Eling Tide Mill is a water mill that harnesses the power of the tide to grind wheat into wholemeal flour. Situated on the edge of Southampton Water beside the renowned New Forest, there has been a mill on the site for over 900 years. 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 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. In 1967, the toll collector was Tom Mackrell who had been the last miller to operate the mill when it closed in 1946. It was abandoned in the 1940s, but had the good fortune to survive until it was restored between 1975 and 1980, at which time it re-opened as both a working mill, and a museum to this part of our industrial heritage. It is the only fully working and productive tide mill in the United Kingdom, once again producing flour as it had throughout the last Millennium. It is, in fact, one of only two productive tide mills in the entire world, and the only one producing what it was built to produce on a regular basis.
The earliest surviving reference to our mill is in the Domesday Book – a survey of all England – in 1086 AD. It’s possible that there was a mill here as far back as Roman times (c200 – 400 AD), but any evidence of this will be underneath the mill and the Bridge. The mill was always owned by the Lord of the Manor. Originally this as the King of England, as Eling was a royal manor. In the 1200s, King John sold the manor and mill. They went through various hands until 1382 AD, when they were purchased by the Bishop of Winchester. He gave them to a school he was founding as a source of income. The school – the famous public school Winchester College – owned the mill from 1382 to 1975 AD, though they didn’t run it directly, but leased it out on long leases. Some of the grain for milling was from local farms, but more of it came from the Eastern side of England and travelled several hundred miles round the coast by barge. When the tide was in, the barges could sail right up to the mill. Running both waterwheels and all four sets of stones at full speed for both tides, the mill’s maximum output would have been about 4 tonnes of flour in a day.
Tide mills were often rebuilt every two or three hundred years. They don’t know exactly when the first mill was built, but it has been rebuilt many times over the years, the last being in the 1770s when it and the bridge were completely rebuilt after a series of storms and floods. The milling machinery was last replaced in 1892 AD. The old, wooden undershot wheels were replaced with cast iron Poncelet-type wheels which were more efficient. The main gearing was also replaced with cast iron axles and gears. It still has the same style of parts working the same way as they have done for centuries. The invention of steam power plus cheaper imported grain arriving in the mid-1800s resulted in steam-powered roller mills in docks across the country to mill grain from Canada and elsewhere. Small mills using millstones (whether tidal, wind or river-powered) found it very difficult to compete. Eling, like many others, struggled on by producing animal feed. By 1936 the machinery was broken and the last miller was using a diesel engine to power the machinery.
The Mill is built on the seaward side of a dam across a tidal river, when the flooding tide comes in, it pushes open one-way gates and fills up the millpond. When the tide turns and starts to go out again 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, a blade of water from the millpond strikes the lower blades of the waterwheel, spinning it round, allowing milling to begin.
Eling Tide Mill produces two flours, the first being Flour of the Forest, Stone Ground Wholemeal Flour. This is the completely local 'New Forest Marque' flour, as it is milled from grain grown just a few miles away on the Cadland Manor Estate in the New Forest. The grain is currently Solstice an English breadmaking wheat, which they mill finely for best rising. Canute Brand Stone Ground Wholemeal Flour is the second flour they produce themselves, this time from an English, high protein, breadmaking wheat that is organic but not local, and milled for fullest flavour rather than best rising.
THE ELING TIDE MILL IS CLOSED UNTIL SUMMER 2017
Location : Eling Hill, Totton, Southampton SO40 9HF
Transport : Totton (National Rail) then bus (6 or 8) or 15 minutes. Bus Routes : Bluestar 6 and Bluestar 8 stop nearby.
Opening Times :TBA
Tickets : TBA
Tel. : 023 8086 9575