WOODBRIDGE TIDE MILL
BY RON GRIGGS
CANON’S KINGS and QUEENS’
A mill has stood where the tide mill now stands since the twelfth century. The first reference to a mill
occurs in a document dated 1170 giving one Baldwin of Ufford easier access to the building .During
the middle ages , the mill was owned by the Augustinian Canons, housed in their Priory in the centre
of town. We can be sure that they exercised their sole rights; compelling their tenants to send their corn
to the mill to be ground and collecting their fixed portion.In1340 a survey for a tax voted to Edward
111 valued the tithe of the mill at three shillings per annum.
Two hundred years later, at the Bishop of Norwich’s visitation, the expense of repairing and
maintaining the mill - molendium aquaticum marinum – was said to be in a ruined state. Woodbridge
priory was one of the first to be dissolved by Henry v111, who then became the first to be royal owner
of Woodbridge tide mill. He quickly sold it to Sir John Wingfield, a member of the local gentry. Sir
John died without issue and the mill reverted to the crown. In 1564 Queen Elizabeth granted it, as part
of the manor of Woodbridge late priory, to Thomas Seckford one of her court officials and trusted legal
servants. The cost? £764. 8s. 4d. There cannot be many mills in Britain which can claim to have had
two distinguished monarchs among their former owners.
The Tide Mill appears to have remained in the hands the Seckford family until 1672. Dorothy Seckford
died, the niece of Thomas .It was the of the Seckford line. We have clear records of the ownership of
the mill from that time forward .The mill remained in the hands of the Bass and Burward families
.Johnathan Basses,s widow, Bridget, sold to her son in law, Anthony Burward ,a merchant , in 1691,
for five shillings , ‘ the water mill , mill house with the mill stones and furniture the floodgates , mill
pond, causeway sea_ banks, and other banks creeks , streams and feedings, Anthony Burward, a
merchant in 1691, for five shillings , the water –mill, mill house with the mill banks, creeks , salts
waters streams and feedings, Anthony passed on the mill to his son , also Anthony , 1712 , in return for
an annurity of 70 paid by the son to the father. Let’s hope it kept him well in his old age.
The tide mill appears to have remained in the hands of the Seckford Family until 1672.in that year
Dorothy Seckford died ,the niece of Thomas. It was the end of the Seckford line We have clear records
of the ownership of the mill from that time forward .The mill remained in the hands of the Bass and
Burward families .Jonathan Basses widow , Bridget sold to her son-in-law, Anthony Burward ,a
merchant, in 1691, for five shillings , the water mill, mill house with the mill stones furniture , the
floodgates ,millpond, causeway sea-banks, and other banks , creeks , salts , waters , streams and
feedings , Anthony passed on the mill to his son ,also Anthony , in return for an annuity of £70 paid by
the son to the father. Let’s hope it kept well in his old age.
The Burwards owned the mill until 1792 when it was sold to the Cutting family coal merchants and
farmers. It was at this time that the present building was constructed .Improvements to the quay and
additional warehouse space were also made in January 1808 when the Cuttings decided to sell the mill
they advertised it as followings in ,[The Bury Post.
To be sold – situated at Woobridge. A spacious quay with sufficient draft for ships of 100 tons and a
capital and well constructed and much admired new tide mill 3 stories high stage area =42 ft. Divided
into stowages for 700 quarters of wheat + flour mill, cylinder ,dressing machine flour bins. Water-
wheel- 20ft diameter, 3 pairs French stones 4 ft 6 ins diameter , and one pair of French stones 4ft
diameter. The mill will cut 12 to 14 loads of corn per week.
RESTORING WOODBRIDGE TIDE MILL, 1968-1982
After years of progressive deterioration, the tide mill was near to collapse, the foundation brickwork
was cracked and decayed and the corner most vulnerable to the elements, at the riverside of the
wheelhouse end, was slowly slipping into the estuary. The bases of the main wall posts and the timber
and the timber sole plate resting on these uncertain foundations had been attacked by wet rot. The main
posts were bowing outwards by as much nine inches in places as the weight of the roof pressed heavily
on the timber frame.
Uneven loading, especially after 1957, when for a decade the mill was little more than a storehouse,
had caused twisting of the frame so that many of the key joints had moved apart. The most surprising
aspect was discovery that solid 9” by 9” in posts were in some places hollow. For many years rats had
gnawed a pattern of runs in them, with nests at various junctions. Emergency concrete repairs had not
Before restoration, The water wheel has decayed completely and the cracked and rotten brick work
threaten to throw the mill into the river Deben, the riverside outhouse is on the point of collapse.
