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Odell Mill

Odell Mill September 2008
Odell Mill September 2008

The Domesday Book of 1086 records a mill in Odell in the Manor of Walter of Flanders. Surviving records do not enable us to determine whether it was on the site of the later mill. The next mention of a mill comes in 1278 when the Hundred Rolls mention two mills. It is likely that this meant two pairs of mill stones under the same roof.

The next mention in any record held by Bedfordshire & Luton Archives & Records Service is not until 1642, when the state of the mill and the tools going with it is recorded at the beginning if the tenancy of Ralph Buckly [GA1582]. The same is recorded in 1658 when Buckly's tenancy ended. The document reads as follows [note the archaic spellings]:

"The 30th day of September 1642.

"A note of the mezering of all the mill stones of my Ladye's mylles of Odelle 1642. A note of all the things dellevered Raffe Bucklee the 30th daie of September. The myllstones messered all by John Moores and Thomas Barnes and Thomas Battisson".

"The runer of the black Ston of the wheate myll is 9 Inchsese at the noges and louke how much the runner wasts so much Raffe he ahoweth for the bed stone of the wheate myll.

"The singgle barly myll next to Pattenham first the runner is messered at the noges 7 Ichssesse and 3 Quartarnes of a Inche for the bedston of the same myll is mezered to be 4 Enchsese and 3 Quarteres of an Enche at the spoute".

"For the Barley myll nexte to the wheate myll the runner is mezered to be at the noges is 5 Inchssese and a halfe at the noges for the bedston of the same myll is mezered to be 3 Quarteres of an Inche at the spote".

"Delevered to Raffe Bucklee 15 myll billes and one Irone bar and one sleage one hackchete and one handsaue 2 gablle roupes and 2 Drauing mylle ropes besidese one strick one pecte 2 toldde dishsese and 3 new leapes and one Old myllston of my Ladies within the myll at my ladies disspoeseing and one new myllston without the myll dore of my Ladiese at hur disspoessinge".

"And one sufficient Loke of the myll dore next to the myll damm".

"And foure Pullyes for the myll ropes Moore Delevered to Raffe Buckly one sufficient Botte Now drest and put into suffisyent Pare one pare of Cheanes and one Llok beellonging to it".

Another hand has written, on the same piece of parchment:

"April the first the millstons measured from Ralph Buckly by John Barnes 1658. Md. the Runner of the Barly mill next Fellmersham meadow att the nogg is ii Inshes thick the height of itt is 5 foot 3 Inshes the bedston to itt is broken the Runner of Barley mill next the warren att the nogg is Two Inches 3 quarterns the height of itt 5 foot 2 Inshes the beston to the same is worne out the Runner of the wheat mill att the nogg is 3 Inshes the bedston to the same was a Little luteston is the True measure".

"Md. Received from Ralph Buckly 15 millbills oi hatchett or handsaw of Iron barr oi sledge oi bushill oi peck 2 Toledishes 2 Tole Tubbs and oi fatt 2 garbe Roapes 2 drawing mill Roapes 4 Pulleyes and oi lock uppon the mill doore".

The document also lists £5/15/2 spent in repairs around the mill which, sadly, does not go into much detail other than the names and wages of the workers.

Odell Mill about 1920
Odell Mill about 1920 [Z50/86/11]

The mill formed part of the Odell Castle Estate, which was owned by the Alston family for three hundred years from 1633 until 1934 and, sadly, few estate records have been deposited with Bedfordshire & Luton Archives & Records Service, making any coherent history of the mill impossible.

If directory evidence is to be believed the mill seems to have largely ceased operations between 1903 and 1910. It is listed in Kelly's Directory for 1903 but the next directory held by Bedfordshire & Luton Archives & Records Service, that for 1910, does not list a miller in Odell, neither do following directories. Despite this a report of 1919 [WW1/AC/DR1] notes that the mill was in working order.

In 1927 Odell was valued under the terms of the Rating and Valuation Act 1925; every piece of land and building in the country was assessed to determine the rates to be paid on it. The valuer visiting the mill [DV1/C166/23] noted that it stood on 1.932 acres and remarked: "Old corn mill now a saw mill, water power". The mill building was built of stone and tile and had three floors, the area of each measuring 40 feet by 30 feet. There was also a range of stone and slate buildings, one of two floors with an area of 19 feet by 32 feet 6 inches and the rest of one floor totalling 19 feet by 74 feet "for storage only". One pair of stones remained though "hardly used, saw bench"

The Odell Castle Estate was put up for sale in 1934 and the sale catalogue [AD1147/19] described the mill thus: "The Very Attractive Property comprising ODELL MILL, MILL RIGHTS, BUILDINGS, ISLAND &c the whole containing an area of about 1 acres 3 roods 5 poles. THE MILL stone built with tiled roof, is a four-storied Building, situate on the Ouse and until recently used as a CORN MILL power being obtained by a large steel water wheel which is still in existence and in good repair, together with inside gear, stones, hoppers &c. The water level is governed by weirs and gates. EXTENSIVE AND DELIGHTFUL VIEWS can be obtained from the Mill. The Property could easily be converted into TEA ROOMS OR A PRIVATE RESIDENCE and THE ISLAND AND GROUNDS USED AS TEA GARDENS. The Range of Stone, Slate and Corrugated-Iron Buildings comprise Granary, 2 Stores with Large Storage Loft".

The mill, like most of the rest of the estate, was purchased at the auction by Lord Luke. The area of the mill was drained in 1945 [X166/68] and two years later planning permission was granted to convert the mill into a private house [RDBP3/855].

 Proposed west elevation after alterations in 1947
Proposed west elevation after alterations in 1947 [RDBP3/855]

A partial list of tenants of the mill can be constructed from various sources:

  • 1642-1658: Ralph Buckly [GA1582];
  • 1704: Richard Matthews [marriage in Parish Register];
  • 1706: James Riseley [ST1071];
  • 1728: Anthony Riseley [burial entry in Parish Register];
  • 1732: William Riseley [X164/3];
  • 1760-1768: John Annis [Parish Register and his will of 1760, proved in 1768];
  • 1839: Swannell [P115/5/1];
  • 1854-1861: Eliphaz Osborn [directories];
  • 1864-1869: Frederic Parsons, also beer retailer and baker [directories];
  • 1877-1885: Frederick Titmas [directories];
  • 1890-1903: Samuel Titmas [directories].