The restoration of The Town Mill
The Town Mill was left to rot and all that visitors to Lyme would see when they passed was a forlorn collection of dilapidated buildings. The Victorian iron waterwheel was extracted from it like a rotten tooth and sold for scrap.
We opened again in 2001
In 1991 West Dorset District Council made plans to demolish The Town Mill and sell the site for redevelopment. Thus a thousand years of milling was about to come to an end.
But a group of volunteers quickly came together to oppose the council's plans. They formed the Town Mill Trust and raised over £500,000 to finance this brave undertaking, and get the wheels turning once again. First came the outbuildings, restored as café, galleries and artisan workshops. Then the structure of The Town Mill itself was brought back to life. Bit by bit the machinery was refurbished and in 1997 a salvaged waterwheel was hoisted into place.
On 26 May 2001, the novelist John Fowles formally opened the restored Town Mill to the public and flour was milled for the first time in seventy-five years. The story of the restoration is recounted by the working volunteer millers to all who visit and gives us a sense of our shared heritage.
The Malthouse restored
The Malthouse had long been part of the milling scene at The Town Mill, and produced malt until around 1830. Then the building was sold and used for generating electricity.
Following grant funding and generous individual contributions, the Town Mill Trust was able to purchase the disused Malthouse. It was restored as a gallery and community space and reinstated as part of The Town Mill complex in 2010.
The Town Mill and its bustling courtyard is thriving. Join us to experience a slice of living history and celebrate this historic masterpiece.
For more on The Town Mill and milling, see the excellent booklet by Martin Watts, A thousand years of milling, available from The Heritage Centre.
The Town Mill Heritage Centre – coming soon
Our latest endeavour is to raise funds for an exciting new Town Mill Heritage Centre, giving improved access to the watermill and creating an exhibition space to chart the mill's continuing history.
The centre will present the turbulent fortunes of The Town Mill by means of pictures, videos and models. We aim to enable visitors of all ages to share in the excitement and technology so that they can embark on a mill tour already informed and entertained. In particular, we are hoping to have a working scale model of the water-driven flour mill so that all will be able to see how wheat is milled.
The centre will enable people to gain insights into the story of The Town Mill and experience the magic of stoneground flour production.