History

You could discover our vibrant history when you visit © Christo Nicolle

You could discover our vibrant history when you visit

A thousand years of milling history

Our mill is one of the oldest working watermills in the country. It's got a fascinating past and historic connections that range from the likes of King Alfred the Great, Queen Mary Tudor and JMW Turner through to its preservation from destruction in the early days of the National Trust.

Domesday and a time of prosperity

Returning an above average mill rent in the 1080s © National Trust

Returning an above average mill rent in the 1080s

A Saxon mill, owned by the Benedictine nunnery of Wherwell, almost certainly existed on the site more than 1,000 years ago. The mill is close to a major entrance to the city where the East Gate in the city walls led to Soke Bridge. In 1086, the Domesday survey records the mill as returning a rent of 48s (£2.40).

Decline

Gradually falling out of use © National Trust

Gradually falling out of use

A series of bad harvests in the early 14th century, coupled with Winchester having lost its capital status, quickly reduced the value of the mill. The Black Death, which struck in 1348, followed by the loss of the wool trade to Calais soon after, would have accelerated the decline. The mill was derelict by 1471.

A royal gift to Winchester

Only worth 50p a yaer and two chickens... © David Watson

Only worth 50p a yaer and two chickens...

King Henry Vlll took the mill into Crown ownership in 1539. His daughter Queen Mary Tudor then gave it to the city in 1554, partly to offset the cost of her wedding in the nearby cathedral and partly in response to earlier pleas for financial assistance from the city.

The present mill is built

A new mill © Phil Ripley

A new mill

Finally in 1743 a new tenant, the tanner James Cooke rebuilt the mill. This is the building you see today. The central section with its fine gable was completed first and the eastern section was added later. Materials from an earlier building were re-used, as some of the roof timbers date back to the 15th century.

Private ownership

Privately owned success © National Trust

Privately owned success

In 1820 John Benham bought the mill and adjoining land. It remained with the Benham family for more than 100 years and for much of the 19th century would probably have operated profitably as a corn mill. By the 1880s roller milling had largely replaced stone grinding, and milling ceased here in the early 1900s.

20th century

Fast moving water in the mill race at Winchester City Mill, Hampshire © National Trust

Fast moving water in the mill race at Winchester City Mill, Hampshire

Following its use as a laundry during the First World War, the mill was offered for sale in 1928. It was saved from demolition by a group of local people who presented it to the National Trust. In 1931 part of the building was leased to the Youth Hostels Association.

Milling once again

Find out about milling for yourself today © National Trust

Find out about milling for yourself today

In March 2004, the City Mill successfully milled flour again after a gap of at least 90 years. A major restoration programme, which took about 12 years, saw the construction of a grain loading platform, new hoppers and mill gearing, which used parts saved from other local mills.

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