Watlington Mills

WaterMIllWatlington Mills
Marlbrook, the Stream that runs through Watlington, drove 3 Watermills within a mile of each other.  One was in Cuxham and 2 in Watlington.  Both the Watlington Mills were on Robert d’Oilly’s Manor in 1086 and were worth 10s & 8d respectively.  In about 1170 Halinad de Bidun and his wife Agnes, who held this D’Oilly Manor, gave one Mill called Sobeford to Oseney Abbey.  Oseney remained in possession of this Mill until the Dissolution of the Abbey.  It was variously called ‘Sibford‘ and ‘Shefford‘ and can be identified with the later Upper Mill or ‘First‘ Mill.   In the early 16thC, the Farm of this Mill brought in 13s-4d, but was said to have previously been worth 26s-8d a year; the Rent was still 13s-4d when Oseney Abbey was dissolved.  In 1547 the Mill was given to the Bishop of Oxford with the rest of the Rectory Estate.  It continued to be Leased: in 1590 a John Stacy obtained a Watermill from Robert Wright and his wife, and in 1634 John Stacy’s son John received ‘the freedom‘ of Shefford Mill.  This was one of 2 Water-Mills working in 1718; it was owned by the Hornes and then by the Hultons in the 19thC and was known as First Mill or Mill Farm.  Mill Farm was sold in 1897 when the Mill was described as ‘in excellent order and capable of doing a considerable Business,’ but there is no later record of its use as a Mill.

Watlington Watermill on the Marl Brook, was a small 19thC Corn Mill with Miller’s House.  It is now converted and used as a Residence

The other Domesday Mill, known later as the Middle Mill, was likewise given to a Religious House, when c.1215 William Paynell and his wife Sarah, who then held the D’Oilly Manor, gave their Mill, called Wochemulne, with a Messuage, 2 acres, and Timber Rights for the repair of the Mill to the Nuns of Godstow.  The Paynells’ successor, Peter Fitz Herbert, confirmed this Grant, but Godstow must have lost the Mill, probably when the King took the Manor back into his own hands in 1223, for they held no Property in Watlington in the later 13thC.  In 1272 the Mill, worth 26s-8d a year was again attached to the Principal Manor, and in 1285 Edmund, Earl of Cornwall’s Rights in the Mill were acknowledged by a John le Mouner & Robert d’Oilly.  In the 15thC, this Mill was Leased for a term of years: in 1460 the new Tenant took it up for £2 a year and was to repair & mend all parts, the Millstones, Cogs, Floodgates & Woodwork as well as the Tiles & Roof, and to return it in good condition and worth £5.  In William Spythurst renewed his lease for 21 years paying 1s-4d new increment and a Rent of £3-6s-8d a year; in 1608 a Richard Smith paid an annual Rent of £3-8s for the Mill & Hayhouse, which he held on a 21-year Lease.  This may have been the 18thC Water driven, Corn, or Grist Mill, mentioned in 1738, but it is difficult to distinguish between the 2 Watermills in Deeds of this Period since they were both in use.  In the 19thC the Hultons owned this Mill as well as the Rectory Mill, and ‘Watlington Middle Mill‘ was also put up for Sale in 1897.  The last-named appears to be the same as the Steam & Water-Mill occupied by John Tappin in 1893 and was again offered for Sale in 1911 when Moses King was Miller, but there is no later record of it.


In the Middle Ages, a 3rd Mill belonged to the Stonors, who held the Préaux Abbey Estate.  It was a Horse-Mill and probably stood on the Hill. It was described as ‘quite ruined‘ in 1361, and in 1384 as ‘out of repair‘, and eventually it was taken into the Lord’s hands.  In 1481 William Stonor leased it to Christopher Holand of Thame for 80-yrs at 26s-8d a year.  There was still a Horse-Mill on this Estate in the 16thC.  By 1615 John Simeon of Brightwell Baldwin held it: it was called a Horse-Malt-Mill.
Horse Mill is a Mill, sometimes used in conjunction with a Watermill or Windmill, that uses a horse as the power source.  Any Milling process can be powered in this way, but the most frequent use of animal power in Horse Mills was for grinding grain & pumping water.  A 4-Horse Mill requires a large working space.


Watlington Windmill – a Smock Mill which was moved to Nettlebed (above) in 1826 and was burnt down in this location in 1912.  This type of Windmill got its name from its resemblance to Linen Smocks worn by Farmers in an earlier period.



RuinsNettlebedWindmill (1)

Brick Foundations of Nettlebed Windmill, Windshaft with burned Timbers, after the Fire of 1912

A particularly important part of the Sail Frame, the Windshaft is the Cylindrical Axle piece (lying in the ruins) that translates the movement of the Sail into the Machinery within the Windmill.

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