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Aspley Mills


 Aspley Guise Windmill
Aspley Guise windmill about 1900

Aspley Guise had, at one time, two watermills and a windmill, all lying together close to the boundary with what then was Wavendon and now is Woburn Sands [Buckinghamshire]. They stood, unsurprisingly, in Mill Lane, today an extension of Burrows Close which becomes Mill Way and has a junction with Salford Road. A mill is noted as belonging to the Manor of Aspley in the Domesday Book of 1086 and two mills are noted in a licence to alienate the manor of 1560.

In 1652 Edmund Hardinge of Aspley Guise demised to trustees for sale two mills and a windmill with all "Holmes, millpondes, milldames meadows" etc [Ref.HW14], all of which lay together. The next reference to the mills is about 1670 [Ref.HW24] in the one surviving page of a lease from Mercy Cartwright to Charles Fenn, presumably of the mills, as there is a stipulation that the tenant should not to take cat fish out of the Mill Pond except with an angle rod and he was to find materials and workmanship for "Cogges and Rounds and sayle barrs".

In 1692 James Albright of Woburn, maltster made a six year lease to Francis Smith of Aspley Guise, maltster [Ref.NC1120] of cottage with use of oat meal mill and barn next the yard lately belonging to house of Edward Winch

The next document mentioning the mills held by Bedfordshire & Luton Archives & Records Service is in 1758 when Richard How senior conveyed a windmill and 5 acres in Windmill Piece, Aspley Guise as well as two watermills in Aspley Guise and the miller's house adjoining the water mills, all in the occupation of John Wilbee to Richard How junior [Ref.V354-356]. By 1796 Sarah How, widow of Briggins How, was the owner of the mills and in that year she released them to a trustee in order to bar dower [Ref.V359-360].

Aspley Guise Mill
Aspley Guise mills, the remains of the watermill in the foreground [Z251/18]

The final document (as opposed to image) held at Bedfordshire & Luton Archives & Records Service is in the collection of the Duke of Bedford showing that he must have purchased the mills from the How family. The document [Ref.R4/608/18/21] is a report on the Aspley Mills made for the Duke on August 9th 1816 and reads as follows: "Having inspected the Premises and Machinery of these Mills and considered the Agreement by which the same are held by Thomas Coleman there appears some small repairs to be done by him previously to his quitting the same - these are pointed out to him and Mr.G.Hall the proposed incoming Tenant and are promised to be done by Mr.T.Coleman and to be seen done by Mr.G.Hall previously to his entering".

"In the Windmill the following partial Improvements appear to have been made by Coleman - namely a Pair of 4 feet 2 inch French Stones added with Horns and Vat to the same. A pair of 4 feet Peak Stones now partly worn down and Gear for Driving the Sack Rope. The French Stones were purchased and put in by Coleman in place of some partly worn down and now removed to the Water Mill. The Peak Stones were put in place of others that were worn out at the time Coleman entered and now lying under the Windmill. For the whole of these Coleman demands £45.16.0 and unless allowed it intends replacing the Stones that he found in the Mill. This it is conceived he has a right to do but it is doubtless most advantageous to all parties that the same should remain".

"In most Mills the Stones, Shafts, Wheels and all the Primary Machinery belong to the Landlord and the Straps, Ropes, Sail Cloths, Battery Cloths, Moveable Troughs &c to The Tenant, for these latter Coleman claims a valuation which is offered to the Incoming tenant and he will pay for but he objects to Paying for the Stones without which the Mill would be unfit for work and it therefore seems adviseable [sic] that they should be Purchased on Mr.Hoare's account".

Censuses show that Henry Durrant was miller here from at least 1841 to at least 1871. He was from Preston in Suffolk and had been born in 1798; the 1871 census noted that he also farmed 27 acres and employed two men and a boy. His wife Elizabeth was local, having been born in Wavendon in 1803. By the time of the 1881 census, however, the mill was occupied by a 36 year old coal heaver from Aspley Guise named Andrew Dolton, indeed Henry Durrant does not appear in a directory of 1877 and in no subsequent directory is a miller listed. This, of course, suggests that the mill either closed when Henry Durrant died or left, between 1871 and 1877, or dwindled to such a low level of trade as not to be worth listing.

The Mill Farm is still [Mar 2007] in existence but all trace of the mills themselves has now gone, the windmill beneath the golf course (which was laid out in 1914) and the watermills beneath Burrows Close.