Watermills in Meldreth

An Introduction

By Kathryn Betts

The Domesday Book of 1086 lists 8½ [1] mills in Meldreth and one mill in Melbourn.  The location of only three of these mills - Topcliffe, Flambards or Quaker's Mill and Sheen Mill - is known for certain.

Photo:Topcliffe Mill, c. 1925

Topcliffe Mill, c. 1925

Bell's Postcard

Evidence for other mills in Meldreth

In 1332, Ralph FitzWilliam held a quarter of a watermill in Meldreth.  This was presumably the Church mill, which was recorded from the late 14th century until 1438. [2]

The Topcliffe Manor Court Rolls mention the existence of other mills in addition to Topcliffe Mill including the Church Mill, a mill called Hale Mill and possibly another called Cagewynnes.  The following extracts from the manorial court rolls give examples:

1382 Meldreth.  View of frankpledge of William de Notton and his companions held there on Monday, morrow of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, 6 Richard II
The abbess of Chaterys is to look after her watercourse from Cherchemele to Halemelle.  Amerced 10/- for neglecting it.

1417 Meldreth.  Pole.  View of frankpledge with court held there on Friday after the feast of St. Denis, 5 Henry V
John Milward (4d) blocked the water too high at Le Chirchemylle to the hurt, etc.  John Claverynge (2d) the same at the lord’s mill.

1433 Meldreth.  Pole.  View of frankpledge with court held there on Thurs. after Michaelmas, 12 Henry VI.
William Gardyner, miller (12d) blocked the water too high so that the king’s highway at Cagewynnys was flooded to the common hurt.  The same William (12d) blocked the water too high so that Topklenyslane [Topcliffe's Lane] was flooded to the common hurt.  William Meller (3d) of Chirchmyll blocked the water too high sto that the kin’s highway at Brodstrete was flooded to the great hurt etc.  Amerced

1434 Meldreth.  Pole.  View of frankpledge with court held there on Thursday the feast of the Apostles Simon and Jude, 13 Henry VI
William Gardyner (4d), miller, blocked the water too high at Cagewynnes so that the highway there was flooded to the hurt etc.  The same William (2d) blocked the water too high so that Topklefyslane was flooded to the great hurt etc.  William Miller (3d) at Chirchmyll blocked the water too high at Broodstrete so that the highway was flooded to the common hurt.  Amerced.

1438 Meldreth.  Topclyff.  View with court held there on Thursday after the feast of the Conception BVM, 17 Henry VI
William Mellere (12d) blocked and kept the water too high at the watermill called Le Chirchemelle so that the highway to the gate of the Rectory was submerged and inundated to the common hurt.  He is ordered to amend it against the next court on pain of 20d.

1443 Melrethe.  View with court held there on the Friday before the feast of Saints Apostles Simon & Jude, 22 Henry VI
Thomas Wodeward, miller, kept the water too high at the mill at Cagewyns so that the highway was flooded.  ?3d.
Thomas Bernard, miller, of Chyrchemylle blocked the water and kept it too high so that the highway to the gate of the Rectory was flooded.  3d.


From 1696 to 1736, there were only three mills remaining: Topcliffe Mill, held by Mary Surplus and then by James Scruby; Flambard’s Mill held by William Horsley; and Sheene Mill, held by Michael Lambkin and then by Richard Ellis. [3]

Photo:Topcliffe Mill, North End, Meldreth

Topcliffe Mill, North End, Meldreth

Photograph supplied by Brian Clarke

Topcliffe Mill (still standing and situated close to the church) was part of Topcliffe Manor, which was granted to St. Thomas’s Hospital, London in 1553.  The mill remained the property of St. Thomas’s Hospital until it was sold to Miss Maud Bowen in 1948.  It ceased to operate as a mill in 1942.


Photo:Flambard's Mill, before it was destroyed by fire

Flambard's Mill, before it was destroyed by fire

Flambard’s Mill was situated at the end of Flambard’s Close, near Flambard’s Manor House.  Although Flambard’s Mill existed in the seventeenth century, a sale notice of 1844 described it as “newly-erected”.


Photo:Sheene Mill, Station Road, Melbourn

Sheene Mill, Station Road, Melbourn

Sheene Mill is just over the border in Melbourn, but was part of Sheene Manor which belonged to Meldreth.  It ceased to operate in around 1930.  It is now a restaurant.


[1] A half mill probably indicates that the profits were shared between two owners or perhaps two villages.

[2] Victoria County History, Cambridgeshire Vol. 8

[3] Richard Willowes, Vicar of Meldreth 1692-1736 by W M Palmer, 1924

This page was added by Kathryn Betts on 06/12/2010.

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