© www.dover-kent.co.uk 2000 - 2016 
Home History Defence Transport Leisure Places People Words Information Contact
Dover: Lock and Key of the Kingdom

Crabble Corn Mill

The first documentary evidence of a mill at Crabble dates from  the Middle Ages. Records show that in 1227, Henry III gave to  the Abbot of St Radigund "the site of the mill called  Crabbehole". In 1664 it is mentioned again when "Crabbard  Mill" was "by accident burnt down" but the mill was rebuilt as it  appears on a map of 1751. An insurance policy for the mill  dated 1 November 1788 gives the name of the owners as John  Pilcher and Sons of Dover. The mill at this time was a two  storey timber building with a breastshot waterwheel capable of  driving two pairs of mill stones, and was presumably the 17th  century one built after the 1664 fire. In the early 19th century, with the treat of invasion by  Napoleon's forces, thousands of troops were stationed in and  around Dover to counter any French attack. The Army's  Victualling Department ordered a series of large commercial  flour mills to be built along the Dour and subsidised the building  of them by local millers. The new mills included Lower Buckland  Mill, Stembrook Mill, Charlton Mill, Dover Town Mill and the  present Crabble Corn Mill, which was built in 1812.   The new mill was six storeys high, the lower three of brick and  the upper three of wood with weather boarding. The breastshot  wheel was seven feet across and eighteen feet in diameter, and drove five pairs of grindstones. It was built alongside the old  mill, which was kept working for about another 30 years before  being demolished.   In January 1842 John Webb Pilcher was declared bankrupt, a  bitter blow for a man who had been Mayor of Dover in 1823 and  a leading member of the Corporation for many years. In 1843  the new owner was Wilsher Mannering, who had bought the  Town Mill in 1836 and was to buy Lower Buckland Mill in 1865.  He had the foresight to see that London's population explosion  would increase the demand for flour, and that the river Dour  mills were ideally placed to supply the market, especially when  the flour could be sent cheaply by sea. As the business expanded, Wilsher was joined by his brother  John, and the business subsequently passed to Wilsher's sons,  Edward and Wilsher Jnr. The introduction of new milling  technology in the mid 19th century caused problems for  traditional millers, who could not compete with the new steam  powered mills. As a result of this competition the Mannerings  installed steam power in Lower Buckland Mill with a turbine  replacing the waterwheel. The increase in production was  dramatic and enabled them to fill their orders from the newly  equipped mill alone. The Mannerings decided to consolidate  their production and the mill closed in 1893.   It is thanks to the Mannerings that this example of 19th century technology survived into the late 20th century. When the mill  closed the machinery was not sold off for scrap and the family  kept the building well maintained until their main milling  business closed, in the face of London competition, in 1957.  After this the rot set in (quite literally) and the mill became  unsafe and in 1972 it was estimated that £50,000 would be  needed to restore it. The mill was saved when it was purchased  by the Cleary Foundation and restored to working order,  opening in 1973.  By 1983 though the mill was declared unsafe and closed down,  with the cost of essential repairs estimated at £160,000. It  lingered, shrouded in scaffolding, its future uncertain for five  years. It was saved by the Crabble Corn Mill Trust, who, with  funding from English Heritage, the Cleary Foundation and Dover  District Council, obtained the freehold in July 1988. After  extensive repairs and restoration, the mill re-opened at Easter  1990, and is now a popular attraction.
Crabble Corn Mill c.1905. The view from Lower Road where it runs along the side of the mill pond. Crabble Corn Mill c.1950. The old mill cottages can be see on the right.  Behind the hedge, between the road and the cottages, is the stream from the mill race. Crabble Corn Mill, 2008. Back to Businesses Index