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 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.