River Beult at Yalding
several sources west of AshfordTQ 980 390
The River Beult (// BELT) is a tributary of the River Medway. It has several sources west of Ashford, including one at Woodchurch. It then flows through Headcorn. At Hunton, 7 furlongs (1.4 km) above Yalding it is joined by the major stream of the River Teise. Town bridge lies 10 miles (16 km) from 1⁄4Allington, it is the longest mediaeval bridge in Kent. The river enters the Medway at Yalding. The River Beult is crossed by the railway between Headcorn and Staplehurst. The bridge was the scene of the Staplehurst rail crash in 1865 in which Charles Dickens was involved.
The River Beult was subject to a Land Drainage Improvement Scheme in the 1930s. This led to the river being widened, deepened and straightened from Smarden to Yalding. Despite this action the river is designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest. It is one of the few clay rivers in England and Wales to retain much of its characteristic flora. It hasn't been heavily embanked like most clay rivers found in the midlands, although the majority of trees were removed. The lack of shade coupled with retained areas of grazing means there are many wildlife rich margins to the river, with nearly 100 different species of aquatic and marginal plants recorded.
The river is subject to significant agricultural run off and flows from wastewater treatment works. Hence despite recent improvements, still suffers water quality problems. At one time (around 70 years ago) the water was apparently crystal clear. This is certainly not the case today.
Upstream of Smarden the river retains its natural meandering morphology, although it is still subject to water level management (raising water levels in the summer, and dropping them in the winter). The vegetation communities are not so interesting here as the river is smaller, heavily tree lined and a greater proportion of riverside land is in arable cultivation.
The River Beult and its tributaries powered a number of watermills. From source to mouth these were:-
Cheveney Mill, Hunton
TQ 708 496 waterwheel was replaced by a turbine made by Messrs Drake & Fletcher of Maidstone. During the Second World War, Italian Prisoners of War were billeted in the mill building. The building survives today, converted into a house.This was a corn mill, latterly converted to generate electricity c.1900. The
A Domesday site, the mill was still in existence in 1336.
Watermills on the tributaries
The River Beult is unusual in that the majority of its watermills were not on the main river itself, but on the tributaries.
A stream rises at Angley Woods, Cranbrook and flows into the Beult at Frittenden. It powered these mills:-
Pin Pond Mill, Cranbrook
This may have been a fulling mill.
Spratsbourne Mill, Cranbrook
The miller here was Edmund Luckhurst in 1656 and 1660.
Dog Kennel Mill, Cranbrook
An old fulling mill site.
Friezley Mill, Cranbrook
TQ 771 384 approx
An old fulling mill site.
Angley Mill, Cranbrook
Hockeredge Mill, Cranbrook
TQ 775 387
This mill was sold to Alexander Courthope in 1523, and his son sold it to Robert Hovenden in 1551. It remained in the Hovenden family for many years, until at least 1704. The mill later passed to the Bonnick family.
Hartridge (Hartridge Manor) Mill, Cranbrook
TQ 774 395
This was a corn mill. In the mid nineteenth century it was worked in conjunction with the Union Mill, the miller being Mr Russell. The mill building was standing in 1974, devoid of machinery. It probably had a breast shot waterwheel.
Paley (Hawkridge) Mill, Cranbrook
TQ 777 400
The mill building was standing in April 1974, devoid of machinery.
Lovehurst Mill, Staplehurst
This was a corn mill. John Foreman, farmer, of Horsmonden hired the mill for 14 years in November 1854.
Maplehurst Mill, Frittenden
TQ 803 416
This is an old established corn mill site. The mill survives and retains most of its machinery. It has a cast iron overshot wheel driving three pairs of millstones. On 18 June 1557 the miller, William Allin and his wife Katherine were burned at the stake at Fairmeadow, Maidstone, along with five other Protestants. The Allins had fed the poor, sold corn at half price and read scriptures to people.
The earliest surviving part of the mill is dated 1756, David Papillon being the then owner. The mill was extended c.1890, when a steam engine was installed. The original mill building having a peg tile roof with the extension being roofed in slate. The cast iron waterwheel is 10 feet (3.05 m) diameter and 8 feet (2.44 m) wide, mounted on a wooden axle, driving a cast iron pit wheel with 92 wooden cogs. The cast iron wallower has 32 teeth and is carried on a wooden upright shaft, driving a cast iron Great Spur Wheel with 120 cogs. This drove three pairs of millstones. The stones are two pairs of 48 inches (1.22 m) diameter Peak stones and one pair of 44 inches (1.12 m) diameter French Burr stones by Hughes of Dover & London. The Crown Wheel is cast iron, with 18 teeth, it drove a total four layshafts which drove several machines including a smutter and a Feltons Patent American Grist Mill.
The mill stands on the parish boundary of Frittenden and Staplehurst, with the majority of the mill in the former parish. It was working until the winter of 1947/8, when the machinery was damaged through being iced up.
Cherry Tree Farm, Frittenden
Tributary of the Angley Brook
A tributary of the above stream flows into the pond of Hartridge mill. It powered a mill downstream of Mad Dog Shaw.
The Hammer Stream powered watermills at:-
Hammer Mill, Biddenden
This was the most easterly iron furnace in the Weald. In the time of Queen Elizabeth I it was in the ownership of Sir Richard Butler. The mill was replaced by a corn mill in the mid seventeenth century. The Hammer Pond formerly extended to 30 acres (120,000 m2).
