Water-mills played an important part in the economic life of the Coventry district until the 19th century. There were thirteen or fourteen mills in four miles of the main stream of the River Sherbourne between Spon End and Stivichall, though not all of them were in existence at the same time, and five other mills on tributaries of the Sherbourne in the county of the city. These mills were in use for a very long period, many of them from the 13th to the 19th centuries. There were fewer mills on the bigger River Sowe: five (or possibly seven) above the confluence with the Sherbourne, including Binley, not in the county of the city, and one on a tributary in the extreme north of the county. It is not possible to say whether this difference was the result of the expense of building on a bigger river, or of the distance from Coventry. It may have been the result of local marketing arrangements. It is certainly remarkable that the village of Stoke, with its long boundary of the Sowe, had no mill.
Fulling was carried on in Coventry throughout the medieval period,
(fn. 2) but most of the Coventry mills seem always to have been corn-mills, and their prosperity was presumably based on the victualling trade of the city. The millers became a company in 1544, and in 1549 the bakers were ordered to employ the millers of the city and not outsiders.
(fn. 3) Of the ten windmills in the district, five were either built or first mentioned in the 18th century, when the resources of water-power were already fully utilized.
The mills within Coventry caused much flooding in the city, as well as adding to the perennial problem of keeping the rivers clean. The tenants of the manor of Cheylesmore were responsible for keeping their own floodgates and mills in repair, and for this they were allowed timber and stone by the Black Prince in 1358.
(fn. 5) The leet attempted to deal with the problem of flooding in 1440. The mayor and council were to undertake the assize of water, and every miller was to pay a fine for trespass in this matter.
(fn. 6) In 1467 it appointed four men to assess the water at all mills within the city
(fn. 7) and in 1609 it required the millers at Priory, Bastill, and Whitefriars mills to pull up their floodgates in time of much rain.
(fn. 8) These three mills still existed early in the 19th century, when the problem of flooding was as acute as ever. But the nuisance factor of these mills was not confined to flooding. In 1841 the Sherbourne, then described as 'one of the filthiest streams that ever existed', and the mill dams whose area was then estimated at 15,586 sq. yds., were allotted most of the blame for the prevalence of disease in the poorer quarters of Coventry.
(fn. 9) It was probably as a result of this that the Coventry Improvement Act of 1844 was passed allowing for the purchase and removal of the remaining mills within the city.
(fn. 10) Bastill Mill and Priory Mill were removed soon afterwards but Whitefriars Mill was still in existence in 1925, in spite of the fact that it was thought to have been the main cause of the great cholera epidemic of 1838 in the House of Industry nearby.
The mills are listed below in alphabetical order, with alternative names in brackets after the main entry.
ALDERFORD MILL (Alrenford, Alvenford or Aldeford Mill, Langley's Mill, Pegg Mill, Mill in the Hole, Beasley's Mill) lay on the River Sherbourne, within the manor of Pinley between Dilcock's Mill and Whitley Mill. Geoffrey fitz Peter granted the pool to Nicholas son of Liulph, and Hugh, Earl of Chester, granted land between the mill and Stifford (Dilcock's) Mill to Simon son of Liulph during the 12th century.
(fn. 13) Alderford Mill descended, with Shortley manor, to Henry d'Aubigny, and was granted by him to Geoffrey de Langley in 1243.
(fn. 14) The mill pool and sluices were mentioned in 1241.
(fn. 15) The mill was leased by Alice de Langley in 1280.
(fn. 16) It may have been part of the dower of another Alice de Langley, widow of John de Langley of Pinley; she had a mill there in the middle of the 14th century,
(fn. 17) and this was leased by feoffees to John Knight in 1374.
Since the Langleys held several mills on the Sherbourne in this area and the mills kept changing names, it is possible that there was some confusion between them, especially between Alderford and Dilcock's Mill (q.v.). Alderford Mill can probably be identified with Langley's Mill, situated south of Dilcock's Mill in 1378,
(fn. 19) with Pegg Mill, mentioned in 1482,
(fn. 20) 1580,
(fn. 21) and 1685,
(fn. 22) Mill in the Hole, in 1627,
(fn. 23) 1647,
(fn. 24) 1685,
(fn. 25) 1688,
(fn. 26) 1716,
(fn. 27) 1745,
(fn. 28) 1768,
(fn. 29) and 1854,
(fn. 30) and Beasley's Mill, in 1712
(fn. 31) and 1745.
(fn. 32) As Pegg Mill, it was mortgaged by Humphrey Ferrers in 1580, and later in the same year Ferrers regranted it to Thomas Sanders and other feoffees.
(fn. 33) The connexion with Ferrers suggests that it may have been the mill held by Trinity Guild in the late 15th and early 16th centuries. A mill in 'Stiffordshale' was held by John Wildegrise of the guild c. 1480-6. This was near St. Anne's Grove.
