From the Thorley Archives

Twyford Mill, Thorley

Records of a mill on the River Stort at Twyford go back as far as the 1086 Domesday Book. Agricultural mills powered by waterwheels could be found along the length of the River Stort. In 1900 there were nine such mills between Bishop's Stortford and Roydon. Millers played an essential part in the local economy as they processed the grain for human and animal consumption. Twyford Mill was a 'provender' mill that converted farm produce such as grain, peas and beans into animal feed by milling, rolling, grinding or splitting processes. Sawbridgeworth mill was known primarily as a flour mill for wheat, whilst Edwards Mill in Bishop's Stortford was a superior fine flour mill or 'biscuit mill' which is now powered by electricity.

Originally Twyford Mill would have been in the ownership of the Lord of Thorley Manor and he would have obliged his tenant farmers to have their produce milled at his mill. However, by the end of the 14th century, due to various social changes brought about by the plague, agricultural depression, migration to towns and a scarcity of labour, farmers gained more independence and could choose their mills according to market forces. The mill owners therefore became prominent members of their community. An indication of Twyford Mill's value in 1845 can be gauged from the tithe it was obliged to pay to the Rector of Thorley parish. The tithe of 6 and 6 shillings represented a tenth of the assessed value of the mill's income of 63. Only eight out of the ten Thorley farms in 1845 paid more in tithes.

Twyford Mill circa 1905

Millers had the reputation for being independent characters and they were often in conflict with other users of the River Stort's water supply, upon which their livelihood depended. In 1909 the Lee Conservancy Board were in negotiations to take over the Stort Navigation. As part of the new agreement they sought to eliminate the millers' rights to tolls for traffic passing through adjoining locks (6d). The Board also wanted to regulate a consistent and overall 12" drop in water level as the boats passed through all their rivers' locks. Three of the mills, including Twyford, held out for the existing lesser 9" fall in level in order to maintain a higher constant flow though their water wheels. The miller, Mr Lawrence, and the owner, Mr Frere, were described in the transfer proceedings as being 'obdurate'. It took two more years of negotiation before an agreement could be reached.

In the 1930s Geoffrey Ashwell was responsible for carting sacks of produce to Twyford Mill from the family's Warren Farm. As a boy he has memories of an amiable Johnny Lawrence, the miller, always being covered in flour dust. Geoffrey would line up his cart under the covered hoist loft and the sacks would be raised by chain to the top of the mill. He would then collect the sacks of processed animal feed, that he had taken to the mill on a previous visit, from the bottom doors. Starting at the top of the mill the raw material was converted into the finished product through a series of gravity fed and belt driven stages. The single waterwheel in the millstream leading from the River Stort supplied all the power.

Twyford Mill in 1968
Twyford Mill - Winter Scene


Twyford Mill ceased operation in the late 1940s when P. Church, Corn Merchants, were the owners and Billy Poole was the miller. In the 1950s Mr Boyd Gibbons converted the buildings into flats. The Elliott family undertook further conversions of the mill buildings and Twyford House in the 1980s.

John Scott (Frere) at Twyford Mill-Stream in 2004

Bill Hardy
December 2004

From the Archives