The history of The Town Mill

William the Conqueror, in the Domesday Book, first recorded a mill in Lyme in 1086, and a court record indicates that there was probably a mill on the present Town Mill site in 1280.

An historic adventure

If you buy a bag of Town Mill flour (and we hope you do because it does make exceedingly good cakes) you'll be picking up a little bundle of history. For the Town Mill has been delivering flour to the local community since at least 1340 when King Edward III granted the good burghers of Lyme a licence to build a new watermill, parts of which still exist today.

In fact the Domesday Book records a mill in Lyme in 1086 (when, the book suggests, Osmund the baker sold his bread to the likes of Durand the carpenter, Godfrey the scullion and Goscelm the cook) so the mill could actually be nearly a thousand years old.

Lyme Regis (the Regis came in 1284 when the town was granted a charter by King Edward I) got a severe battering during the English Civil War when, in 1644, the town had to withstand a lengthy siege by Royalist forces. The town successfully fought off the Royalists but the mill that had stood on the site for 300 years was badly damaged. Within four years, however, the mill had been rebuilt and the main walls of the mill you see today date back to this time.

Osmund the baker and his successors milled flour and baked their bread in much the same way for centuries. But by the end of the 19th century milling technology was changing, grain was being imported and the decline had set in. In 1926 the Town Mill closed and in 1936 the Victorian iron waterwheel was removed. The fabric of the mill was allowed to decay until, by the 1970s, it had become derelict. It was to be many years before The Town Mill was saved from dereliction and able to take its place once more as the jewel in Lyme's crown.

The story of The Town Mill, from its primitive milling to the sophistication of early Victorian entrepreneurs, is recounted by the volunteer millers to all who visit, and illustrates the history of England and its people. So that bag you take home with you may be full of flour, but it's also packed full of history – you might like to think about it when baking your cakes.

how-to-find-usOn 26 May 2001 grain was milled again for the first time in 75 years.
More on the restoration story led by a group of volunteers red-arrow

Milling timeline

  • 1340 First evidence of The Town Mill
  • 1500s Waterpower the most important source of motive power in UK
  • 1600s Siege of Lyme 1644, mill damaged. Mill rebuilt, new water wheel
  • 1728 Mill modifed: one set of stones to grind malt, one to grind flour
  • 1797 New internal wheel, more power
  • 1800s Industrial revolution. Population doubled. Over 20,000 watermills in UK
  • 1846 Corn laws repealed, grain imported. Huge pressure from imports and steam driven mills
  • 1888 New machinery and iron wheel
  • 1896 Small roller mill installed in attempt to compete
  • 1926 The Town Mill closed

Town Mill c.1888