(fn. 34) Stifford's Mill was in 1532-3 held by the guild of 'Mr. Ferrers', probably John Ferrers of Stivichall.
(fn. 35) In 1532-3 and 1534 Thomas Wilmer was paying rent to the guild for Hull Mill
(fn. 36) and an entry of 1541 suggests that Hull Mill lay near St. Anne's Grove.
(fn. 37) There may have been two mills held by Trinity Guild - Alderford alias Hull alias Pegg Mill, and Dilcock's (q.v.) alias Stifford Mill: a 16th-century gloss to an entry of 1485-6 named Wildegrise's mill as Stifford or Pinley Mill.
(fn. 38) But it is more probable that this gloss was mistaken and that one mill was held by the guild from the Ferrers family.
After Humphrey Ferrers's grant of 1580, it was held by feoffees in the early 17th century, presumably on behalf of the corporation.
(fn. 39) All the feoffees were dead by 1684 and another feoffment was made in 1685.
(fn. 40) The mill was leased, usually on 21-year leases, at various times in the 17th century.
(fn. 41) A proposal to sell the mill in 1712
(fn. 42) seems to have proved abortive since it was still in the hands of the corporation in 1745 and 1768.
(fn. 43) Alderford Mill may possibly be identified with the mill, situated on the Sherbourne between Whitley Mill and Swifts Mill, owned by Joseph Liggins and occupied by John Underwood in 1846.
(fn. 44) This may have been the mill in Whitley occupied by Thomas Roe in 1850.
(fn. 45) It had disappeared by 1889.
ALLESLEY MILL lay on the Frith Brook, the upper course of the Sherbourne, and marked the south-west boundary of Coundon in 1411.
ALTEGEDER MILL (Whitefriars Mill, Nassington's Mill, Sexton's Mill, Queeney's Mill, Howlett's Mill, Peabody's Mill, Shut Lane Mill) lay on the Sherbourne south of Gosford Bridge at the point where the present Gulson Road crosses the river. The mill was in existence by c. 1200. It was granted to Henry de Aldithele by Ranulf, Earl of Chester, in 1227. About the mid 13th century Richard, son of Wimmam, acquired half the mill from William de Bromley. Richard transferred this half of the mill to William Falke and the other half to Ralph the miller. A description of Altegeder later in the century as two mills probably only refers to two mills - perhaps a water- and horse-mill - under one roof. These were said to have passed to Henry Bagot, a Coventry merchant, in 1306.
(fn. 48) Bagot also had rights in Earl's Mill (q.v.) and the similarity in the descent of the two mills may have caused confusion between them so that one of the two entries given in the 1411 cartulary under Earl's Mill may relate to Altegeder Mill.
(fn. 49) However, all that can be said with certainty is that Altegeder, or, as it was more usually called after the foundation nearby of the Carmelite friary in 1342, Whitefriars Mill,
(fn. 50) was in the hands of Coventry Priory at the Dissolution. Whitefriars Mill may possibly be identified with Nassington's Mill (1398)
(fn. 51) and that held by Laurence Cook in 1426 and c. 1430.
(fn. 52) Although there is some evidence to connect Cook with Bisseley Mill (q.v.) he did hold 'Altogether Meadow'
(fn. 53) and the 1430 entry suggests that his mill was close to the Carmelite friary.
(fn. 54) Nassington and Cook could have held as tenants of the priory. In 1545 the mill, then called the Sexton's Mill, was included in the priory's property which was granted to John Combes and Richard Stansfeld.
(fn. 55) By 1572 the mill was in the hands of John Hales who, in December of that year, granted it with other property to Thomas Docwra and Bartholomew Hales. They conveyed it in 1573 to the corporation.
(fn. 56) In 1624 the mill was in a decayed condition;
(fn. 57) it was damaged by frost and flood in 1684;
(fn. 58) and was again in need of repair in 1697.
(fn. 59) There are records of leases at various times to the 18th century.
(fn. 60) It was known as Queeney's Mill after a lessee, Mrs. Queeney, in 1697 and 1724
(fn. 61) and can probably also be identified with Howlett's Mill (1770, 1778)
(fn. 62) and Peabody's Mill (1828).
(fn. 63) It was included among charity property under the management of the corporation in 1833. Thomas Rotherham, who had been the tenant since 1792, rebuilt the mill which was relet to Charles Rotherham in 1833.
(fn. 64) Rotherham was still the tenant in 1846 although the owner was then said to be William Northey.
(fn. 65) It is uncertain when the mill was closed: it was one of the mills condemned in 1841 for health reasons
(fn. 66) but survived, possibly as a steam mill, since, as Shut Lane Mill, it is marked on maps until 1925
(fn. 67) although only the site was marked in 1940.
