A Report by Darren Stone
The Historic England listing for Tilty Mill can be found here: https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1112221
Tilty Watermill is a very rare surviving example of a complete 18th century mill, still standing in the tiny hamlet of Tilty in North West Essex. It has been suggested that the current building dates from the late 18th century.
The mill is Grade II* listed and is currently on Historic England’s Heritage at Risk register.
In 2018 the local authority served an urgent works notice on the mill to make it wind and watertight. This work has been done but more works are required.
The history of the Mill
The first mention of a watermill at Tilty is in 1224 in a lawsuit between local landowner Sir Ralph Moigne and Tilty Abbey, resulting from the monks diverting the course of the river to their newly erected mill and fishponds.
A deed dated 24 February 1330/31 in the Essex Record Office (ERO) also mentions ‘a stream running from Thaxted to Tilty Mill’ (document reference D/DSh/T56).
A possible image of the medieval Tilty mill can be seen on this web page:
After the dissolution of the monasteries (Tilty abbey was one of the smaller monasteries and so was one of the first to be dissolved in 1536), the abbey lands eventually passed to the Maynard Family. Henry Maynard, who later built Easton Lodge, acquired the ex-Abbey lands in 1588, but the mill was listed as in not good condition.
The amazing 1594 Agas map of Lord Maynard’s estate (which can be seen online at the ERO – reference D/DNg P25) shows the mill and abbey complex.
The next reference I found is on a 1730 estate map which clearly shows a watermill.
However, assuming the map is correct, we see that the mill is not in the same position as today’s mill. The old monastic mill was sited on the south bank of where the millpond is today.
In the 1775 will of Sir Charles Maynard, the first Viscount, Joseph Hawes is listed as miller at Tilty for both wind and water mills. He is also the miller at Elmbridge watermill at Little Easton – another Maynard estate mill.
So, in 1775 Tilty had a watermill and a windmill, but there are no further mentions of a windmill after this date. If the windmill was taken down towards the end of the 18th century, did the Maynard estate invest in a new watermill at Tilty resulting in the current handsome brick-built mill we see today?
In 1813 an estate agent’s valuation book in the ERO lists John Webb of Thaxted buying Tilty Mill and farm from Charles Davey for £528. Webb paid £328 for farming stock, £110 for ‘stock in trade in Tilty Mill’ and, interestingly, £95 for ‘workmanship about the mill done by Mr Charles Davey’.
The 1830 will of John Webb senior leaves all his estate to ‘my son John Webb the younger, miller of the parish of Tilty’. Webb junior is listed as miller and farmer in the 1845 post office directory.
In 1863 John Brand is listed as miller at Tilty, and of the nearby Broxted windmill as well.
Various millers are documented over the years, as listed below. (Note:- This is not a comprehensive list)
1733 John Perry
1749 Joseph Hawes (listed as miller of both Tilty watermill and windmill in the 1775 will of Viscount Maynard)
1812 Charles Davey (?)
1813 John Webb (senior), the same John Webb who built Thaxted’s famous windmill).
1830 John Webb Junior
1863 John Brand
1870 George Smith
1874 Hofgard Smith (noted as milling by water and steam in the
1894 Kelley’s directory)
1908 George Smith
1912 Henry Percy Blyth
The mill has a cast iron breast shot water wheel measuring 14ft by 6ft with 3 pairs of stones running from it. A fourth pair of stones were also in the process of installation but not completed.
The mill pond and race and water supply still survive.
The mill was working until approximately 1960, and ground animal feed in its later years.
The mill was listed as a Grade II* building in 1981. Grade II* are ‘particularly important buildings of more than special interest’ and in the top 5% of the listing process.
Darren Stone — 23rd June 2020