Friday, February 22, 2013

Terle Mill

There was once a third mill in Wolverton. There are documented references to it in 1465 and indeed there are traces of a building on the site. This sunken trackway would once have led to the mill and continues the road which now leads to Manor Farm. At the time of taking this photograph the river was in flood so it was not possible to inspect more closely. Perhaps in the summer.

It was certainly not functioning as a mill in 1710 when detailed records of the manor occur so we must assume that its life was not extensive or especially productive. Given its location you could guess that the channel cutting across a bend in the Ouse and bordering Colts Holm, was dug as a mill race.

View from the island bank taken by Chris Gleadell (Red spot marks the mill)

From the surviving deeds it would appear to be in the hands of the Hastings family. The Hastings name appears early in Wolverton and is still prominent in the 15th century so it is probable that their ancestor was one of Manno’s retainers who was granted some land on the Wolverton manor and the family prospered over the centuries. You can at once infer from these documents that the Hastings family was one of substance in 1465.

The first of these 15th century documents is a letter of attorney that defines the lifetime interest of one Richard Savage of Kings Norton in these properties which had come to him through his marriage to Alice Hastings, the heiress of John Hastings. Alice had recently died. Several properties in Wolverton, Stony Stratford, Bradwell, Wicken and Padbury were noted, and most of these manors were once within the barony of Wolverton. The date of this letter is 9th April 1465. There is a second deed, dated 19th April 1465,  which releases Richard Savage’s interest to John Hastings and John Hayle. We might assume that John Hastings was a brother of Alice and John Hayle another brother in law. Probably these two had completed a monetary settlement with Richard Savage for his lifetime interest. Then in a third deed, John Hastings grants his interest to John Hayle. The date of this last document is 12th June 1465.

The narrative we can piece together from these papers was that Thomas Hastings (we learn this from another deed) bequeathed most of his property to his son and heir John, but also made settlements on his daughters. One, Alice, was married to Richard Savage; the other, whose name we do not know, was married to John Hayle. The income from these settlements could be used by their husbands but the property itself would revert to the Hastings. In other words a dowry was given which could only be enjoyed by his daughter and her spouse during their lifetimes. This was not uncommon.

The interested parties in this case plainly took this opportunity to untangle this complocated legacy. Savage was first bought out by John Hastings and John Hayle. Subsequently Hastings sold his interest to John Hayle So by June 1465 Hayle and his wife owned all properties.Through this series of documents we can attach  a narrative for family settlements. The mill was a small part of the deal but its mention does provide us with proof of its existence.

We cannot know when it was built but one is drawn to the idea that it was a later medieval venture. There can scarcely have been a need for a third corn mill in Wolverton  so it might possibly have been a fulling mill. Mechanised fulling mills start to appear in England in the very late 12th century and were apparently common in the 13th. So it is possible that this mill was a 13th century foundation but there is no documentary or even (for the moment) any archaeological evidence to help us. The mill is only mentioned in these three documents written with months of each other in 1465.

Woollen cloth is very coarse at first weave so a process was developed in the middle ages of beating out the cloth with flat hammers, together with plenty of water and a clay which was high in magnesium oxide content. This was known as Fuller's Earth. The nearest supply of this to Wolverton was the greensand of Woburn Sands. The work was extremely hard so the mechanization of the process, first developed in France in the late 11th century, was a great development.

As I said earlier, I am only speculating that it might have been a Fulling Mill. The location, with its flat land on the meadow would certainly lend itself to stretching out the cloth to dry, As far as the name is concerned it may derive from twirl which was simply descriptive of the action of the mill. There is a Turl Street in Oxford which derives from twirl.

In the end there may not have been as much demand for the fulling of cloth locally. It was a hard process. Wolverton men may have preferred to raise their sheep, shear them, bundle up the wool, takes their comfortable profits and buy the finished cloth from elsewhere. Certainly it was abandoned before 1700, and possibly much earlier.

[1] Deeds 345, 148, 499

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