BISSELEY MILL (Shortley Mill, 'pusthelomulne', 'Burstall Milne', Charterhouse Mill) stood on the Sherbourne south of Altegeder Mill and north of Dilcock's Mill. The mill was in existence during the early 12th century when it was granted by Ranulf (II), Earl of Chester, and confirmed in the mid 12th century by his son Hugh, to Liulph of Brinklow.
(fn. 69) The mill descended with the Bisseley estate to Geoffrey de Langley in 1244,
(fn. 70) but was held by under-tenants for a money rent. In the early 13th century when the mill pool was mentioned, it was held of Nicholas son of Nicholas son of Liulph by William son of Richard Forwin,
(fn. 71) but Robert, son of Nicholas Forwin, surrendered his family's rights in the mill to Geoffrey de Langley.
(fn. 72) In 1251 Geoffrey obtained a licence to improve access to Bisseley Mill from Coventry.
(fn. 73) It was held of Geoffrey and Walter de Langley by Hugh de Viennia. In 1290 Hugh granted a lease to John de Langley, probably the Coventry merchant, and Richard de la Murye.
(fn. 74) John de Rydware afterwards acquired Richard de la Murye's share of the mill, then held of Edmund de Langley, and in 1309 John de Langley's share. The mill was then known as 'pusthelomulne'.
(fn. 75) Another interest, probably that of Hugh de Viennia, passed from Laurence Ide to Henry Ballard, and from him to Peter de Rydware.
The later descent of the mill is obscure. The Charterhouse was built in 1381 immediately to the south of the mill,
(fn. 77) which became known as Charterhouse Mill, but the mill was not part of the Charterhouse property. It may possibly be identified with the mill owned by the tailors' and shearmens' guild in the 16th century and probably granted to them in reversion by the feoffees of Laurence Cook in 1439.
(fn. 78) Although there is strong evidence to suggest that Laurence Cook's mill should be identified with Altegeder Mill (q.v.), he could have owned a second mill which passed to the guild. Certainly by 1545-6 the guild owned a mill which seems to have lain near their lodge in or near Charterhouse Leys just north of the Charterhouse. This mill is mentioned in 1550,
(fn. 79) and Charterhouse Mill is marked on late-18th- and 19th-century maps.
(fn. 80) It was in use as a corn-mill in the mid 19th century,
(fn. 81) and in 1875 it was described as one of the three large mills then working in the city;
(fn. 82) though still on the same site it was using steam-power.
(fn. 83) The mill was still used as a corn-mill in 1887,
(fn. 84) and Haddon and Grimes were millers there in 1904, but by 1911-12 they had new premises in Little Park Street.
(fn. 85) By the First World War the mill buildings were being used for the manufacture of motor bodies;
(fn. 86) they were damaged by bombing in the Second World War and demolished c. 1956.
BOTOMS MILL. It is not known where this mill, which had belonged to Marler's Chantry and which was granted to Thomas Fisher and Thomas Dabrigecourt in 1549,
(fn. 88) was situated.
CROW MILL, first mentioned in the early 13th century, lay on the Crow Mill Stream or Back Brook, an arm of the Sherbourne running north of Crow Lane Bridge. By the late 13th century it belonged to the priory
(fn. 89) and was leased by the priory cellarer in 1411.
(fn. 90) The mill was probably a corn-mill since the occupier in 1512 was a baker.
DILCOCK'S MILL (Stifford Mill, Pinley Mill, Hammerton's Mill) stood on the Sherbourne south of Bisseley Mill and north of Alderford Mill. As Stifford Mill, it was in existence in the late 12th century.
(fn. 92) In the early 13th century it was granted by Robert Deyville to Reynold the miller, and was said to lie below Pinley Wood.
(fn. 93) The mill pond and sluices were mentioned in 1237.
(fn. 94) In 1253 Walter Deyville granted Stifford Mill to Geoffrey de Langley.
(fn. 95) In 1308 it was leased by John de Langley of Pinley to John de Langley, the merchant of Coventry,
(fn. 96) and in 1336 by Henry de Langley to Henry Gedding.
(fn. 97) Gedding and Richard Foxton leased the mill in 1343 to Adam de Itchington. Gedding surrendered his interest, and the mill was settled on Alice, widow of John de Langley, in 1346-7. Alice leased it in 1357.
Stifford Mill can probably be identified with Dilcock's Mill, mentioned as north of Alderford Mill in 1378.
(fn. 99) The name may have been that of the Dilcock family, who held land in Whitley and Bigging in the 15th century.
(fn. 1) This may have been the mill of the Trinity Guild near Stiffordshale held by John Wildegrise c. 1480-6,
(fn. 2) and held by the guild of 'Mr. Ferrers', probably John Ferrers of Stivichall, in 1532-3.
