Woodbridge Tide Mill in Woodbridge, Suffolk is a rare example of a tide mill whose water wheel still turns and is capable of grinding a wholemeal flour. The earliest record of a tide mill on this site by the River Deben is in 1170. It was owned by the Augustinian Priors for around 350 years until Henry VIII confiscated it, and for the next 28 years it was in royal ownership. Elizabeth I sold it to Thomas Seckford whose family owned it for over 100 years, followed by several private owners. In 1793 the present mill was built on the site of earlier ones. By the 1950s it had become the last working tide mill in the country, but in 1957 finally closed. It was saved in 1968, restored and opened to the public in 1973.
Woodbridge Tide Mill is a three-storey building constructed from wood; externally it is clad in white Suffolk boarding and has a Gambrel roof. Its machinery reflects the skills and achievements of the early Industrial Revolution. The reservoir constructed for demonstration purposes is roughly half an acre in extent, the original 7-acre one is now a marina. The easy access ground floor (Pit Floor) presents an overview of the history and workings of the Tide Mill. Where a short introductory film, history panel, unique interactive power model and a manual quern (a hand operated mill for grinding grain) will help you get a feel for how the mill works. See how the power derived from tides is transferred to the main shaft and on to the milling stones using the pit wheel, wallower, great spur wheel and the stone nuts. On milling days watch the Miller control the machinery and produce flour.
The Stone Floor is the heart of the milling process. Learn about all the parts of the machinery and its workings, and why a chattering Damsel is a vital part of the process. Working sets of millstones are complemented by spare sets and a cutaway model to explain the milling action, stone dressing and the various materials used. Information displays and interactive models provide further essential details and understanding. The superb computer-generated video explains how grain and flour move within the mill using the sack hoist and gravity. A spectacular timeline portrays the rich history of the Tide Mill and its people, brought to life by their stories from the audio station. On the Crown Floor you can see the crown wheel with its wooden teeth and how it transfers power to the sack hoist and flour dresser. Learn about the place of the Tide Mill in the ‘Grain to Bread’ story. Here, near the top of the mill, the wonderful views over the River Deben are not to be missed whatever the state of the tide. The agricultural cycle, the route of grain to flour and how bread is made completes our story and the Tide Mill’s part in it. Learn how wholemeal flour was dressed to give finer flour.
The design of Tide Mill machinery has evolved through many centuries and has an elegant simplicity but it is powerful and effective in the hands of a skilled miller. Wood and iron are the core materials used for the machinery in the Tide Mill with wood being the dominant material used. Three pieces of machinery are cast out of iron but with wooden teeth. Two pieces of machinery are cast out of iron in their entirety, the wallower and the great spur wheel. Wooden teeth engaging with the metal cogs allows not only for a smooth operation but also for easy replacement due to wear and tear rather than replace an entire iron casting. The ground floor & outside waterwheel viewing area are wheelchair accessible. There are steps to the upper floors. Assistance dogs are welcome. There are accessible toilets.
Location : The Tide Mill Living Museum, Tide Mill Way, Woodbridge Suffolk IP12 1BY
Transport: Woodbridge (National Rail) 4 minutes. Bus Routes : 63, 64, 65, 71, 121, 173, 179 and OC7 stop at the station.
Opening Times : Daily Easter through September 11:00 to 17:00
Tickets: Adults £5.00; Concessions £4.00; Children (5 - 15) £2.00
Tel: 01394 385295