Mill wheel keeps on turning

August 2004

Old Father Thames has spawned more novels and poems than brown trout; more tributes than tributaries. But it is still easy to forget what an influence this river has had on our culture until you come to research a certain stretch of it.

Mapledurham Mill is near Mapledurham House (see our Heritage section on pages 20-23 of this issue). It is part of the Mapledurham Estate, which is mentioned in the Domesday Book. The mill was built in 1423, but the present Mapledurham House was not created until 1588.

The mill, which was extended in the 17th and 18th centuries, belongs to the Blount family, and has been in the family ever since Sir Michael Blount decided to create something in keeping with his grand status as a high official of Elizabeth I.

The mill itself has received more televisual than literary attention, as it has been the setting for numerous programmes, including Inspector Morse, The Forsyte Saga and, perhaps most famously, the film The Eagle Has Landed, starring Michael Caine.

But the building's real claim to fame is that it is the last working mill on the Thames, and still produces flour, nearly 600 years after the original part of it was built.

Let us hope that Mapledurham Mill will go on harnessing the power of the Thames for many years to come.