Winchester City Mill
History, tourist information, and nearby accommodation
HERITAGE HIGHLIGHTS: Unusual surviving urban mill
There has been a mill on this site since the Saxon period; in 939AD Queen Elfrida granted the mill to the Benedictine nuns of Wherwell Abbey. The nuns did not use the mill themselves, but leased it to a succession of millers. This early mill was known as Eastgate Mill, being close to the city's East Gate (near the place that King Alfred's statue now stands on Broadway).
The mill was recorded in the Domesday Book of 1086, when it returned an annual rent of 48 shillings to the Abbess of Wherwell, well above the value of similar mills. The mill continued to prosper well into the 13th century; records for 1295 show that the tennant miller, a man named William, paid £4 of silver on a 7 year lease. In return the abbess promised to supply 'any great timbers' the mill needed.
When the Wherwell nunnery was dissolved in 1539 by Henry VIII Eastgate Mill passed to the crown, but it did not stay in royal hands long. In 1554 Queen Mary gave the mill to the City of Winchester as part payment for her wedding to Philip of Spain, which was held at Winchester Cathedral. Given the decayed condition of the mill one wonders how welcome this 'gift' was! This is the first time that the name 'City Mill' is used.
Then in 1743 help arrived in the form of James Cook, a tanner of Soke (just south and east of the river) who leased the building and rebuilt it, incorporating the roof timbers of the earlier medieval building. Cook's mill is an attractive building of brick, topped with a gabled roof hung with tiles. City Mill seems to have been used specifically for milling flour rather than as a general purpose mill. In 1820 the mill was sold to John Benham, and the Benham family owned it for the next century
The Benhams tried unsuccessfully to sell the mill in 1892, but it remained in operation until the early 20th century. It was used as a laundry during World War I, then in 1928 it was threatened with destruction until a local group purchased the building and granted it to the National Trust. The Trust let the building to the Youth Hostel Association, but in 1992 the Trust embarked on an ambitious restoration programme that took 12 years to complete. The fully restored and working mill opened to the public in 2004 and holds regular milling demonstrations for visitors.
The City leased out the mill, but could not afford to restore the building, so they could only get a small rental fee. Then in 1743 help arrived in the form of James Cook, who leased the building and rebuilt it, while incorporating bits of the earlier building. Cook's mill is an attractive building of brick, topped with a gabled roof hung with tiles.City Mill seems to have been used specifically for milling flour rather than as a general purpose mill.
Otters on the Itchen
In 1994 1 male and 2 female otters were released in the River Itchen. The otters successfully established themselves on the river, and since then other otters have moved into the area from the west. The otters chose the area around the mill to come ashore and mark their territory. In 2006 the National Trust, in partnership with the local Wildlife Trust and the Environmental Agency, set up a system of motion-sensitive cameras to monitor otter movements and allow visitors to glimpse these elusive creatures. The 'otter cam' is activated whenever an otter (or any other small creature) appears, and a video sequence is captured. This has proven to be a very popular feature at City Mill, and some people visit just to watch the otter cams!
Downstairs, a torrent of water rushes through a narrow space, and you can cross over the mill race on metal decking to view the paddle wheel and gearing turn the millstones. Upstairs, the wheat is fed through a hopper on to the mill stones and is ground into flour. The resulting stoneground flour can be purchased in the shop.
In addition to the milling machinery there are displays about the River Itchen ecology and it's wildlife, including web cam footage of the otters who use the mill on their travels up and down the river.
About Winchester City Mill
Address: Bridge Street, Winchester, Hampshire, England, SO23 9BH
Attraction Type: Museum
Location: On the north side of Bridge Street and the eastern end of The Broadway (near the King Alfred statue)
Website: Winchester City Mill
Phone: 01962 870 057
National Trust - see also: National Trust memberships (official website link)
Photo Credit: David Ross and Britain Express
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13th century (Time Period) - 14th century (Time Period) - 15th century (Time Period) - Domesday Book (Historical Reference) - Henry VIII (Person) - Medieval (Time Period) - Queen Mary (Person) - Restoration (Historical Reference) - Saxon (Time Period) -
Heritage Rated from 1- 5 (low-exceptional) on historic interest
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