(fn. 3) A 16th-century gloss to an entry of 1485-6 named the mill as Stifford or Pinley Mill.
(fn. 4) But other evidence connects the Trinity mill with Alderford Mill (q.v.). The mill was mentioned in the early 16th century,
(fn. 5) and marked on late-18th- and early-19th-century maps.
(fn. 6) In the mid 19th century it was occupied by a corn-miller.
(fn. 7) The mill had disappeared by 1889.
EARL'S MILL (Bastill Mill, Lilly's Mill) lay on the Sherbourne opposite the Bastille or Derngate. In 1227 Ranulf, Earl of Chester, granted it to Henry de Aldithele.
(fn. 9) Earl's Mill can probably be identified with the mill held by Peter Baron in 1280 of a number of people, including 'the Earl of Chester's attorney' who held of William d'Aubigny.
(fn. 10) Peter Baron gave it to Guy de Tilebrook (fl. 1277-8) who granted it to Adam Oliver who in turn gave it to Coventry Priory, probably in 1286. The mill appears to have been held on several levels and Henry Bagot, who also had connexions with Altegeder Mill (q.v.), was said to have 'given' the mill to Adam Oliver.
(fn. 11) Bagot may have surrendered some rights in Earl's Mill to Oliver but he seems to have retained others, since in 1327 he and his wife Katherine granted 10s. annual rent from the mill to William de Passenham, a clerk.
(fn. 12) It was probably these rights which were surrendered when Passenham granted Bagot's Mill to the priory in 1331.
(fn. 13) The mill was certainly part of the priory's property in 1411. Described as a waterand horse-mill under one roof, the mill was probably used for fulling since there were tenters nearby.
(fn. 14) It was included in the grant of the dissolved priory's property to John Combes and Richard Stansfeld in 1545
(fn. 15) and was one of the mills granted by John Hales to Thomas Docwra and Bartholomew Hales in 1572, and conveyed by them to the corporation in the following year.
(fn. 16) There are records of various leases in the late 16th and the 17th century.
(fn. 17) The occupant of 1807 was still paying fee-farm rent to the corporation in 1833.
(fn. 18) Bastill Mill was one of the mills ordered to be removed in accordance with the Coventry Improvement Act of 1844.
(fn. 19) It was purchased in 1845,
(fn. 20) and was pulled down and the pool drained in 1847-8.
FOLESHILL MILL is on the Sowe immediately north of Hall Green at the point where the river is crossed by the road to Bulkington. The artificial eastern branch of the river on which it now stands seems to have been there since at least the late 18th century.
(fn. 22) The mill may have been in existence since 1367, when a miller called Geoffrey atte Green was engaged in a dispute with the miller of Henley Mill, the next mill downstream.
(fn. 23) If it did exist, it was presumably part of the Stokes' manor.
The first definite reference to Foleshill Mill was in 1698, when it was one of the points to which John Brown's proposed canal might have run.
(fn. 25) In 1708 the mill was owned by the Palmer family, being sold in 1718 to a baker and maltster of Bedworth. A purchaser in 1724 also bought the windmill. In 1770 the mill was in the hands of George Eld,
(fn. 26) and a second George Eld held it in 1835 when it was described as a corn-mill.
It was not marked on Beightori's map of 1722-5, but it appears on the inclosure map of 1775, and was still working in 1850.
(fn. 28) The older part of the mill buildings, probably of the late 18th century, is now (1963) used as a warehouse and the water wheel has been removed. The mill-house, which is still occupied, was evidently built or enlarged c. 1840, and it may have been at this time that carved timbers of earlier date were brought from elsewhere and used to embellish both house and mill. Attached to the house is a row of buildings, apparently once cottage workshops.
HENLEY MILL was on the Sowe where it turns east in a sharp elbow between Tackford Bridge and Wyken.
(fn. 29) The mill was in existence in the early 14th century, when Walter the miller of Henley held a house and some small pieces of land from Coventry Priory there.
(fn. 30) In 1364 a certain Richard was the miller and in 1367 one Robert.
(fn. 31) The mill was probably already part of the Caludon estate.
(fn. 32) Henley Mill was mentioned in 1617
(fn. 33) and 1841, and was still working in 1850.
(fn. 34) By 1886, however, it was disused, and in the early 20th century became the site of the Foleshill R.D.C. sewage works.
(fn. 35) The mid-19th-century mill-house was still standing in 1964 although the sewage works had been replaced by allotments.
HILL MILL (Bates's Mill, Wragg's Mill, Naul's (Nall's) Mill, Abbott's Mill, Carter's Mill), which lay on the Radford Brook at the point where it was crossed by Abbott's Lane, was in existence by the 12th century when land by the mill, equipped with tenters, was held by Herbert son of Jordan of Nicholas Forwin.
