Book reviews — October 2008
'Remembering Three Mills', edited by Brian James-Strong for the River Lea Tidal Mill Trust Ltd
Price £6 including p&p. ISBN 0 9544094 9 3. Available from Beverley Charters, The Miller's House, Three Mill Lane, E3 3DU
Anyone interested in tide mills, the distillation of alcohol, and family history, is recommended to read this informative booklet.
It starts with background history of the site at Three Mills, Bromley-by-Bow, and continues with the histories of the various mills constructed there. This is all good Industrial Archaeology, but what brought the narrative to life for me was not only the family history, but the first-hand accounts of working life within the area. These accounts are not only anecdotal; they are backed by archival evidence, and annotated. Photographs of places, and most importantly, people, almost gave me a sense of having lived there, among them.
Without the strength of human interest, Industrial Archaeology can be a dry subject, but with the aid of first-hand accounts, plus personal photographs, the subject can spring alive. Quite often the self-conscious posed picture of 'Dad', or 'Mr and Mrs Brown' — photographs removed from a family album — bring greater truth to a story being told.
This booklet is very well produced, the contributors are to be thanked, the Three Mills Group, and in particular the editor are to be congratulated on the production of a most informative publication. Peter Skilton
'Mills on the River Wandle', by David Saxby
Price £2.95. Available from the Wandle Industrial Museum, the Wheelhouse at Merton Abbey Mills or Sutton Heritage Centre, Honeywood Walk, Carshalton, SM5 3NX or from David Saxby, MOLAS, 46 Eagle Wharf Road, N1 7ED. It was commissioned and published by the Wandle Valley Festival
GLIAS has been sent a copy of another new guide to mill sites on the river Wandle. This is basically a quick 22-page outline of mill sites and mill uses.
The first pages detail mill remains still extant with helpful maps and while giving their current use it is discreet enough not to mention issues like the funfair which the Liberty site seems to have become. It does, however, mysteriously include the Carshalton water tower.
This is followed most helpfully and originally by descriptions of mills of the past listed under the product they processed — corn, dyestuffs, calico printers, etc. For example there are three mills described under 'iron' — a 17th-century Wimbledon mill, an extension to Adkins Wandsworth mill and the late Victorian Grove Mill in Carshalton, which ceased production only towards the end of the Second World War.
This section is concluded with a timeline diagram showing when various products were in process on the Wandle — for instance corn was ground from Roman times followed by flock from the 1300s, but snuff for only for 200 years from around 1750. The Wandle is a fascinating river and this is a helpful and interesting guide to its working past. There is reference in it to a detailed work by Peter McGow on these sites — this is not a work known to me, and no detail is given but this may be a work of more interest to the more research-based GLIAS member.
The booklet is, however, a helpful guide to the river and on a day out it could be taken in conjunction with a visit to the excellent Wandle Industrial Museum — more news of that institution would also be helpful. Mary Mills
© GLIAS, 2008