A BOOK has been published detailing the history of Chippenham’s flour mill, which stood at the heart of the town for hundreds of years.

It was powered by water from the River Avon and ran the entire length of The Bridge, from the Monkton Hill junction to where Rivo Lounge is now.

Kay Taylor, who also wrote a history of Maud Heath’s Causeway, took on the task of researching the mill’s history to go with the model building that in 2003 Mike Brotherhood made for Chippenham Museum, where she has volunteered for 20 years.

She launched her new book, From Domesday to Demolition – A History of the Flour Mill in Chippenham, at the museum on Friday. (MAR 13)

The 62-year-old grandmother and historian, of Sutton Benger, said: “I didn’t move to the area until 20 years after it was demolished, in 1957, but I really enjoyed the process of researching it.

“It was a lovely old building, with nine sets of windows along the front, three storeys high and a tall roof to accommodate the machinery. A lot of people were upset it was knocked down, but it was not in good condition. It was all part of the sweep away of everything old, soon after they knocked down the Bridge House Hotel, where Superdrug is.”

She spent a year looking through records at Chippenham Museum and Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre, and found the first record of the building in the Domesday Book of 1086.

In 1816, the mill, then operated by Ralph Hale Gaby and Stephen Dowling, was burnt down in an arson attack.

Dr Taylor said: “There was an anonymous letter saying ‘If you don’t drop the price of corn we’ll burn your mill down’. But there wasn’t much they could do really, the price was artificially kept high by corn laws.

“The Napoleonic Wars ended in 1815 and there were a lot of unemployed soldiers, and as they didn’t need uniforms there was a slump in the wool trade.”

Chippenham’s mill was rebuilt in 1817, and the datestone can today be seen in the corridor of Goughs solicitors on New Road, which used to be the mill owner’s house. The nearby 1 St Mary’s Place, now a private house, was the Mechanics Institute, a union for the mill workers.

In 1822, Samuel Dowling was the only Chippenham miller listed in Pigot’s Commercial Directory, but when he faced bankruptcy the mill was taken over by Vallance brothers James and Charles and later by Daniel Collen.

The flour mill was included in the auction of the Monkton Park in 1919, when it was sold for £2,750.

Its final owner in 1956 was H. R. & S. Sainsbury of Trowbridge, and after demolition two pairs of French burr millstones were sold to a firm in Rhodesia for grinding nuts. A final pair are buried in Island Park, though were dug up and displayed in the Yelde Hall temporarily in 1978.

at 4pm.

From Domesday to Demolition is the third in the Chippenham Studies series after Birds Marsh and the canal. All books are priced £6.95 and are available in the museum shop.