(fn. 36) This suggests that it may have been a fulling mill. It was held by Gerard the vintner at the end of the 12th century when it formed part of the boundary between the Prior's Half and the Earl's Half.
(fn. 37) Richard the vintner gave it to Coventry Priory
(fn. 38) which retained it until the Dissolution when it passed to John Combes and Richard Stansfeld.
(fn. 39) It was one of the mills granted by John Hales in 1572 to Thomas Docwra and Bartholomew Hales and by them in the following year to the corporation as part of a transaction to secure an income for a schoolmaster of the Coventry Grammar School.
(fn. 40) There are records of various leases from the late 16th to the early 19th century. Lessees'names included Wragg, Nall (or Naul), and Carter.
(fn. 41) John Carter, lessee 1786-1806, spent about £1,600 in rebuilding the mill
(fn. 42) which in 1849 was said to be owned by Coventry Grammar School.
(fn. 43) The mill was described as a corn-mill in 1834
(fn. 44) but by 1868 it was in the possession of a silk throwster.
(fn. 45) According to Fretton, silk throwing was first introduced into Coventry at this mill.
(fn. 46) Another silk throwster occupied the mill in 1871
(fn. 47) but from c. 1876 to c. 1884 it was in the hands of a manufacturer of fishing tackle and boot laces.
(fn. 48) By 1889 the mill dam was in a foul condition and the mill was pulled down about this time.
(fn. 49) By 1906 it had been replaced by corporation stables.
A new mill, owned by the North Warwickshire Worsted and Woollen, Spinning and Weaving Co., and usually known as Leigh Mills, was opened in Hill Street, in 1866.
(fn. 51) The mill was still there in 1963.
NEW MILL stood on the Sherbourne within the manor of Shortley, south of Bisseley and north of Whitley Mill. It was not mentioned in the grant by William de Whitley to Geoffrey de Langley of an alder grove between Alderford Bridge and Whitley Mill.
(fn. 53) This may mean that the mill was not then in existence or, more probably, that it was situated north of Alderford Bridge. It was one of the mills granted by Henry d'Aubigny to Geoffrey de Langley about 1243.
(fn. 54) Hugh de Viennia held the mill of Geoffrey de Langley, and, as part of an agreement of 1289-90, his interests were acquired by Robert de Chilton and William le Parker.
(fn. 55) Edmund de Langley leased part of the mill to Robert Rydware in 1300,
(fn. 56) and in 1318 and 1328 Peter de Rydware granted interests in the mill to Richard atte Grene.
(fn. 57) Thomas and Richard, millers of New Mill, were involved in a dispute with the miller of Whitley Mill in 1364.
The mill was held by John Bristow of Whitley in the 15th century and was the subject of a dispute between his sons in 1455.
(fn. 59) Nothing more is known of this mill which should not be confused with New Mill in Prior's Orchard (q.v.).
PARK MILL stood on the stream which ran south-east from Quinton Pool in Cheylesmore Park to the Sherbourne below Whitley Mill. In the 12th century Ranulf (II), Earl of Chester, built a mill by his fishpond (vivarium), and leased it to Robert de Barow. It was held of Hugh, Earl of Chester, by Simon son of Liulph of Brinklow, and of Ranulf (III) by Nicholas son of Liulph.
(fn. 60) A rent-charge was also paid to Stephen de Nerbone, and this was probably the payment later given by Margery, widow of Robert Marshall of Stivichall, to Nicholas son of Nicholas de Withibrook.
(fn. 61) Park Mill was one of the mills granted by Henry d'Aubigny to Geoffrey de Langley about 1243.
(fn. 62) Rights in Park Mill were later surrendered to Geoffrey de Langley by Margery, widow of Vincent de Park.
(fn. 63) Geoffrey de Langley was, however, only a mesne tenant and in 1280 the mill with the fishpond and enclosed pool were part of the manor of Cheylesmore and the park held in chief by the heirs of Roger de Montalt in demesne.
(fn. 64) As part of the manor the mill was included in Queen Isabel's grant to John de Stanton in 1337.
(fn. 65) It was leased with pool and fishery to Thomas and Joan Quinton in 1378.
(fn. 66) The mill was mentioned as Park Mill in 1482.
(fn. 67) In 1636 it was in the hands of the corporation which leased it.
(fn. 68) In 1659 it was a fulling mill,
(fn. 69) and from 1661 onwards it was included in leases of Cheylesmore manor and park to Sir Robert and Anthony Townsend.
(fn. 70) It was not marked on 18th-century maps.
PARK CORNER MILL (Swift's Mill, Cave's Mill, Swift's Corner Mill). In 1596 the corporation granted a carpenter a licence to build a water-mill at Park Corner on Whitley Common.
