Flatford after the Constables

Flatford Mill on a Winter's day

Flatford Mill was owned by the Constable family until Abram Constable (John Constable's brother) sold it to William Bentall and Stephen Lott in 1846 for 2,000 guineas.

1846 -1864: William Bentall & Stephen Durrant Lott 

  • William Rufus Bentall married Ann Lott who was raised at Valley Farm and whose great uncle was Willy Lott
  • Stephen Lott was Ann Lott's brother and he formed a partnership with her husband, William Rufus Bentall and they bought Flatford Mill together
 
In order to improve the efficiency of the mill, Bentall and Lott installed a large, iron water wheel and removed the original wooden water wheels and gearing used by the Constable family.  As part of the installation they bricked up the entrance arches that had guided water into the mill and closed up the mill race channels that had run through the mill building. The exit arches were not closed up and can still be seen opening into the old mill pond which was been made so famous by John Constable.
The new water wheel was made of metal with 40 curved, open-ended buckets around its perimeter. It measured 16 feet by 14 feet and was possibly the largest wheel on the River Stour. Because it was far too big to be accommodated inside the old mill building, a single storey wheelhouse was built behind the old mill in which it was housed. Water from the River Stour was then diverted along the back of the mill building, under the new water wheel and into a millpond in front of the lock. Barges (called lighters) would then pull up at the back of the mill to load up with flour.
The nineteenth century water wheel would have driven at least four pairs of mill stones. The water colour painting by Thomas Pyne of the inside of Flatford Mill in 1891 shows the mill stones enclosed within a wooden framework that would have been at shoulder level and enclosing the main gearing. The millstone frame in view in the painting is labelled as number "2". Number "1" is to the right and out of sight behind a brick wall although the grain chute that feeds it is clearly is visible.
In 1849: 
  • Stephen Lott transferred his share of Flatford Mill to William Bentall and emigrated to Australia
  • William Bentall then modernised the mill still further and installed a coal-fired, steam mill at The Granary.
 

1864-1900 

  • 1864-1878: Richard Barrell owned/operated Flatford steam mill and watermill 
  • 1878-1892: Walter Benneworth owned/operated Flatford steam mill and watermill
  • 1896-1901: William Green owned/operated Flatford water mill.  Arthur Benneworth owned/operated Flatford steam mill
  • 1900 Flatford water mill ceased trading
 

1901-present 

  • 1901 - 1904: Lancelot Docura converted the mill into a private residence and lived there with his wife Catherine and two sons, Thomas and Leonard, both millers (according to the 1901 census)
  • 1904 - 1926: Viscount Buckmaster bought the mill which had fallen into serious disrepair. He restored the machinery to grind corn, oats and beans and adapted the machinery to generate electricity. Other people lived there at the same time: Major O.H. Fisher and E.Page (1904 -1905), Miss Octavia Lewin (1905 -1907), Miss Annie Madelaine Pulley (1907 and still there for th 1911 census) with a cook and a house maid 
  • 1926 -1943: Thomas Robert Parkington, an Ipswich builder and philanthropist, bought a near derelict Flatford Mill and a dilapidated Willy Lott’s House in 1926. He carried out basic repairs and opened the Flatford Mill as an arts and leisure centre. He stripped out all the mill machinery and had the iron water wheel removed in the early 1930s. In his will, he left both properties to the National Trust but died insolvent in 1943 which meant the National Trust had to purchase them from the Official Receiver.  However, when Mr Parkingtons's financial affairs were finally resolved, there was money left over to reimburse the National Trust.
  • 1943 - present: National Trust acquired Flatford Mill and Willy Lott's House on the death of Thomas Parkington and on 7 August 1946 leased both buildings to the Field Studies Council, an arrangement that continues to this day.
  • 2012: Field Studies Council installed a reverse Archimedes Screw in the cavity that once housed the nineteenth century iron water wheel. The Archimedes Screw produces up to 11 kilowatts of electricity every day, enough to meet about 30% of the Field Studies Council's current needs.