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Salford Mill

Salford Mill about 1900 [Z50/98/11]
Salford Mill about 1900 [Z50/98/11]

A mill was recorded at Salford in the Domesday Book of 1086; it was worth nine shillings and fourpence. This would have been a watermill since windmills were unknown in England before the last quarter of the 12th century, around a hundred years after Domesday Book. The later mill may well be on the same site or very close to it.

The first reference after this in any document held by Bedfordshire & Luton Archives & Records Service is not until 1750 when Richard How of Aspley Guise, in a letter to Sir Boteler Charnock of Salford noted that the miller had damaged Salford Ford by stopping up a drain [HW69].

In 1802 John Goodman of Crawley Hall Farm held the lease to the mill. In his will of that year [R6/29/3/6] he devised the elase to his daughter Elizabeth. Thomas Goodman was the miller in 1827 and in his will of that year devised his lease of the mill and all his stock-in-trade to two trustees to carry on the business for his wife, Elizabeth and his children. The will was witnessed by William Perry, a grinder at the mill and was not proved until 1836 [WE197].

The Bedfordshire Times of 1st July 1910 reported a disastrous fire at the mill in the following purple prose: "The sun rose on Saturday morning upon a fair scene on the Bucks and Beds border, near which the little village of Salford nestles amidst the trees. A pleasant thatched old English homestead with a mill attached to it. Upon the rivulet whose cataract provided power for the mill the ducks paddled lazily, and the aquatic vegetation glistened in the early summer morning light, yet by the time the sun was high in the heavens, although the homestead, the ducks and the wild flowers were there, all that remained of the mill was a heap of bricks and mortar intermingled with charred beams and contorted, rusty machinery, and from the debris a column of smoke wreathed lethargically upward until now and then a passing gust would fan up a flame, and the watchers had once more to work for the mastery. It was about five o'clock when Mr. Bass, the miller, and his son started the machinery of the mill, and it was only half an hour later when they and a passer-by noticed smoke issuing from the windows of the mill. The seat of the fire was immediately discovered, but though there was no lack of willing helpers from the village and neighbourhood and plenty of water, they could not subdue the flames, which, fanned by a gusty wind, found all the weak spots on which to feed their voracious appetite and ere long the mill was like a fiery furnace. The Woburn Brigade had been sent for and turned up in good time. By judicious work they succeeded in confining the fire to the mill, and away from the thatched house on the one side and the barn on the other. After a time the roof and floors collapsed, covering with an impenetrable heap of red hot debris the corn and flour in the basement of the mill, which unlike the building was uninsured; 150 quarters of corn and about 1,000 empty sacks were thus destroyed. Mr. Bass, who is the tenant of the mill – the owners being All Souls College, Oxford – estimated his loss at about £400, and great sympathy is felt for him and his family, as the loss was not completely covered by insurance. It is believed that the fire was caused by the friction of the stones in a corner on the first floor. Appearances point to the fact that it originated in a corner, for on Monday – two days after – the only place from which smoke issued was in one of the corners where the stones were. The only dwelling-place which was involved in the fire was a bedroom between the house and the mill. The whole of the wall on the mill side of this room had fallen in, leaving the other par of the room intact. Perhaps the most peculiar thing in the fire was the fact that the thatch upon the house was absolutely untouched, although it must have been dry".

"Fortunately at two wet drills in the previous week, all the Woburn's brigade appliance were thoroughly tested and found in a satisfactory state. There are 500 feet of sound leather and canvas hose. The brigade is at full strength, the two recent vacancies being filled by Messrs. Charles King and Arthur Tyers – the last named by reason of his mechanical abilities, being a decided acquisition with respect to the supervision of the pumps and internal arrangements of the engine".

The rebuilt mill was valued in 1927 as part of the 1925 Rating Valuation Act. In his notes [DV1/C57/37] the valuer noted that the mill was still owned by All Souls College, Oxford and tenanted by Frank H. Summerford. All Souls had been Lord of the Manor of Salford since the early 15th century

The mill comprised a wheel house containing the mill wheel, the cog pit and three store houses. The valuer noted "Impossible to estimate sack capacity. In best conditions about 2 quarters per diem. In summer often less than one quarter". He noted that the mill stone was of 4 foot 6 inches diameter and also noted: "Tenant is responsible for wheel up to the floats and all machinery. Landlord remainder. Could not see tenant place shut up". He concluded: "Small place. Looks very seldom used" though he added "Grinds 3 times a day now".

Hugh Howes in his booklet Bedfordshire Mills published by Bedfordshire County Council Planning Department in 1983 states: "Salford Mill was kept at work until river works required the removal of the wheel during the Second World War. The present structure was built in 1911. It is a small mill with only one set of stones. No doubt the combination of a 16 feet wheel and an 8 feet fall gave it more than adequate power. Outside there is a metal bound millstone inscribed "Hughes & Sons, London".

Directories for Bedfordshire, which were not published annually but every few years, give the names of the tenants of the mill from 1847 to 1936 and the following names are taken from these directories. The dates are the dates the name first and last appears not the dates of residence:

1847-1871: Mrs. Elizabeth Goodman (presumably the widow of Thomas who died in 1836);
1890: William Perry;
1894: Samuel Bass;
1903-1914: John Bass;
1920-1936: William and Frank Summerford.