Totnes Town Mill
Totnes Town Mill - a brief history:
There are three known sites of mills in Totnes and it is likely that there have been mills here for over 800 years. The present building on Coronation Road probably dates from the 16th century and is on the site of what was once a significant milling complex. Milling was central to the economy of the community from the earliest times, not only for the grinding of corn for flour but also malt for beer and the fulling of cloth.
The first written reference to mills in Totnes was in 1133. A document of 1447 tells of the See (sea ie. tidal) Mill and a pool for which the Lord of Toton (Totnes) paid rent to the Lord of Dartington. There are many later references in the 15th century specifically mentioning the Town or See Mill. The tidal water was likely to have been supplemented by fresh water taken off the river at a weir further upstream. In 1559 the Mayor and Burgesses of Totnes purchased the Manor of Totnes which gave them jurisdiction over all the mills in the Manor. By 1783 the corn mills were leased to James Harrison. In 1808 Charles Vancouver notes that “….a mile above the bridge… a powerful mill-race is taken up to serve a corn and fulling mill, which is situated a little above the bridge at Totnes.” In 1823 the mills were leased to William and Thornton Bentall, gentlemen, and Thomas and Joseph Hakewill, who were fullers. During the 1880’s the woollen mill became a warehouse but the Town Mill, which had two waterwheels, continued to function as a corn mill. By 1906 the wheel on the west side appears to have been derelict. At about the same time, the original waterwheel on the east side was taken out of use and a water turbine was installed to generate electricity (this was removed in 1995 and can now be seen in the adjacent garden, together with one of the mill stones). In 1937 the derelict wheel was removed and that part of the leat was filled in to make way for the new Coronation Road. The Mill continued as a working mill until 1945, but then the whole of the mill equipment was cleared away. The Mill premises remained as part of a bacon factory (which also occupied the former woollen mill premises) and were used for storage and offices until 1990.
Fortunately, in 1978, the Town Mill became listed as a ‘Building of Historic Interest’ and in 1991 the Totnes and District Preservation Trust purchased the building for £1 from Safeway Stores plc. who were redeveloping the bacon factory site. (Also at that time the former woollen mill building was divided into residential apartments and offices). Restoration of the Town Mill began in 1995 and was completed in 1997. The Totnes Town Mill Trust (registered no.1059695) was formed to take a long lease of the premises and ensure their appropriate use and preservation. Currently, the Totnes Information Centre and the Totnes Image Bank (photographic archive and display) occupy the accessible public areas in the building.
Entry free when the Information Centre is open. Open six days a week throughout the year but times do vary. Please check opening hours by phoning the above number before travelling to visit.