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Woodbridge Tide Mill, history

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1170 - 1564 - Canons, Kings and Queens.

Amill has stood where the Tide Mill now stands since the twelfth century.The first reference to a mill here 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 'soke rights', compelling their tenants to send their corn to the mill to be ground and collecting their fixed portion. In 1340, a survey for a tax voted to Edward III valued the tithe of the mill at three shillings per annum.

19th century watercolourTwo hundred years later, at The Bishop of Norwich's visitation, the expense of repairing and maintaining the mill was one convenient excuse to explain the poverty of the Priory! The sea-water mill - molendinium aquaticum marinum - was said to be in a ruined state. Woodbridge Priory was one of the first to be dissolved by Henry VIII, who then became the first 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 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 Bass'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 othetr banks, creeks, salts, waters, streams and feedings.' Anthony passed on the mill to his son, also Anthony, in 1712, in return for an annuity of £70 paid by the son to the father. Let's hope it kept him well in his old age.

Tide Mill in the 1950s, photographed by airman Ron Hastings, USAFThe 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 Woodbridge. 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 4ft 6 ins diameter, and one pair of French stones 4ft diameter. The mill will cut 12 to 14 loads of corn per week.

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