Three Mills - Step back in time at Britain's oldest tidal mill

By Newham.com

House Mill and 3  Mills Studios

House Mill - the largest existing tidal mill in the world

Three Mills - Step back in time at Britain's oldest tidal mill

Three Mills and its surrounding waterways are a beautiful conservation area for industrial heritage and astonishingly abundant wildlife. A meander alongside the many river channels and canals offers tranquility, and a living lesson on an era of huge technological and social change.

A cobbled approach leads to a cluster of listed buildings on the island, most notably the House Mill, the largest existing tidal mill in the world. The Domesday book records eight mills on this stretch of the River, which at different points in history ground corn for local bakers and also for the London gin trade. The House Mill was rebuilt 1776 but burnt down and was rebuilt soon after. A coat of arms on the south façade of the Millers House bears the date and initials of owner Daniel S. Bisson.

The House Mill and the adjacent Clock Mill (no public access) are two of the few remaining Tide Mills left in the UK. Both mills were rebuilt to grind grain for distillation into Gin. The subsequent early 19th century House Mill has been lovingly restored, with much of the impressive internal machinery remaining and is now run by a Charitable Trust. Guided tours of the mill are regularly available and there is a visitor centre and café serving fresh food. See www.housemill.co.uk for full details.

The adjacent 3 Mills Studios is a former distillery. Now London's largest film and television facility, it has a host of major production credits to its name. The world famous Olympic Ceremonies led by Film Director Danny Boyle were all rehearsed and planned here. Please note there is no public access to the studios.

Most of us choose not to dwell on the subject of sewage, but the walk along the waterways of Three Mills is a good time to acknowledge the innovations of the engineer Joseph Bazalgette, which brought huge improvements to the health, welfare and life expectancy of Londoners. Over 10,000 people died from cholera in one year alone in the mid-19th century and the foul stink of the Thames overcame everyone who went near it. The Northern Outfall Sewer and the beautiful Abbey Mills Pumping Station near Three Mills, are testament to Bazalgette's expertise. The diversion and treatment of disease carrying waste created a safe drinking water supply for Londoners. As you stroll along, you might reflect that the problem of pollution is not just confined to the late 20th century, and hope that our determination and ingenuity will continue.