any remains are buried deep beneath the current mill and will probably never be found.

Since Eling was a royal manor after the Norman Conquest, the mill was officially royal property. King John, who always seemed to be short of money, sold the manor and mill in the early 13th century. Then in 1382 it was purchased by the powerful Bishop of Winchester and granted to Winchester College. For the next 597 years Winchester College owned Eling Mill, though they did not operate it themselves but leased it to a succession of tenant millers. It must have been a profitable operation for millers, for the proximity to Southampton water meant that grain could be easily brought here from a great distance, and by running a pair of water wheels the mill was capable of grinding up to 4 tonnes of flour per day.

The mill would have been rebuilt numerous times over the centuries, but the last major rebuilding came in the 1770s after storms and floods damaged the equipment. So the mill buildings are 220+ years old, though the milling machinery dates to 1892.

The mill was reduced to grinding grain for animal feed in the early 20th century, but remained in production until 1946. It was then restored and brought back into production as a living museum beginning in 1975. One of the waterwheels was restored to full working order, but the other was left as it was so that visitors can get a closer look at the machinery.

How does a tide mill work?
To harness the movement of tidal water a dam is built across the river. when the tide rushes in, it pushes open a series of one-way gates and fills up a mill pond on the far side of the dam. When the tide turns and begins to recede downriver, the water is trapped in the mill pond. When the difference in water level is high enough, a sluice gate is opened, sending water onto an undershot waterwheel, where it catches the lower blades, and spins the wheel. The wheel is linked to a drive shaft, which in turn powers grinding wheels to mill grain.

Visitors can see grain being milled by harnessing the power of the tide and buy fresh milled flour. Obviously the milling times depends in large part on the tide timetable, so its a very good idea to check the mill website for timetables before making a special trip. Of course you can still visit the mill and see the milling machinery at any time, even if the tide is not cooperating!

Eling Mill grinds 2 main types of flour; a stone ground whole meal flour from local grain, and an organic breadmaking flour from grain imported from elsewhere in England.

NOTE: Eling Mill is closed for renovations until 2017.