Watermills of the River Medway
and its tributaries
The Medway and its tributaries and sub-tributaries have been used for over 1,150 years as a source of power. There are over two hundred sites where the use of water power is known. These uses included corn milling, fulling, paper making, iron smelting, pumping water, making gunpowder, vegetable oil extraction, and electricity generation. Today, there is just one watermill working for trade. Those that remain have mostly been converted. Such conversions include a garage, dwellings, restaurants, museums and a wedding venue. Some watermills are mere derelict shells, lower walls or lesser remains. Of the majority, there is nothing to be seen.
The River Medway powered a number of watermills. From source to mouth they were:
TQ 361 366The mill building survives in part, incorporated into a dwelling and retaining the waterwheel. The site may have been a hammer mill, witnessed by Ironmasters Cottage Wing mentioned in recent property sale particulars. The mill was known as Bishes Mill in 1598 John Awcock was the miller in 1841 and John Stanbridge was the miller in 1851, still there in 1867. The mill was then a corn mill. A
Another gun foundry site.
TQ 4168 3527A Domesday site, the last mill building dated from 1866, replacing the previous building that had burnt down. It had a brick base with timber above. The wooden overshot waterwheel drove three pairs of millstones. Although the mill was working in 1945 it had been demolished by 1968. A
TQ 450 352This mill was a mainly sixteenth century building. It is most likely to be the "Tellhurst Mill" that J. M. W. Turner sketched c.1795. It had two overshot waterwheels in tandem, with all wooden machinery. The mill ceased working in 1925 and had been demolished by 1936. A
TQ 458 357 70 metres (77 yd) long and up to 1.5 metres (4 ft 11 in) high, although there is some evidence that it could have been as much as 270 metres (300 yd) long.This forge was active during the reign of Henry VIII, when it was making "gunstones of iron". His Majesty was in arrears with payments for munitions supplied, leading to financial trouble for the ironmaster in 1530. Robert Scorer was the lessee in 1513, when it was owned by William Warner, the forge was sold to William Saunders in 1547. In 1574 the forge was owned by Lord Buckhurst and worked by George Bullen. In 1595, the Crown Gunfounder, Thomas Johnson was involved in a dispute here. At the time the forge was owned by William Garway, and is last recorded in the ownership of John Garway in 1600. The dam is recorded as
This forge was in existence in 1496, when its owner Thomas Wildgoose made his will. Its probable location was below Chartners Farm (square TQ4736).
TQ 506 389 16 feet (4.88 m) diameter by 7 feet 8 inches (2.34 m) wide. AThis mill was a corn mill. The last building was built c.1780. The mill was run for many years by the Everest & then the Caffyn families. John Everest was the Miller at the time of his death in 1790 when he was succeeded, in accordance with his will, by his eldest son Edward. The latter continued milling here until his death in 1831 when he left the mill, in his will, to his sons John & James. The Everests were still there at the time of the 1841 Census. Thomas Caffyn was the miller in 1851. New machinery was installed in 1887 at a cost of over £1,000. The mill was being run by Thomas Caffyn (son of 1851 Thomas), when it burnt down in September 1930. The waterwheel was
TQ 507 390This furnace stood just downstream of Ashurst Mill. It was operating between 1574 and 1599. It was owned by someone by the name of Stace in 1574, Sir Walter Waller in 1588–90 (occupied by John Phillips) and in 1599 Thomas Browne sold cannon here.
