DISCOVER THE WINDMILLS AND WATERMILLS OF SUFFOLK
Take a look across the Suffolk countryside and it isn’t long before you will see either a windmill or watermill. Many are sadly now redundant but there are still some that are in full working order, still milling flour or pumping water. Some of the mills have been converted into luxury accommodation, whilst others have teamed up with bakeries, selling the most delicious and freshest of bread.
The history of the mills goes back centuries, with the earliest recorded windmill being in Bury St Edmunds in c1191. You will notice there are different styles of architecture for the windmills, namely the post mill, tower mill or smock mill.
Smock mills were invented by the Dutch, Suffolk’s close neighbour and were constructed with a timber-framed tower, although the Suffolk construction differs slightly. These mills would have been mainly used for the drainage of marsh land.
It has to be said, that although not entirely flat, Suffolk rivers suffer from not having a huge flow of water. Because of this, the Suffolk watermills are much scarcer than the windmills. However, due to their greater stature, many more have survived.
Throughout the county, the water mills and tide mills would have been used in industry for the production of silk, papermaking, oil manufacture, flax spinning as well as traditional corn milling.
Woodbridge Tide Mill at night (c) Jane Dewell
1. WOODBRIDGE TIDE MILL
You will find Woodbridge Tide Mill, an iconic building, standing on the banks of the River Deben in this picturesque market town.
Whenever the tides are suitable, the mill breaks into work. It is now a living history museum so you can really see close-up how the wood and metalwork together with the flow of the water to grind the grain into flour.
Milling and turning days are scheduled throughout the summer months when the mill is open daily until the beginning of October.
After visiting the mill, the town centre of Woodbridge is just a short walk away. Here you can explore a superb selection of interesting, independent shops, cafes and restaurants. A lovely walk to take is the Woodbridge and River Deben walk offering stunning views across the estuary.
2. MUSEUM OF EAST ANGLIAN LIFE
At the Museum of East Anglian life, in the centre of the market town of Stowmarket, where both the Eastbridge windpump and the Alton water mill can be viewed.
The Alton mill house dates from 1765 although an extension was added in the Victorian period. Both the mill and cart lodge were relocated from Holbrook in 1973 to save them when the Alton Water reservoir was being constructed.
Demonstrations and tours take place regularly bringing the mill to life with the sound of water and the clunk of the wheel.
The other historic mill on the Museum’s 70-acre site is the Eastbridge windpump. After falling into a state of disrepair over nr Leiston it was moved and re-erected at the museum. Restoration work is now being carried out on the mill to ensure its survival for another generation.
3. BARDWELL MILL
Bardwell Mill close to Bury St Edmunds is also home to Wooster’s Bakery, selling traditional and artisan bread and cakes.
The mill, again, like so many others, has had its chequered past. During the great storm of 1987, the mill suffered terrible damage and the sails came crashing to the ground.
Now restored the mill is open regularly throughout the year courtesy of a team of volunteers.
Bardwell Mill (c) Ashley Dace
4. FLATFORD MILL
The pretty hamlet of Flatford is home to Flatford Mill. This mill took on fame as it is in many of the paintings by the famous artist, John Constable. The Constable family were in fact owners of the mill for over 100 years between 1742 to 1846.
Although you cannot go inside the building, it now used as a study centre, you can still see the mill from both the front and the back.
There is plenty to do in the village, including the National Trust’s John Constable exhibition and tours, river walks and boat trips.
Flatford Mill in Constable Country
5. STAY IN A LUXURIOUS CONVERTED WATERMILL
For over 1000 yrs there has been a mill at Tuddenham and now you can stay in this converted luxurious, boutique hotel. Not only can you enjoy the unique experience of staying in this historic mill, but you can also indulge yourself in the award-winning AA 3* restaurant.
Water still continues to play an important part in the charm and daily life of the Mill, where careful conservation has created a haven for wildlife, including otters.
Enjoy a stay at Tuddenham Mill