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.|