Hammer Mill (corn), Biddenden
This corn mill stands some 200 yards (180 m) south-west of the site of the furnace. The brick mill building is three storeys high, with a slate roof. The overshot waterwheel was 12 feet (3.66 m) diameter and 6 feet (1.83 m) wide, mounted on an 8 inches (210 mm) square 1⁄4cast iron axle. It drove a cast iron pit wheel with 88 wooden cogs. This drove a cast iron wallower with 28 teeth mounter on a wooden upright shaft. The cast iron Great Spur Wheel has 128 cogs and drove four pairs of millstone at one time. The three surviving pairs of stones are two pairs of French Burrs and one pair of Peak stones. The Compass-arm Crown Wheel is of all wood construction, and has 48 cogs. It drove a layshaft and the sack hoist. The mill last worked for trade in 1928, a Mr Hall being the last miller.
The site of this mill was marked by Mill Field and Millpond Field on the 1840 tithe map.
Tributary of the Hammer Stream
A stream rises at Sissinghurst and flows into the Hammer Stream downstream of Hammer Mill, Biddenden. it runs for 7 miles (11 km) passing through Sissinghurst and Frittenden and then joins the River Beult at Headcorn. There are many footpaths crossing it and many beautiful walks typical of the Kentish countryside. It powered a watermill:-
New Mill, Sissinghurst
TQ 802 381 This mill was mentioned in rate books of 1687 and 1689.
The Crane Brook rises at Hartley, it powered a number of mills before joining the Hammer Stream at Biddenden.
Upper Mill, Cranbrook
This mill stood in the area now known as "The Bottoms". The Upper Pond is mentioned in 1503, and in 1545 Thomas Roberts granted a lease to Thomas Burgess of Cranbrooke of the "uppermost mmyll ponde" - information given in the lease suggests that the Upper Mill was a fulling mill then.
Anthony's Mill, Cranbrook
This mill was mentioned in 1416 and again in 1447, its location being in Mellane (Mill Lane). In 1464 a rental entry mentions "Anthony's Mill Pond.
fulling mill, Cranbrook
This was located near the present day Moat Farm. The mill pond would have been some 10 acres (40,000 m2) in area. It was most likely a fulling mill.
The site of this mill is occupied by the present day Lake Chad. In the early 17th century the millers were Francis Chittenden (1634) followed by John Chittenden (1654–69). The mill was a corn mill.
The first mention of this mill was in 1353 when the mill was leased. John Bettenham was the lessee in 1416, being the son of Stephen Bettenham. The mill was leased to Peter Courtnope in 1451 and again in 1472, by then probably a fulling mill. The land the mill stood on now forms part of Plumers Farm.
A long lost mill site, probably a fulling mill.
Tributary of the Crane Brook
A tributary of the Crane Brook rises at Swattenden, it powered five mills, including those at:-
The Freight, Cranbrook
A fulling mill.
Baker's Cross, Cranbrook
This fulling mill at Baker's Cross was first mentioned in 1500 as "Hancock's Mill". It may have been a fulling mill or a corn mill then. In 1516 it had been replaced by "Thomas Sheffe's new fulling mill". The mill seems to have ceased working by 1604, when a dyehouse was in use at the site.
Further tributary of the Crane Brook
A tributary of the Crane Brook flows through the town. It powered:-
John Tooth bought a house in Stone Street, Cranbrook in the late eighteenth century. he built a small factory at the back of this house in which he made hats. It was powered by a small waterwheel. The building survives today as a private house.
Stream at Ulcombe
A stream rises at Ulcombe and flows into the beult at Hawkenbury. It powered a watermill.
Upper Mill, Ulcombe
This was probably the Domesday mill recorded at Ulcombe. Chegworth mill was also known as Lower Mill thus this mill would be the Upper Mill.
Stream at Chart Sutton
A stream rises at Chart Sutton and flows into the Beult at Cross At Hand. It powered a watermill.
Chart Mill, Chart Sutton
TQ 794 493
This mill is a timber framed mill on a single storey brick base. The waterwheel was some 24 feet (7.32 m) diameter and 4 feet (1.22 m) wide, it was removed during World War Two. The cast iron axle is 9 inches (230 mm) square, and bears the legend "WEEKS & SON, MAIDSTONE 1875" on one face. No other machinery is known to exist in the mill, the lower floor having been filled with concrete when the mill was converted, the upper floors being used as an office.
- Jessop, Frank (1966). Kent History Illustrated. Maidstone: Kent Education Committee.
- Nock, O.S. (1983). Historic Railway Disasters (3rd edition ed.). London: Ian Allan Ltd. pp. pp15–19. ISBN 0-7110-0109-X.
- Yalding Chronology
- Mills Archive
- Fuller & Spain (1986). Watermills (Kent and the Borders of Sussex). Maidstone: Kent Archaeological Society. pp. pp72–73. ISBN 0-906746-08-6.
- Fuller & Spain (1986). Watermills (Kent and the Borders of Sussex). Maidstone: Kent Archaeological Society. pp. p109. ISBN 0-906746-08-6.
- Mills Archive
- Coles Finch, William (1933). Watermills & Windmills. London WC1: C W Daniel Company. pp. p209.
- The Independent
- Fuller & Spain (1986). Watermills (Kent and the Borders of Sussex). Maidstone: Kent Archaeological Society. pp. pp95–102. ISBN 0-906746-08-6.
- Fuller & Spain (1986). Watermills (Kent and the Borders of Sussex). Maidstone: Kent Archaeological Society. pp. pp66–72. ISBN 0-906746-08-6.
- Tony Sing
- Archaeologia Cantiana, Volume LXXXII. Maidstone: Kent Archaeological Society. 1967. pp. p32–104. ISBN.
- Fuller & Spain (1986). Watermills (Kent and the Borders of Sussex). Maidstone: Kent Archaeological Society. pp. pp33–35. ISBN 0-906746-08-6.
- It is possible that the machinery is buried within the concrete, but this is not known as a fact.
- Medway watermills article.