(fn. 72) This may have been on or near the site of New Mill (q.v.). Park Corner Mill may be identifiable with Swift's Mill which lay on the western branch of the Sherbourne, south of Dilcock's and north of Alderford Mill near the present sewage works. Swift's Mill, first mentioned in 1617, seems to have been owned by the corporation, probably because it stood on common ground.
(fn. 73) It was being leased in 1683 and 1698.
(fn. 74) It was conveyed in 1710 to Moses Parker,
(fn. 75) and was known as Cave's Mill in 1716.
(fn. 76) By 1846 the mill was owned and occupied by Joseph Liggins.
(fn. 77) It was probably Liggins's fence on the commons near Swift's Mill that was demolished by a Coventry mob in 1844.
(fn. 78) As Swift's Corner Mill it was apparently still in use in 1889
(fn. 79) but was disused by 1906.
PINLEY MILL. In the early 13th century Geoffrey de Langley made a watercourse for a mill called Pinley Mill, apparently newly built on the east bank of the Sowe north of Willenhall.
(fn. 81) It was probably this mill that was leased in 1305 to Simon de Willenhall, miller, and Nicholas le Chik of Pinley, by John de Langley, reserving certain tolls of grain to himself.
(fn. 82) There is no other evidence of this mill, although Mill Ham, the name of a close in this position in 1846,
(fn. 83) may be a survival from this mill.
PRIOR'S ORCHARD MILL (New Mill, Swanswell Pool Mill). In 1410-11 John Heynton had tenters in a garden described as in medio stagni molendini aquatici infra prioratu[m]. The whole entry appears at the end of a list of properties entitled 'Cook Street'.
(fn. 84) This may be a reference to Priory Mill (q.v.) but it more probably refers to another mill in Prior's Orchard, situated possibly on or near Swanswell Pool, or on a tributary stream of the Sherbourne south of Cook Street that has since disappeared. Priory Mill was a grain mill whereas the allusion to tenters here suggests a fulling mill. The description of a mill in 1579 as 'New Mill in Prior's Orchard'
(fn. 85) perhaps indicates that there had been an earlier mill there. A mill in Prior's Orchard may have been one of the three held in demesne by the prior in 1280.
(fn. 86) There is no further reference to this mill which had probably disappeared before the Dissolution: a Crown lease of former priory property to Henry Over in 1540 included the 'great' and 'little' orchards and two ponds called Swans Pool and New Pool, but did not mention a mill.
(fn. 87) In 1551 this property became part of the endowment of White's Charity.
New Mill stood at the point where the western branch of Springfield Brook left Swanswell Pool.
(fn. 89) It was in existence by 1579 when the corporation, the trustees of the charity, leased it.
(fn. 90) It was leased again in 1613
(fn. 91) and in 1632 it became absorbed into the Swanswell waterworks, which was begun in that year.
(fn. 92) The mill, Swanswell Pool, and a spring were let on a 200-year lease in 1646.
(fn. 93) Swanswell millhouse was in the possession of Thomas Bewley (mayor, 1672) in 1673
(fn. 94) and in 1709 when he was described as holding it and the pool of White's Charity.
By the 1840s the Swanswell complex was badly neglected. The waterworks was inadequate to supply the necessary amount of water; the mill was in a poor condition, and the lessees were conscious that the lease was due to expire in 1846. Following the 1844 Coventry Water Act the Swanswell waterworks was superseded by new works in Spon. The mill was taken down, and in 1850 part of the southern end of Swanswell Pool was filled in to make way for the construction of White Street.
There was a corn-mill in Wheatley Street, south of Swanswell Pool, from 1868.
(fn. 97) It appears on maps from 1889 to 1940 as the City Flour Mills.
PRIORY MILL (Aston's Mill, Chaplin's Mill, Oughton's Mill) lay on the Sherbourne west of St. Osburg's Pool. It was not mentioned as Priory Mill until 1462
(fn. 99) but it can probably be identified with one of the three mills held by the prior in demesne in 1280
(fn. 1) and with the mill held of the prior by Henry Millward in 1411. Then described as a water- and horse-mill under one roof, it was the only grain mill used for the benefit of the priory.
(fn. 2) It remained in the possession of the priory until the Dissolution,
(fn. 3) when, in 1545, it was granted to John Combes and Richard Stansfeld.
(fn. 4) Priory Mill, together with other property granted to Combes and Stansfeld, was in the hands of John Hales in 1572. But although it was specifically exempted from the grant to the corporation of 1573, and reserved to John Hales and his heirs,
(fn. 5) it was included among property sold to the corporation by the executors of Stephen Hales in 1574-5.
(fn. 6) The mill was let on short, possibly yearly, leases to Richard Aston (1581-99),
(fn. 7) Richard Chaplin (1682-7),
(fn. 8) Nathaniel Huet (1687),
(fn. 9) and Goodyer Houghton or Oughton (1688-1705).
