This year our ‘Away Day’ to Eling Tide Mill took place on 7th October, a month later than usual in order to fit in with the availability of the Mill for a private visit.
Eling is in the centre of our region, close to Totton, at the head of Southampton Water. There has been a tide mill at Eling for over 900 years and the current Mill is over 200 years old, having been rebuilt c.1785 after storm damage in the 1770s. It is one of only two tide mills still operating in the UK. It was re-opened in 2018 as a fully operational flour mill after a restoration funded by a Heritage Lottery grant, to provide “The Eling Experience”. This includes the Mill itself, the visitor centre and a walk around Bartley Water (the mill pond). The Mill is a Grade II* listed building. The visitor centre includes a café and a museum. At the entrance to the Mill there is a small gift shop. Using the same method as millers from days gone by, freshly milled wholemeal flour is available for sale in the gift shop. The wheat, which is milled at Eling, comes from a local farm – Manor of Cadland – and carries the New Forest Marque.
The Mill is located on the seaward side of the causeway across Eling Creek. When the tide comes in, it pushes open one-way gates and fills up the millpond. When the tide turns and starts to ebb, it slowly uncovers the waterwheel, but the sea gates are closed, trapping the water in the millpond so the level in the millpond stays at the high tide level. When the tide has dropped to well below the waterwheel axle, the sluice gate can be raised. Water from the millpond strikes the lower blades of the waterwheel, spinning it round and allowing the milling to begin.
The photograph is an aerial view of Eling Creek facing East. In the centre is the artificial causeway which was once the main road from Southampton to Hythe and Beaulieu. The Mill is the red-roofed building on the causeway and the visitor centre is the white-roofed building to the left. The lake in the foreground is Bartley Water, the tidal pond which stores the water to drive the mill. In the distance, top right of photo is Goatee beach, which faces Southampton docks across the River Test.
For much of the mill’s life it was owned by Winchester College. A lease survives from the year 1418, when the College leased the mill to Thomas Mydlington, requiring him to maintain the mill and the causeway. The causeway was prone to collapse, for example it washed away in 1887. This problem continued up until 1940 when modern engineering calculations revealed the cause to be the design of the sluices. This was then corrected.
The tenancy of the mill included the right to collect tolls from vehicles using the causeway. Four-wheeled vehicles were charged 6d (2.5p) and two-wheeled vehicles 4d. These rates remained unchanged until 1970. In 1967, the toll collector was Tom Mackrell who had been one of the last people to operate the mill when it closed in 1946. Tom was toll collector and mill foreman, working for his brother Raymond, master miller of Eling Tide Mill. Having been out of action since then, the mill reopened in 1980.
This visit provided an opportunity to see two sides of your Society’s work – protection of ancient sites such as the Tide Mill, and mitigation of the effects of near-by large-scale industry such as the mountain of containers stored by Associated British Ports at the entrance to Eling Creek, top left of the photograph.