Not only was the basic timber frame in a state of serious decay ; doors and windows needed total
replacement; floor beams and boards were unsafe , the latter worn thin by steel –tyred trucks and sack
barrows. The outhouse was derelict and the Lucan framing rotten and dangerous. The outhouse walls
needed complete re-boarding and much of the roof strengthening and retiling.. The timbers throughout
had been attacked by woodworm
The first and most pressing was to stabilise the structure and prevent further deterioration especially
through tidal erosion. Beneath the ground floor a concrete slab was laid on the mud to keep out rising
tides and a rough concrete apron was also on the shore in front of the mill to protect the base wall from
The first stages of restoration. The water wheel has been removed and the cracked and rotten brickwork
exposed .At the west end, a decayed main beam has shored up.
The foundation wall brickwork was extensively repaired, and its level raised. On top of this a 9” by 9”
in reinforced concrete ring beam was formed which runs continuously around the mill, ensuring that
the mill ensuring that the building rests evenly on the foundations and acting as a lateral tie. The new
sole plate is fixed to the ring beam and the extra height of this foundation wall will out the high tides.
HOW THE TIDE MILL WORKS
Tide mills will be found along shallow creeks, usually some miles from the coast, safe from the
buffeting waves of the sea but well within reach of the tide .Behind the mill there will be a pond .Some
mills have created these ponds by creating a bank right across the estuary , often capturing stream or
river water as well as tidal water , Carew in Pembrokeshire is one of these eling mill near Southampton
.At Woodbridge a pond of 0ver seven acres was constructed.
The incoming tide opened lock –type gates in the banks of the of the pond and filled the pond .As the
tide fell , the first out-flowing water closed the gates and they were then held firmly in position by the
pressure of the trapped water impounded water .When the tide had fallen sufficiently –that is when the
water wheel was completely clear of tidal water. Carew in Pembrokeshire is one of these Ealing mill
near Southampton. At Woodbridge a pond over seven acres was constructed.
The incoming tide opened lock-type gates in the banks of the pond and filled the pond .As the tide fell
,the first out-flowing water closed the gates in the banks and then they were then held firmly in
position by the pressure of the trapped water or impounded water. When the had fallen sufficiently -
that is when the water wheel was completely clear of tidal water, then the miller opened the sluice
gates at the mill race and the released water, rushing out, turned the wheel and therefore the mach a
and andnery. The mill worked for approximately two hours either side of low tide .The miller’s day
depended upon the movement of the tide or early in the milling process and then undershot when both
sluices would be raised to use up every last drop of available water.
In the diagram below you will notice two gates, A and B. Here they are both raised and the wheel is
drive n by undershot power. Drop gate B and the water would flow under A and B to drive the wheel
breast – shot. The stones have to be recut at regular intervals , the efficiency of the mill will be lost ..
They are lifted carefully and the miller or a specialist dresser can sharpen the cutting edges with the
Dressing the stones. A specialist task.
VISITING WOOD BRIDGE TIDE MILL
We are always delighted to meet visitors to the mill.
Our times of opening for the year 2OO5 ARE AS FOLLOWS;
EASTER- SATUR DAY TO MONDAY.
APRIL weekends. in October.
TIMES OF OPENING. 1100 am to 500 pm.
If you have read the section on how the mill works, you will know that we cannot operate at times
convenient to all visitors .The can only be turned at low tide.
Accompanied children £i.50
CONCESSIONS £i- 50
Visitors receive a guided tour leaflet on admission.
Group visits can be arranged .Contact Michael Weaver , 1, Clements road, Melton park,
Woodbridge, Suffolk IP12 1SZ TELEPHONE 01473 384880 Email; MICHAEL WEAVER
tidemill org. uk
Over the year s we have put together a good range of souvenirs and below are some of the items
you can purchase on—line, Send cheque (made payable to Woodbridge Tide Mill Trust) with
order, to Michael Weaver , address above remember, the Tide Mil is a charity so we only make
profit for the organisation.
The Tide Mill, Woodbridge,’ by M A Weaver . £2 50 post free.
Woodbridge. A Short history and guide; £2 50 post free.
A selection of 6 postcards in colour, of the Mill. £2 00 post free.
All graphics and materials on this site c of Michael Weaver and Robert Cawley 1999