In the sunshine, there can be few Essex views as pretty as that looking out over Alresford Creek from Thorrington Tide Mill. The mill that stands today was built in 1831 though there has been a mill on that site since the 17th century. In the summer, the mill opens to the public on the last Sunday of the month, so there’s plenty of time left in 2017 to pay a visit.
It’s the only working tide mill in the county and one of only two working tide mills left in Britain. The other is in Woodbridge, just across the Suffolk border; it’s perfectly possible to visit them both in the same day. A dam at the mill separates the saltwater creek from the mill pool itself. As the tide rose, a sluice was opened to allow the mill pool to fill. As the tide fell, the water was released and as it moved, it would turn the wheel to grind corn for flour.
Much of this flour was consumed locally but a small jetty enabled barges to moor up. They brought the corn and took away the flour. The structure that sticks out from the mill, known as a lucam, housed a water-powered hoist that would lift sacks of corn to the top floor of the mill. The corn made its way down to the millstones and milling machinery courtesy of good old-fashioned gravity.
At times, demand outstripped the mill’s tidal ability to supply, and so a windmill was built alongside the tide mill. The windmill was to become a casualty of the strong winds that can whip across the Essex coast and it was blown down in 1869. The present tide mill saw continuous use from its construction until 1926.