This was a paper mill. There were two mills here in the thirteenth century, separated by a ford that passed through the tail race of the Upper Mill. The Upper Mill was removed c.1300 and as a result the ford became deep and impassable. In 1303, Henry de Cobham built a bridge at his own cost to replace the ford. This was swept away by a storm in 1337 and Thomas de Cobham (his son), erected a footbridge in its place. The Sheriff proceeded against Thomas for not rebuilding the bridge in its original form, and the Court agreed with the Sheriff. The site was used at one time as a fulling mill. A picture of the mill c.1850 can be seen here. Paper from Chafford Mills was used to print postage stamps for Jamaica, The Transvaal and the Falkland Islands. The mill closed in 1913 and was demolished in 1930. It was latterly driven by a turbine. A
This mill stood below Ford Place Farm. It was a corn mill powered by an overshot waterwheel. A
A long lost mill site. An agreement between Tonbridge Priory and the bishop of Rochester in 1353 mentions a mill at "Yenesfield" - the present day Ensfield Farm. A
TQ 566 463In the 1428 will of Sir Thomas Colepeper it is referred to as the mill of Greenerssh. The mill was marked on a map dated 1579. The mill was marked as Crenhurst Mill on a map of 1769. Ramshurst Mill was marked on the 1801 Ordnance Survey map, but not on Greenwoods map dated 1821. In 1851, Henry Morgan was a millwright living at Ramhurst Mills, Leigh. A
TQ 573 466 13 feet (3.96 m), and the waterwheels were breastshot. Another explosion occurred in 1845, without loss of life. William Burton died in 1859, and the mills were put up for sale. They were bought by Charles and Thomas Curtis for £10,000. An explosion on 6 July 1864 killed four people. The firm was called Curtis's and Harvey by 1874. In this year, the transport of gunpowder along the River Medway ceased owing to the inhabitants of Maidstone fearing for their safety from the passage of the barges along the river. In 1878, there was an explosion that killed a man. Steam power having been added by this date. The mills were reworked in 1885 when another explosion killed a man. Cordite was being produced by this time and the manufacture of gunpowder ceased by 1897. Curtis's and Harvey became a public company in 1898. There was a tramway system around the site, probably introduced in 1885. The gauge was some 23 inches (580 mm). No locomotives were worked, all propulsion being by manual labour. An explosion in 1917 was caused by a lightning strike. After World War I, production was cut back, and Curtis's and Harveys had become part of Explosives Trade Ltd, which became Nobel Industries Ltd in 1920. Nobel Industries became part of Imperial Chemical Industries. Another explosion in 1927 killed several people. Production ceased in 1934, with the manufacturing of explosives being transferred to Ardeer in Scotland. Many of the buildings were burnt down. In 1942, the site was bought by T G East and Son, and developed as a small pharmaceutical works. In 1952, the site came into the ownership of Smith Kline and French, which later became Smith Kline Beecham and then Glaxo Smith Kline. The site is now used for pharmaceutical research and is still known as Powder Mills to this day.This was a gunpowder mill, established in 1811 by John Children and William Burton of Tonbridge. William was the brother of Decimus Burton. The Powder Mills cost £30,000 to set up. Humphry Davy was also involved at the start, but he soon withdrew. The Children family sold out to the Burton at the end of 1812. William Ford Burton managing the mills. In the early 1820s the Burton family bought the land, which had been leased initially. The site was known as the Tunbridge Gunpowder Works. In 1834, Thomas Wells of Powder Mills died and was buried at Penshurst. Three explosions were recorded in the years 1832-35, the last killing two people. In 1837, there were four mills, each taking water from the same pond. The available head of water was some
TQ 596 467An old corn mill site. The mill house survives along with a few walls of the mill, which had a breastshot waterwheel. A In 2006 Tonbridge Civic Society gave an award to a new-build house that incorporated the mill remains.
TQ 673 485This mill was known as "Brantbridge Mill" in 1538, being then valued at £2.6s.8d., owned by Sir Thomas Wyatt. In later years it was run by the Arnold family, who were previously at Bartley Mill, Frant. They took the mill in 1890, and the mill was marked as an oil mill on that year's 25" Ordnance Survey map. The waterwheel was replaced by a turbine, then that was replaced by a gas engine, in turn being replaced by an oil engine. Flour production ceased c.1917 and provender milling ceased c.1947. The mill was burnt down in the 1960s. A
TQ 688 501 approxOne of two Domesday sites in Yalding, this was a paper mill in 1872. The site was first used as a chemical works just before the First World War, and eventually became part of ICI. A
This was a corn mill, serving Aylesford Friary. A
An old tide mill site. The mill was the property of the See of Rochester in 1323, being rebuilt by Hamo de Hethe in that year. A
This was a tide mill. A
This was a tide mill. It stood at the end of George Lane near the town walls. The mill was demolished in the seventeenth century. A
TQ 740 690The site of this mill is marked by Water Mill Wharf, north of the railway bridge. It belonged to Temple Strood Manor and in the mid-fourteenth century contained "two water mills under one roof". An engraving by S & N Buck dated 1721 shows the mill, and it appears in "A Distant View of Rochester and Chatham" by Joshua Farington, RA, in 1790. A sketch by W H Reynolds shows the mill in greater detail, and was done at a later date. The mill had two undershot waterwheels and was valued in the Church Rate Books of 1764 at £64.1s.1d. Latterly a steam engine was installed to enable the mill to work for longer periods. A The mill was demolished in 1858. Latterly it drove five pairs of millstones, one wheel worked two pairs of French Burr stones and one pair of Peak stones. The other wheel worked two pairs of French Burr stones, wheat cleaners, flour dressers and the sack hoist.
