In the heart of London's East End, on the river Lea, is the largest existing tidal mill in the world and on 9th
September Brian Strong – a member of the Trust that now looks after the buildings – outlined its history and described, to members of the District History Society, the efforts being made towards its restoration. At the time of the Domesday Survey there were at least 8 mills in this part of Bromley by Bow and in mediaeval times this particular site was known as the Three Mills.
The site was acquired by a Hugenot, Peter Lefevre, in 1728 and in partnership with one Daniel Bisson he extended the business to include a distillery, a large piggery (because of the abundant waste products) and later a brewery was added. All the time production of flour continued for the local bakers. In 1776 the House Mill was built and this continued in operation until about 1940. Ownership of the site changed several times during the 18th
centuries and in 1878 there were seven water wheels in operation – four of them in the House Mill. During the second World War the complex suffered severe air raid damage with one mill – known as the Millers House – being completely destroyed. When it was rebuilt in 1995 a very large unexploded bomb was unearthed which would have destroyed the entire site had it detonated.
In 1989 the restoration of the House Mill began and the fabric is now complete. The Trust is striving to reinstate all four water wheels. The House Mill is now regarded as one of the most important Grade1 listed buildings in the East End.
Mr Strong's interesting talk concluded with a computer-generated virtual tour around the House showing some of the equipment and architectural features. It was particularly interesting to note the use of a roof support known as a “Ship's Knee” and the similarity that a sluice wheel bore to one used for steering a ship; could this point to the influence of naval architects or shipwrights?
On behalf of the Chairman absent through illness Secretary Clare Mathieson thanked Brian for his very informative talk.
Next meeting: 14th
October 7.30pm in Foxearth Village Hall when the Chairman of the Sudbury Society will be the speaker.