11 Sep 2013

Mapledurham Mill

I found this old photo of Mapledurham House in my collection of local history papers about Berkshire and Oxfordshire.  It was taken in 1880.  There's also a quote from John Betjeman (1906-1984), one of my favourite poets, who said:
'Oh the peace I find as I walk in the charming village of Mapledurham, with its quaint old buildings
that take us down to the banks of the river Thames which gives a stillness that one cannot find today in many places.'

As you can see the mill hasn't changed over the years and indeed the basic framework structure of the 15th century mill still stands.  There is a sense of timelessness about the place even though there were many people there on the afternoon of our visit.  

Before the late 1600s the mill had one set of waterwheels and provided for the village community and neighbourhood in this rural backwater.  The water was fast flowing at this point by the weir and there would have been wooden bridges over channels further upstream to bring the corn across to the mill.  Later on a new channel was cut on the other side of the mill and a second wheel installed driving another pair of mill stones. The mill began to serve a wider community and a barn on raised 'straddle stones' was built on the bank of the upper millpond to hold flour for loading onto barges.  

Today Mapledurham Watermill is the last working corn and grist mill on the River Thames and is grinding flour with the old millstones that are turned by one of the waterwheels, electrically operated. Whole wheat and other varieties of flour can be bought in the shop on site. 

The wooden hub encases the grinding stones. The bell on a rope is an interesting and essential part of the system as it rings when the grain has reached a certain low level in the hopper. The system will then be switched off and the two grind stones will come to a halt. Friction between the stones without any grain to grind would damage them and also could cause a spark and fire which would be a disastrous situation in a building with so much wood.  (The wooden beams, for example, are part of the original building).

Coming down the ladder stairs you can see the water channel below and the water rushing over the wheel.

We bought some 'Miller's Mix' (a blend of semolina and bran)

After our tour and talk by the miller we wandered past the village church and back to the stable block courtyard of Mapledurham House where we had our cream tea with scones made with flour from the mill.

The tea room in the stable block which has an exhibition model
of the village as used in the movie The Eagle has Landed

In 1976 the movie The Eagle Has Landed was filmed in the village, in the church and by the mill starring Michael Caine, Donald Sutherland, Larry Hagman and Rober Duvall. 

Part of the model showing a dramatic scene from The Eagle Has Landed.



  1. It is lovely to visit these old buildings isn't it - wish that I was braver to go up and down some of the little stairs they often have. Tea room looks great too.

    I just found your blog and started following, so looking forward to more of your posts.

  2. i can't believe how much it looks like the first photo, it is almost exactly the same and still a beautiful old building. we don't have things this old here. buildings I mean

  3. It looks so tranquil. Fascinating history too.

  4. What WONDERFUL pictures, Linda! I feel as if I walked right through the old mill. I'm so thrilled for your posts...they help span the time until our next trip to England/Scotland/Ireland. In two years time, we'll travel with our son and his family...we're planning a Limerick to London trip in 13 days.

  5. Mapledurham Mill is so neat.... In fact, the entire village is beautiful. I remember that movie --but don't think I ever saw it...

    I love the village church... AND those scones look delicious. Hope you bought some of the special flour while there. Bet it is good!!!


  6. Betsy - we all bought some of the 'Miller's Mix' which is a fine blend of semolina and bran. It can be used to make a delicious breakfast porridge - just right for these Autumn mornings!

  7. Becky - I know you will enjoy visiting
    the UK and I'm sure you're looking forward to this special trip.

  8. Amy - thank you for your visit to my blog and welcome. I'm glad you enjoyed the tour of parts of the mill. In fact, there were two sets of stairs. A wider one for visitors less agile and the ladder steps. I went up the former and came down the latter.

  9. Thank you everyone for your comments and I'm glad you found the walk around parts of Mapledurham interesting.

  10. It's amazing how these old buildings survive. It looks like an interesting day out.

  11. We love visiting mills and this one looks wonderful. My husband makes bread and has a bread website and he visits working mills to buy flour and then make bread with it and puts the results on his website. He'd love this mill:)

  12. Rosie - I would love to see another working cornmill if one exists near where we live (either in Yorkshire or in Derbyshire). Seeing it working and then being able to buy flour on a regular basis would be wonderful.

  13. Ahh, you just can't beat an old mill with it's timeless charm.....simply gorgeous....along with those scones of course!xxxx

  14. I have vague recollections of the whole village being used for a famous war film... but I can't remember the name of it! Was it 'The Eagle Has Landed'.... Jx

  15. Jan - yes, The Eagle has Landed was filmed in the village and there's a good
    exhibition in the 1940s themed tea room in the stable block with the director's chair, the model of scenes from the film, a sign post used in the movie etc. on display. Apparently Michael Caine left his signature somewhere on a wall in the mill.

  16. Lovely photos, Linda. It is so nice to see that something hasn't changed much over the years!

  17. What a fascinating place. The buildings are so unusual.

  18. What an interesting old mill at Mapledurham.
    While in France my family took me to an old millhouse in the countryside which is now a restaurant - I have a couple of photos I'll share one day soon!

    I love the John Betjeman poem about the stillness of the place - what would he make of the business of today's living!?

    This is a wonderful old building full of history from the 15th century.
    New Zealand is such a young country in comparison.

    Thank you for taking me there through your post Linda.
    Shane x

  19. Old working mills fascinate me and I always without fail buy some freshly milled flour when I visit. Lovely photos as usual Linda.
    Patricia x

  20. A fascinating and beautifully illustrated post, Linda. as it happens I've just seen Mapledurham Mill actually working in a short item about a visit to Mapledurham House on this afternoon's Escape to the Country. :-)