History

Friends of Bromham Mill History project

The Friends of Bromham Mill are currently compiling a detailed history of Bromham Mill, which will be available on this page and within the Mill once completed. If you have any information about the Mill’s history, or any personal recollections or photographs that you would like to be included, please contact us. The information currently on this page is taken from the interpretation board on display in the mill meadows.

Setting the Scene

The River Great Ouse divides for c.300m just north of Bromham Mill with the mill standing across the western branch just before they rejoin. It is uncertain whether the mill utilises a broadened natural watercourse or a purposely dug leat, as is often the case. A mill is likely to have occupied this site from at least late Saxon times when no bridge existed nearby as today. For much of its history the mill belonged to the Manor or Bromham and from medieval times would have ground the lord’s grain whilst his tenants would have been obliged to have their grain milled there exclusively for a charge (multure). Commercial operations would only have developed during the post-medieval period and these continued into the 20th century when in the hands of the Quenby family, though little milling was done there from the late 1930’s and none after 1971. By 1973 the building was dilapidated and to secure its future it was bought by Bedfordshire County Council. However. in 1974 it was further damaged by fire, but subsequent restoration enabled it to be opened to the public in 1983.

Mary Quenby
Mary Quenby working the Mill during the First World War

The Building

The present mill is an 18th or early 19th century rebuilding in brick, timber and stone on the site of earlier mills. It had two waterwheels, one wooden and undershot driving three pairs of stones, and the other iron and breastshot driving two. However. only the latter remains and was restored in 1980. From the 1930s, due to low water flow, an oil engine was needed to give power with electricity supplying the other machinery. Much of the machinery is still visible inside the mill. On the outside an eel trap was fitted into the sluice gate. Across the courtyard to the west stands the Millers House whilst there are fine weatherboarded barns to the north

The Bedfordshire County Archive has more detailed information on the history of the Mill.

Publications

Hugh Howes’ recent book, “The windmills and watermills of Bedfordshire – past, present and future” contains detailed information about both Bromham Mill and Stevington Mill, and is a beautiful keepsake of a visit to either Mill. It is on sale for £8.99 at Bromham Mill. For more details see the review by the Bedford Architectural Archaeological and Local Historical Society.

For other publications about mills, see the Mills Archive Trust.

Other Mills in the UK

Would you like to find out more about milling and other Mills open to the public in the UK? If so, visit the SPAB (Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings) website.

Audio Tour

If you are planning to visit Bromham Mill, or would like to hear more about the mill and its history, you might like to try our Audio Guide.