Our Heritage

1086 to 1304

The Doomsday Book in 1086 is the earliest documentation showing this site to have been used for milling. The site was part of the Manor of Botley and owned by Ralph de Mortimer, an important French nobleman who fought on the side of King William I at the Battle of Hastings in 1066.

From the description and historical knowledge of milling it has been deduced that there were probably two waterwheels each driving one pair of stones. Hence the site has always been referred to as Botley Mills and not mill. Also as the Doomsday Book refers to the previous Saxon owner (Cheping) and as some evidence has been found of Botley having a settlement in pre-roman times it is likely that milling has taken place on this site for well over a thousand years.

The mills remained in possession of the Mortimer family until the early part of the Fourteenth Century. However during that time the manor and hence the mills were held on their behalf by a family who had taken on the name of Botley. In 1304 the entire manor including the mills was granted under a trust to the order of St. Elizabeth of Hungary in Winchester. It has been said that monks of the order of St. Elizabeth operated the mill during this time but it is more likely that it was leased to a tenant miller.

1536 to 1848

During the English dissolution of the monasteries (1536 to 1539) the Manor of Botley and hence the mills was given to one Thomas Wriothesly who was a commissioner of Henry VIII and later was made Earl of Southampton. It is believed that the oldest part of the existing buildings date from this time.

The third Earl died without a male heir and the manor, including Botley Mills, passed by marriage to the Dukes of Portland. For about the next two hundred and fifty years, the Portlands leased the Mills to various tenant millers.

Britain’s involvement in the wars of Europe in the second half of the Eighteen Century caused a significant increase in the population along the south coast of England. The demand for flour in the area rose with the increase in population and in 1757 plans were drawn up for the expansion of “His Grace the Duke of Portlands Mills at Botley.” The present centre building gets its appearance from this date. At the end of the Napoleonic era peace in Europe resulted in a fall in population in the south coast region. The Portlands had sold the mills by this time and by 1819 they were put up for sale again. During this time at least one of its tenants had been made bankrupt.

In 1838 the site was bought by W and J Clarke and the Mills traded under that name until 1921. As well as grinding and trading cereals, the company also traded in coal, importing it in by barges which came up the River Hamble at high tide. Grain was also imported this way until 1914. For a short time between 1830 and 1848 paper was also manufactured on this site.

1870 to Present Day

The last two waterwheels were installed in about 1870 and were pitch back suspension wheels. This design represented the height of waterwheel technology. The inclined gates controlling these wheels are still in place. Sometime between 1900 and 1910 these wheels were replaced by a turbine built by Armfield of Ringwood.

This turbine drove two pairs of French burr stones which remained in full commercial operation until 1985. Turbine and stones are all still in place.

In 1921 the Botley Flour Milling Company Limited was formed and by 1928 control of it was sold to the Appleby family and remains in their ownership today. As a family the Appleby’s have been involved in milling for about three hundred years, owning mills in the North of England before moving to the South at the time of the purchase of Botley Mills.

In the latter half of this century, the business of manufacture and supply of animal feeds has grown and following a serious fire in 1980 a new feed mill was built on another site close to the M27 motorway.

Commercial white flour production continued at Botley until 1990 and stoneground flour until 1993, when for economic reasons production ceased. Normally when a mill closes in the United Kingdom the owners are able to sell the milling capacity and the machinery is destroyed. In the case of Botley the decision was made not to do this but to preserve the machinery.