Topcliffe Mill and Manor
St Thomas’s Hospital in London owned Topcliffe Mill and Manor from 1553 to 1948. During this time, the Hospital carried out many surveys into the mill and buildings on this site.
Extracts and information from some of those surveys is displayed below.
Survey of 1710
This survey was carried out by Mr Thomas Cole, Mr Samuel Lock and Mr Nathaniel Micklethwaite on August 30th and 31st 1710.
They stated that Topcliffe Manor was the most profitable of all of the manors held by the hospital.
At the time of the report, the mill was held by Mrs Surplice, under a lease granted to Robert Fuller and consisted of “a water mill with a small old dwelling house and a granary, lately built by the said Fuller. And six acres of pasture or meadow, whereof a small part is woody. And upon the best information we could get, we judge the same to be worth together twenty eight pounds”.
Survey of 1774
In 1774, St. Thomas’s Hospital in London (which owned the mill) ordered a survey to be undertaken of the “Manor of Topcliffs and the Water Mill and Lands adjoining at Mildrid in Cambridgeshire”.
The survey and a plan produced by O. Swan are held in the London Metropolitan Archives.
Mr Yeldham, a surveyor, wrote a report on the property. He found it to be an unproductive holding. The buildings were in need of repair and “so mean it is not worth while to lay any money out upon them” .
The main buildings consisted of “a little low mean House, 2 rooms on a Floor, with a small Leantoe Dairy and Buttery. And a very small Water Mill, under the same Roof, all Clay Walls, and Tiled” .
There was a range of small, mean buildings thatched.
The tenant matched the buildings. He was “a little mean pudling Fellow, who durst not lay out a shilling” .
The millstream, however, gave a good and plentiful flow of water. The tenant was paying only £4 10s 0d p.a. The land alone was thought to be worth £8 p.a. and the mill, let on a building lease, would bring in £10 p.a. ground rent. Mr Yeldham thought that he could find a man to lay out three or four hundred pounds and take a lease at £18 p.a.
Four years later, John Flack, yeoman, of “Mildrith otherwise Meldreth, Cambs.” took a lease to the mill.
Survey of 1819
The survey in 1819 was carried out by William Marshall. He found the site to consist of “the site of the Manor of Topcliffes, a water mill, mill house, barn, stable, cattle sheds and other small buildings … together with about nine acres of pasture, orchards and garden ground”.
Although the mill and mill house had been rebuilt by John Flack approximately forty years earlier, “from the length of time the mill has been erected and the natural effects of the water – some of the principal timbers as well as the brickwork and underpinning of the mill are decayed and the mill itself being small and incommodious and capable (by lowering the bed of the river for a considerable length) of being made to do twice as much work as it does at present – Mr Thomas Wallis and son are desirous of making it as large and compleat a mill as the stream is able to work”.
“The present wheels of machinery of the mill being old and very defective, Messrs Wallis intend to replace them with new ones and all such gears as are necessary for one pair of stones and one flour mill.”
Thomas Wallis and his son were willing to spend “£500 or more” in order to carry out this work.
Survey of 1846
This survey was carried out on Saturday 4th July 1846. The Treasurer and Almoner found the property to consist of “a water mill and buildings with 9 acres of land … held on a lease by Mr G S Wallis”.
“The water mill with three pair of stones appears to be in good working condition and the miller’s house attached thereto is also in good repair; adjoining the mill is a small cottage at present unoccupied. The out buildings consisting of a range of stables, and chaise house, a barn, cart shed, and pig sties, with an old shed are in a very dilapidated state, and cover an unnecessarily large space of ground.”
It was recommended that, with the exception of the cart lodge and barn, the out buildings should be taken down and replaced by a four stall stable, chaise house and loose box “to be erected in a different position to that which they now occupy”.