TQ 757 683There was a tide mill marked on 1575/1610 maps of the Brook area of Chatham, where the Old Bourne River entered the Medway. By 1765, the Mill is not on the map and the river had been canalised, running alongside the road known as the Brook, and soon after it had been culverted.
The vast majority of the watermills were on the tributaries. The watermills on the tributaries feeding in above Penshurst are covered in the upper tributaries article, while those watermills on the tributaries feeding in between Penshurst and Yalding are covered in the middle tributaries article. Those on the tributaries feeding in below Yalding are covered in the lower tributaries article.
^A = Reid, Kenneth (1987). "Chapter 10". Watermills of the London Countryside, Vol 1. Cheddar, Somerset, UK: Charles Skilton Ltd. ISBN 0-284-39165-4.
The River Medway is a river in South East England. It rises in the High Weald, Sussex and flows through Tonbridge, Maidstone and the Medway conurbation in Kent, before emptying into the Thames Estuary near Sheerness, a total distance of 70 miles (113 km). About 13 miles (21 km) of the river lies in Sussex, with the remainder being in Kent.
The River Cray is the largest tributary of the Darent. It is the prime river of outer, south-east Greater London, rising in Priory Gardens, Orpington, where rainwater percolates through the chalk bedrock of the Downs to form a pond where the eroded ground elevation gives way to impermeable clay. Initially it flows true to form northwards, past industrial and residential St Mary Cray, through St Paul's Cray and through Foots Cray, where it enters the parkland Foots Cray Meadows, flowing under by Five Arches bridge. It then flows by restored Loring Hall (c.1760), home of the Lord Castlereagh who took his own life there in 1822. It continues through North Cray and Bexley. It neighbours a restored Gothic (architecture) cold plunge bath house, built around 1766 as part of Vale Mascal Estate. It is then joined by the River Shuttle and then continues through the parkland of Hall Place, which was built for John Champneys in 1540. The Cray turns eastward through Crayford and Barnes Cray to join the Darent in Dartford Creek. The Creek is a well-watered partly tidal inlet between Crayford Marshes and Dartford Marshes by a slight projection of land, Crayford Ness. The villages through which the Cray flows are collectively known as "The Crays".
The River Eden is a tributary of the River Medway in south east England. It rises at the foot of the North Downs escarpment near Titsey in Surrey and runs initially southwards through Oxted before turning eastwards to enter Kent. After flowing through Edenbridge and passing Hever Castle, the Eden meets the Medway at Penshurst.
The Darent is a Kentish tributary of the River Thames and takes the waters of the River Cray as a tributary in the tidal portion of the Darent near Crayford, as illustrated by the adjacent photograph, snapped at high tide. 'Darenth' is frequently found in the spelling of the river's name in older books and maps, Bartholomew's "Canal's and River of England" being one example. Bartholomew's Gazetteer (1954) demonstrates that Darent means "clear water" and separately explains the other name. Considering the River Darent runs on a bed of chalk and its springs rise through chalk, this is not surprising. The original purity of the water was a major reason for the development of paper and pharmaceuticals in the area.
The Wealden iron industry was located in the Weald of south-eastern England. It was formerly an important industry, producing a large proportion of the bar iron made in England in the 16th century and most British cannon until about 1770. Ironmaking in the Weald used ironstone from various clay beds, and was fuelled by charcoal made from trees in the heavily wooded landscape. The industry in the Weald declined when ironmaking began to be fuelled by coke made from coal, which does not occur accessibly in the area.
Four major rivers drain the county of Kent, England.
Ruxley was an ancient hundred, a land division in the north west of the county of Kent, England. Its area has been mostly absorbed by the growth of London; with its name currently referring to the Ruxley district. Its former area now corresponds to a majority of the London Borough of Bromley, a large part of the London Borough of Bexley and a small part of the Kent District of Sevenoaks. The hundred was within the Lathe of Sutton-at-Hone, in the west division of Kent.
The River Bourne rises in the parish of Ightham, Kent and flows in a generally south easterly direction through the parishes of Borough Green, Platt, Plaxtol, West Peckham, Hadlow, and East Peckham where it joins the River Medway. In the 18th century the river was known as the Busty or Buster, the Shode or Sheet, but is not known by these names nowadays. A bourne is a type of stream, while shode means a branch of a river.
The Loose Stream sometimes called the River Loose or Langley Stream is a tributary of the River Medway notable for the number of watermills that it powered in its short length. It rises in Langley, flows through Boughton Monchelsea, Loose and enters the Medway at Tovil. The river valley is deep sided, and there is much evidence of the paper and wool trades which once flourished here: the stream has been dammed in many places, resulting in many mill ponds.
