There are now 16 titles in the Iffley History Society series, covering many aspects of the history, social customs and buildings of our village. Some of these have been out of print for a number of years, but all are now available again. The full series is described on the ‘Publications’ tab, but here we will be looking back over the years to feature individual titles in more depth. Copies of all titles are normally available in the Iffley village community shop, or via the Society’s contact email firstname.lastname@example.org.
This month’s title is again one of the very early ones: “Iffley Water Mill – a history” by John Perrott (1999). John was the founder chairman of Iffley History Society [known then as Iffley Local History Society].
Iffley’s water mill is not quite as widely known as our famous church, but it probably dates from around the same time, the last decades of the 12th century. The Victoria County History records that Juliana de St Remy gave 18d rent for the mill to local hospitals, and it appears that either Juliana or her father Robert – the probable builder of the church in about 1170 – may have built the mill itself. There are several other references to the mill over the early centuries, changing ownership a number of times among notable families, until it was purchased by Lincoln College in 1445 – in which ownership it remained for nearly 500 years. John Perrott has drawn extensively on college archives to tell the story of the mill and its millers including inventories and valuation details, rental charges and repair estimates.
In the late 1800s, a report by civil engineer Sir John Hawkshaw into solutions to repeated flooding in Oxford and its surrounding villages came up with a proposal to remove Iffley Lock entirely in order to improve the flow of the river through the city. This would have deprived Iffley Mill of it water power (and also Weirs Mill at South Hinksey and Grandpont Mill at Folly Bridge). The mill in any case was described as “…in very bad repair; there is one small wheel in a very dilapidated condition”. In the event, after much local debate, the removal of Iffley Lock was not proceeded with and the threat to the mill removed. [See IHS publication no. 7: “The 19th century Threat to Iffley Lock”].
But the mill’s days were in any case numbered: the Oxford Times records that on the evening of 8th May 1908, a fire broke at the mill, and despite the considerable efforts of the local fire brigade it was almost completely destroyed. Thus ended over 700 years of a part of Iffley’s history; today there are no structures left standing and the site of the mill is a garden. All that remains are a wall plaque adjacent to the walkway to the lock commemorating its demise and old millstones leaning against the front of the nearby house.
The painting below is thought to date from ~1900, by an unknown artist (private collection, with permission).