Tudor Tour

Willen watermill

Grinding grain has always been a vital task ever since humans started growing crops. To start with hand mills, known as querns, were used, but this method was very slow and hard work. Eventually, humans found out how to harness the power of the wind or running water to run big mills.

Click here to find out how a watermill works.

Big mills were very expensive to build. Therefore, only the Lords of the Manor or Monasteries could afford to build them. However, the owner could make a lot of money from mill; all the grain produced in the village had to be ground at his mill, and the villagers even had to pay the Lord when they used his mill to grind the grain from their own strips. More money was made by getting millers to pay rent to operate the mill, and renting out the fishing rights. In the front of the picture you can see a cone shaped eel trap made from willow wands cut from the willows growing by the river. Eels were an important source of food in medieval times.

We know that there has been a watermill in Willen since the late 1400s when the Malyns family were Lords of the Manor. But the Mordaunts who followed them must have spent money on the mill, because by the mid 1500s there were two mills, (possibly referring to two lots of machinery rather than two separate buildings). The second mill was used for leather working. The mill buildings were probably rebuilt on the same site, time after time. The Willen mill was finally dismantled and the machinery sold off in 1824.

Picture by Sheila Sancha, courtesy of MK Parks Trust