(fn. 10) Chaplin was unable to pay the rent and was finally ejected in 1687 when the mill was ordered to be rebuilt.
(fn. 11) The mill, which took the name of its successive lessees, was mortgaged to Jeremy Withers in 1712.
(fn. 12) In 1731 a skinner bought it.
(fn. 13) In 1830 the mill was occupied by a meal man.
(fn. 14) By this date, however, Priory Mill dam was particularly insanitary and a committee of the council was ordered to view the dam in 1831 with the intention of removing it.
(fn. 15) But the mill was still there in 1841 when it was one of those condemned in the report of that year.
(fn. 16) The Priory Mill estate was sold in 1846,
(fn. 17) and the mill pulled down and the pool filled in in 1847-8. Their site was subsequently occupied by part of Hales Street and the Smithfield cattle market.
RADFORD MILL and pool lay on the Radford Brook north of Hill Mill,
(fn. 19) probably between the Fillongley road and Whitmore Park.
(fn. 20) It formed part of the boundary between the Earl's Half and the Prior's Half in the late 12th century when it was held by Gerard the vintner.
(fn. 21) His descendant, Richard the vintner, gave it to Coventry Priory
(fn. 22) which held it of Nicholas de Segrave in 1279.
(fn. 23) The mill remained in the hands of the priory until the Dissolution, when, in 1542, it was among the Radford property granted to the corporation.
(fn. 24) In the same year it became part of the estates of White's Charity.
(fn. 25) The corporation, as trustees of White's Charity, leased the mill in 1574 to a butcher.
(fn. 26) In the late 16th and throughout the whole of the 17th century the mill seems to have been held by former mayors.
(fn. 27) It was leased to John Myles, a draper (mayor, 1580), in 1589;
(fn. 28) to William, later Sir William, Jesson, a dyer, in 1634, 1655, and 1675;
(fn. 29) and to Thomas Palmer, a glover (mayor, 1695), in 1697.
(fn. 30) Lessees in the 18th century included a leather-seller (1743)
(fn. 31) and a farmer (1763).
(fn. 32) Nothing more is known of this mill.
SOWE MILL. Coventry Priory had a water-mill in Sowe in 1086
(fn. 33) and 1279.
(fn. 34) It seems to have fallen into disuse soon afterwards, however, and was not part of the priory's estate in the 14th and early 15th centuries.
(fn. 35) It was probably because of this lack of a manorial water-mill that by 1291 the priory erected a windmill and later a horse-mill.
It is possible that one of these mills gave its name to the field, Nethermillhills in Sowe, mentioned in 1338.
Wyken Mill (q.v.) was sometimes called 'Sowe Mill'.
SPON MILL (Burton's Mill, Maydon's Mill, Spon End Mill). A mill situated in the vill of Spon was mentioned in 1221 among property claimed as dower by Richard Hamilton's wife Juliane. She claimed that it had been held by Amice, the mother of her first husband, William of Spon. But the jury dismissed the claim, and the mill remained for a time divided into five parcels.
(fn. 38) By 1233, however, the whole mill was held by Alice, daughter of William, who leased it to Richard de la Sale.
(fn. 39) By 1280 there was probably more than one mill at Spon. The mill of 1233 may be represented by that held by the heirs of John de la Sale together with an oven,
(fn. 40) or by the water-mill held by the heirs of William de la Sale of Henry de Hastings.
(fn. 41) Another mill was held by Richard Burton and his wife Parnel of the heirs of Lytholf of Spon.
(fn. 42) Still called Richard Burton's Mill, it was said to be super Spon Bridge in 1411. This was probably in Spon End.
(fn. 43) Robert Evans was holding a tenement with a mill in Fleet Street from the corporation sometime after 1550,
(fn. 44) and in 1590 and 1630 the corporation leased a malt-mill in Fleet Street, perhaps on or near the site of the de la Sale mill.
(fn. 45) One of these mills may be identified with Maydon's Mill, situated in the west of the city in 1496.
(fn. 46) Nothing more is known of the Fleet Street mill but in 1849 there was a corn-mill in Spon End, near the railway, owned by William Wilberforce and known as Spon End Mill.
(fn. 47) The mill was converted to steam between 1884 and 1888 and became disused between 1892 and 1896.
STIVICHALL MILL (Heath Mill, Stivichall Old Mill) stood on the Sherbourne between Whitley Mill and the confluence of the Sherbourne and the Sowe. The mill was first mentioned in 1154-7 when Stivichall, 'with the mill next the park', was granted by Hugh (II), Earl of Chester, to Walter Durdent, Bishop of Coventry. In 1221-2, as Heath Mill, it was granted by the bishop's tenant, Margery de Nerbone, to Geoffrey de Langley.
