Cat no. 334

Craftsmen: The Tide Miller

Running time5:39 Black & White Sound 1951 Woodbridge, Suffolk

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The workings of the tide mill in Woodbridge, Suffolk.


DocumentaryIndustrial / Sponsored Film

The film begins with shots of the sea and then of calmer water further up the estuary. These shots are not from Suffolk. A shot of a lock gate and a quotation from the Elizabethan engineer, Richard Carew, explaining the principle of the tide mill. A paddle wheel turns before long shots of Woodbridge tide Mill, with the Deben Estuary in the background. Jim Desborough, the miller, checks the paddle wheel in the paddle box. The commentary explains that the paddle wheel is on an oak shaft, 22 in diameter.

The mechanism by which the mill operates is explained in detail and illustrated as it works grinding corn. The paddle wheel, gearing shafts and the belt take off for the sack hoist are shown in close up. A bell rings to warn the miller when the stones are running dry. As the mill slows down, there are views of the Deben Estuary and the commentary explains how the mill can only operate at half tide and then for about four hours. Then the miller must wait eight hours for another half tide and work for a further four hours.

The film finishes by looking at the tidal mills left in Britain. There are further views of Woodbridge, the only mill left in operation at the time. There are shots of Castle Mill, Borough of Pembroke; Carew Mill near Tenby in the County Of Pembroke; The Clock Mill at Bromley-By-Bow, County of London; East Medina, Isle of Wight (derelict); Antony Passage, Duchy of Cornwall (derelict); Beaulieu Abbey, Hampshire (of which derelict wheels are shown).

Background Information:

A mill has stood on the site at the head of the Deben Estuary since 1170, when the first record of it as belonging to Baldwin of Ufford appears in the records of Woodbridge Priory. The Woodbridge Tide Mill filmed here was built in 1793. The operation seen here ceased in 1957 when the main wheel shaft broke. It was purchased for preservation in 1968 by Mrs R.T. Gardner. The restoration was completed in 1982 in a joint effort between the Friends of Woodbridge Tide Mill and the Woodbridge Tide Mill Trust. By 1938 there were only nine working tide mills left in Britain. There were other Tide Mills in East Anglia at St. Osyth, Torrington, Fingringhoe and Battlesbridge, all in Essex. St. Oysth was demolished in 1963. The Mill at Torrington was restored. The House Mill at Bromley-by-Bow in East London closed in 1941 although the Clock Mill didn't close until 1951

Featured People:

Jim Desborough, miller

Featured Buildings:

The Tide Mill, Woodbridge; Castle Mill, Pembroke; Carew Mill, Tenby, Pembrokeshire; Clock Mill, Bromley-by- Bow, London; The Tide Mill, East Medina, Isle of Wight; The Tide Mill, Antony Passage, Duchy of Cornwall; The Tide Mill, Beaulieu Abbey, Hampshire

Shell Film Unit

A.D. Cartwright

Alan Gourlay

Raymond Bennett

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