Building record MCC148 - Bourne Mill, Colchester


16th century fishing lodge/ watermill. Bourne Mill, built c.1591.


Grid reference Centred TM 00563 23843 (10m by 15m)
Map sheet TM02SW


Type and Period (3)

Full Description

A picturesque Tudor fishing Lodge built in 1591. The building is owned and managed by the National Trust.

The Victoria County History records ‘The Bourne fishponds fell into the hands of John Lucas in 1590 and remained in the Lucas family until 1917. The mill was a corn mill in 1632 and seems to have remained one, perhaps with a fulling mill, throughout the 18th century. In the earlier 19th century it was a cloth mill for weaving, fulling, and finishing bays. That business closed c.1840, and the mill seems to have been disused for some years. By 1860 it was a corn mill, and by 1894 it was partly steam driven. It worked until 1935. It was given to the National Trust in 1936 and converted into a house. The machinery was restored in 1966. Bourne mill lies close to the northern end of a large artificial embankment which was built to create the pond to the west. The surviving house was built as a fishing lodge in 1591 by Thomas Lucas, whose arms appear over the doorway. The walls are of re-used materials, presumably taken from the site of St John's Abbey. The ornate gables are in the style which was fashionable in the Low Countries in the later 16th century. Each gable-end incorporates a chimney and originally the principal floor may have contained a single room with a fireplace at each end. By the early 19th century a fulling mill had been attached to the south end of the lodge, and in the mid 19th century the main building was converted into a corn mill, necessitating the insertion of an upper floor and a sack hoist and the cutting of additional doorways in the walls.’<1>

DOE survey of Bourne Mill, Bourne Road, Grade I. Built in 1591 by the Lucas family from the C12 and C13 materials of the destroyed of St John's Abbey (Bourne Ponds belonged to the Abbey) probably on the site of a former mill. Its elaborate character suggests that it was built for a fishing lodge. In the C17 it became a cloth mill (Dutch refugees) and was used as such until the mid C19, when it was converted to a corn mill. It is of 2 storeys and has elaborate Dutch gables at each end with curved and voluted off-sets mounted with pinnacles and at the apex an octagonal chimney stack. In the south gable is a stone panel inscribed "Thomas Lucas, miles, me fecit Anne Domini 1591". There are original windows in the front with stone mullions and moulded labels, an original doorway with square head, moulded label and moulded panel above with an achievement of the Lucas arms; there is a weather boarded C19 hoist loft. The interior, which has been converted into a dwelling house, retains the mill machinery – 3 great grindstones and the water wheel. An exceptional building and very picturesque.<2>

RCHME survey of Bourne Mill. The walls are freestone rubble with some brick; the stone is mostly spoil from some 12th and 13th century building, probably St John's Abbey. The front four original windows with stone mullions and moulded labels; the doorway has double-chamfered jambs and three-centred arch in a square head with a moulded label ; above it in a raised and moulded panel is an achievement of the Lucas Arms. There is also a doorway to the upper storey, with a moulded label. The gables of the two ends are elaborately treated in the Dutch manner with curved and voluted offsets from which spring pinnacles of varying form; in the south gable is a stone panel inscribed "Thomas Lucas, miles, me fecit Ano domini 1591" ; at the apex of each is an octagonal chimney-shaft. The back elevation has three windows, similar to those in front, and a doorway with keyed three-centred head with carved spandrels and flanked by fluted pilasters. The reused material in the walls includes numerous moulded stones and the base of a 12th century shaft.<3>

Survey of Bourne Mill by Pevsner, 'A delightful piece of late Elizabethan playfulness, built in 1591 probably as a fishing lodge. It is one-storied, of stone, with mullioned windows, and has two wildly oversized gables of the utmost exuberance. They go up in convex and concave curves and carry four pairs of obelisks, each one a tall polygonal chimney shaft. On the side opposite the entrance in the C19, when the house was used as a water-mill, a weather boarded hoist loft was added.'<4>

In April 1994, CAT undertook a last minute watching brief during excavation work carried out at Bourne Mill to facilitate the ?unblocking of the west wall below the present ?penstock. The new excavation revealed a fresh area of the wall face to the north of that previously recorded during work in 1993. The following features were recorded 1) Vertical stone jamb forming the northern side of the earlier leat inlet. By the time of recording the shape of the moulding was largely obscured by neatly laid brick blocking, but it appeared to be chamfered 2) Two stone steps, 0.75m wide leading down towards the lower leat inlet. The east side of the steps butted against the main ?west wall. 3) A north-south wall of stone, brick and tile, adjoining the west side of the steps 4) Well preserved wall facing incorporating flint ?gauvetting and generally consistent with that above ground level. (The report is handwritten and difficult to read).<5>

A watching brief was held during works designed to prevent flooding in the cellar of Bourne Mill. The remedial works followed earlier trenching (see ECC1681). During the new work a 3m wide trench was excavated against the leat inlet in the west wall of the mill, exposing the internal wall face to a depth of 1.75m below the local ground level. Features observed appeared to represent a sequence of relatively late repairs and alterations.<6>

A watching brief was held during the excavation of two trenches against the west wall of Bourne Mill to establish the cause of flooding in the cellar of the building. The first trench was inserted at the south end of the west wall and cut through clay makeup forming a barrier between the mill and its pond. The trench was 2.63m deep, 1.95m wide and 1.85m long. The trench was dug during heavy rain and conditions for inspection and cleaning were less than ideal. The lowest part of the trench contained three notable structural features including a foundation plinth, a masonry floor and a timber beam. The second trench was situated immediately south of the leat and was 1.5m deep, 0.8m wide and 0.8m long. It revealed clay makeup and a brick section of the west wall.<7>

Sources/Archives (7)

  • <1> Monograph: Cooper, Janet (Ed). 1994. Vol. IX, The Borough of Colchester, A History of the County of Essex. Volume IX. p260-261.
  • <2> LIST: Department of the Environment. 1971. List of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest: Borough of Colchester (Essex). TM02 SW 19/6.
  • <3> Monograph: Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England. 1922. Royal Commission on Historical Monuments (England): Essex, (North-East). Volume III. 263.
  • <4> Serial: Pevsner, Nikolaus. The Buildings of England: Essex. p.145.
  • <5> Unpublished document: Colchester Archaeological Trust Ltd. 1985-1995. Colchester Archaeological Trust Unpublished Archive. 4/94b.
  • <6> Unpublished document: Colchester Archaeological Trust Ltd. 1985-1995. Colchester Archaeological Trust Unpublished Archive. 11/93b.
  • <7> Unpublished document: Colchester Archaeological Trust Ltd. 1985-1995. Colchester Archaeological Trust Unpublished Archive. 4/93b.

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Record last edited

Jul 18 2017 9:04AM

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