Three mills.. the House Mill, the Clock Mill… and another…

It’s strange how you discover places… Recently I wrote about how I discovered a friend I had been at school with many years ago.  When she let me know she was coming over to England to put her paintings into an exhibition in London with her brother and sister, I was very excited and we arranged to meet. She visited our home and we had a lovely day together, and then yesterday my daughter an I visited her exhibition.

I’ve seen lots of photos of her fabulous paintings, but photos and the real thing are no comparison! Her work, landscapes, domestic interiors, still lifes (or is it lives?) are just wonderful, and i very much enjoyed seeing her sister’s photos and her brother’s ceramics. It was a wonderful day, and a picnic lunch in the garden at the back of the gallery made the whole thing perfect.

Discovering places… the exhibition was held in a most interesting gallery in a two hundred and forty-year-old mill… not just a mill but a huge industrial mill for producing flour on a huge scale. Built in 1776, the House Mill is the world’s largest surviving tidal mill. It was built on the site of a much older mill, with foundations dating back to between 1380 and 1420.. It was called the House Mill because it was sited between two other houses… simple! There was a windmill also on the site, but it vanished halfway through the nineteenth century. Forty years after the House Mill, another mill was built opposite with a clock tower which gave the mill its name – and the fact there were three mills ensued fr obvious reason the place was called ‘Three Mills’;  the site was ideal for such operations with the River Thames giving reliable free power!

The Clock Mill


I didn’t realise until I looked it up, that the House Mill lies on an island in the River Lea, a tributary of the Thames, although I should have realised as we went there, that there was water at the front and at the back. Obviously milling grain for flour was the chief task – except when England’s security was at risk with the threatened invasion by the Spanish Armada in 1588, when a gunpowder mill was established. Another interesting part of its history was when it was used as  a gin distillery – with the popularity of gin again these days, the fashionable drink, maybe that’s another future plan! Milling stopped in 1941 at the House Mill, but continued at the Clock Mill  until 1952.

You may be too late for my friend’s exhibition, but the House Mill and Clock Mill will remain her for centuries to come… so plenty of time to visit!

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