The River Len is a river in Kent, England. It rises at a spring in Bluebell Woods to the southeast of the village centre of Lenham 0.6 miles (0.97 km) from the source of the River Great Stour; both rise on the Greensand Ridge. Its length is c10 miles (16 km). It enters the River Medway at Maidstone.
The Wateringbury stream is a tributary of the River Medway in Kent, England. It rises at Swanton, West Peckham parish, flows south east towards Mereworth and then flows in a generally easterly direction to join the River Medway at Wateringbury. It is some four miles (6 km) long and powered a number of watermills.
The River Teise is a tributary of the River Medway in Kent, England.
The River Beult is a tributary of the River Medway in South East England.
The East Malling Stream, known locally as "The Stream", rises at Well Street, East Malling, Kent, and flows in a generally easterly direction to join the River Medway at Mill Hall, Aylesford. It powered six watermills. The stream may have formerly been known as the Bradbourne, Bradbourne Lane in Ditton bearing witness to this name.
The River Bewl is a tributary of the River Teise in Kent, England. Its headwaters are in the High Weald, in Sussex between Lamberhurst, Wadhurst and Flimwell. The valley is deeply incised into Tunbridge Wells red sandstone, with a base of alluvium on Wadhurst clay.
The River Stour has been used for centuries as a source of power. Many different processes were performed by the use of water power:- Corn milling, fulling, paper making and electricity generation. Many of the mills survive today as house conversions, with two of them still working commercially.
The Medway and its tributaries and sub-tributaries have been used for over 1,150 years as a source of power. There are over two hundred sites where the use of water power is known. These uses included corn milling, fulling, paper making, iron smelting, pumping water, making gunpowder, vegetable oil extraction, and electricity generation. Today, there is just one watermill working for trade. Those that remain have mostly been converted. Such conversions include a garage, dwellings, restaurants, museums and a wedding venue. Some watermills are mere derelict shells, lower walls or lesser remains. Of the majority, there is nothing to be seen. A large number of tributaries feed into the River Medway. The tributaries that powered watermills will be described in the order that they feed in. The mills are described in oder from source to mouth. Left bank and right bank are referred to as though the reader is facing downstream. This article covers the tributaries that feed in above Penshurst.
The Medway and its tributaries and sub-tributaries have been used for over 1,150 years as a source of power. There are over two hundred sites where the use of water power is known. These uses included corn milling, fulling, paper making, iron smelting, pumping water, making gunpowder, vegetable oil extraction, and electricity generation. Today, there is just one watermill working for trade. Those that remain have mostly been converted. Such conversions include a garage, dwellings, restaurants, museums and a wedding venue. Some watermills are mere derelict shells, lower walls or lesser remains. Of the majority, there is nothing to be seen. A large number of tributaries feed into the River Medway. The tributaries that powered watermills will be described in the order that they feed in. The mills are described in order from source to mouth. Left bank and right bank are referred to as though the reader is facing downstream. This article covers the watermills on the tributaries that feed in below Penshurst and above Yalding.
The River Medway and its tributaries and sub-tributaries have been used for more than 1,150 years as a source of power. There are over two hundred sites where the use of water power is known. Many different processes were performed by the use of water power:- corn milling, fulling, paper making, iron smelting, pumping water, making gunpowder, vegetable-oil extraction, and electricity generation. Today, there is just one watermill working for trade. Those that remain have mostly been converted. Such conversions include a garage, dwellings, restaurants, museums and a wedding venue. Some watermills are mere derelict shells, lower walls or lesser remains. Of the majority, there is nothing to be seen. A large number of tributaries feed into the River Medway. The tributaries that powered watermills will be described in the order that they feed in. The mills are described in order from source to mouth. Left bank and right bank are referred to as though the reader is facing downstream. This article deals with the watermills on the tributaries that feed in below Yalding.
Many watermills lined the banks of the River Wey, England, from the 17th century due to the river's ability to provide a reliable, year-round flow of water. These mills chiefly ground wheat, often referred to as corn, for flour and oats for animal feed though many were used in the production of other goods such as paper, cloth, leather, wire and gunpowder. The river was home to more mills per mile than anywhere else in Great Britain. The mill situated at Coxes Lock near Addlestone, Surrey, is the largest. There are many mills on the river's principal tributaries, such as the Tillingbourne, the Ock and some mills on the Whitmore Vale stream, Cranleigh Waters and Hodge Brook. The last commercial mill on the Tillingbourne, Botting's Mill at Albury, closed in 1990. Headley Water Mill, on the Wey South branch is still in business. Town Mill, Guildford still has a water turbine driven generator producing electricity for the town.