– – – EXPLORING THE COUNTRYSIDE AND LANES OF DORSET – – –
So we are now at Part 4 of our Dorset Mills theme for this week, and today we feature a mill with a past! It is another mill that sits in a beautiful location although unfortunately it is not open to the public. This is Fiddleford Mill.
Fiddleford Mill stands on the banks of the River Stour just a mile or two down stream from Sturminster Newton. It is a delightful and quaint mill that is part of Fiddleford Manor, a grand house that is now in the hands of English Heritage. The house itself is open to the public but the mill isn’t, although it is still well worth a visit.
The current building is thought to date from the 18th century but since the inscribed stone referred to below dates from 1566, and parts of the nearby manor house date from the 14th century, it is clear there must have been an earlier mill on the site. Indeed it is thought that there has been a mill here for over 1,000 years although it is likely that the earlier mill was actually on the site now occupied by the manor house itself.
Inserted into the wall of the mill to the right of the door is a stone containing the following words, dedicated to a former miller. It dates from 1566 and reads as follows:
‘He that wyll have here any thynge don
Let him com friendly he shal be welcom
A frynd to the owner and enemy to no man
Pass all here freely to com when they can
For the tale of trothe I do always professe
Miller be true disgrace not thy vest
If falsehood appere the fault shal be thine
And of sharpe ponishment think me not unkind
Therefore to be true yt shall the behove
[to] please god chefly [that liveth] above.’
So, what of that ‘past’ that I referred to earlier? Well back in the 18th and early 19th century, this building was used to store contraband. This would have been smuggled in at Hengistbury and Stanpit Marsh and carried up the river to be stored here before being distributed in the local area. As someone who has kayaked up the river, I can’t see that this would have been an easy task as in places the river becomes quite shallow.
The surrounding countryside of the Stour Valley is beautiful with lots of wildlife to watch and the ever present rippling of water. The route to the mill itself takes you past the very unusual crescent shaped stepped weir and also the row of old sluice gates.
There is history aplenty in this area, and some delightful walking that can easily take in both Fiddleford and Sturminster Newton Mills as you follow the river and its meadows. This is a lovely place to wile away an hour or two.
Thanks for joining me on my visit today.
Your friend The Dorset Rambler
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