The Kennet and Avon Canal with part of Ham Mills shown. Photograph by Nick Young.

Ham Mill or Mills?

Thatcham once covered a much larger area than it does today (a future post will detail the changing boundary) and until the 20th century Ham Mill was part of Thatcham and NOT Newbury. Ham Mill was once part of a large estate known simply as Ham. One mill stood near where Newbury Manor Hotel is today, let’s call it the north mill, was powered by the River Lambourn and is confirmed in Willis’ map of 1768. A mill at Ham can be dated back to the early 14th century with certainty, however this Ham was not mentioned in Domesday and presumably just fell under Thatcham. This begs the question is Ham Mill one of the Domesday mills of Thatcham?

It would appear that the name started to change during the 18th century, many documents simply referred to Ham Mill before this. An agreement from 1764 records Ham Mills whilst Willis’ map of 1768 has Ham Mill. In the case of many mills this is likely that this is because a mill had more than one grind stone, or perhaps more than one water wheel, and hence the plural mills. This chopped and changed only settling around 1826 when most documents refer to Ham Mills. The 1815 enclosure map clearly shows two separate mills, the north mill and one on the River Kennet, let’s call this the south mill. It is assumed the two together are collectively called Ham Mills. Each have their own buildings including millers cottages.

The south mill building, I believe, dates to the 19th century, but is most likely to be built on the site of an earlier mill. The millers house, known as Stowers, is to the west and dates to the 17th century which most likely means there was indeed an earlier mill here. The first Ordnance Survey map of 1881 clearly identifies Ham Mill as the south mill and simply records the north mill as “Corn Mill, disused.” Today the north mill has gone and it is the south mill, which still stands, that is referred to as Ham Mill.

More work is required to unravel exactly what is going on here, which was the first mill? When was the first mill?