(fn. 49) What was apparently the same mill was regranted to Geoffrey de Langley by William de Lucy in 1239-40.
(fn. 50) It was held by Geoffrey de Langley in 1274 and by Walter de Langley in 1280.
(fn. 51) In 1318-19 and 1331 Thomas de Merston and the Weston family had interests in the mill.
(fn. 52) Among the tenants between 1419 and 1544 were John Wardant, Thomas Wildegrise (mayor, 1443), Thomas Wilmer, and William Williams; the mill was at times sub-let.
(fn. 53) It was still called Heath Mill in 1556.
(fn. 54) The mill was marked in 1725 and 1793,
(fn. 55) and, as Stivichall Old Mill, in 1886.
(fn. 56) There were some farm-buildings on the site in 1964. Several other mills which appear in Stivichall rentals were in Baginton parish, on the Sowe. These included, for example, a fulling mill in 1418-19.
WHITLEY MILL lay on the Sherbourne south of New Mill and immediately north of Whitley Abbey Bridge. It was mentioned in the early 13th century, when William de Whitley granted land near it to Geoffrey de Langley.
(fn. 58) The mill was part of the priory's estate in Whitley in 1279, and was held of the priory by John Shipley in 1410-11.
(fn. 59) William in the Hollies, and Thomas and Hugh, millers of Whitley, were mentioned in the mid 14th century.
(fn. 60) Whitley Mill, mentioned in 1482,
(fn. 61) was probably one of William Bristow's mills threatened by the mob in 1469
(fn. 62) and one of the three mills held with Whitley manor in 1627-8.
The mill was in existence in the late 18th and early 19th centuries,
(fn. 64) and was owned by Lord Hood in 1846.
(fn. 65) The mill was said to be in ruins in 1889,
(fn. 66) and was later used as a cottage.
(fn. 67) It was a timber-framed L-shaped building on a stone base probably dating from the 17th century. It was demolished in 1955 and the machinery taken to the City Museum.
WOOD MILL, first mentioned in the 13th century,
(fn. 69) formed part of the boundary of Coundon in 1410-11.
(fn. 70) It appears to have lain north of Spon Bridge, probably on the Sherbourne, though it could have been a windmill.
WYKEN MILL (Sowe Mill). In the 13th century Alice, widow of Walter Bret, and James Bret granted the 'mill of Wyken', said to lie 'next to Sowe village', in frankalmoign to the Abbey of Combe. The mill was later granted by the abbey, probably on lease, to Stephen de Ladgrave.
(fn. 71) This was probably the mill said in 1279 to be held by Nicholas de Segrave from James Bret and the Abbot of Combe.
(fn. 72) The Bret estate in Wyken had, however, passed to the Langleys shortly after 1243 and the appearance of James Bret is probably only a survival of the name.
(fn. 73) It is more likely, therefore, that the mesne lord was Walter de Langley, who was said to hold a water-mill in Wyken in demesne in 1279.
(fn. 74) There is no further mention of either the Brets or the Langleys in connexion with the mill, and probably the mesne lordship lapsed, and ownership remained with the descendants of Segrave, the lord of Caludon. Sowe water-mill is mentioned, but not its owner, in 1379
(fn. 75) and 1391.
(fn. 76) It was probably the 'mill under Sowe', held by the lord of Caludon in the early 15th century. Misleadingly called Sowe Mill, it was still part of the Caludon estate in the 18th century.
(fn. 77) It is shown on maps of 1793 and 1822 on the west branch of the Sowe, inside the Wyken boundary.
(fn. 78) It was apparently still working in 1850, 1875, and 1900.
(fn. 79) The mill was probably converted to steam power when it was rebuilt in 1859.
(fn. 80) In 1964 the 19th-century mill buildings, then used for other purposes, included a chimney. The early-19th-century mill-house was also occupied. So-called 'moats' in the area are probably relics of river diversions for the mill's purposes.
Nicholas de Segrave held two other mills in 1279. These were in Caludon though not part of that manor.
(fn. 81) One of the mills was held from Ralph Stivichall who was the owner in 1250.
(fn. 82) Mills, and a family 'of the mill' or 'at the mill', were mentioned in several 13th-century Wyken deeds,
(fn. 83) and a mill called Wyken Mill was in existence about 1340.
(fn. 84) Woodmillheye, a field-name, is mentioned in 1298
(fn. 85) and 1306-7
(fn. 86) but it is not known which of the Wyken mills is referred to.
WINDMILLS.There were not many medieval windmills in the Coventry area. Coventry Priory had a windmill in Sowe by 1291
(fn. 87) but it had fallen into disuse by the late 14th century.
(fn. 88) There was a windmill between Radford Road and St. Nicholas Street and another north of Spon Street and west of Barras Lane in 1411.
(fn. 89) The latter was marked on the 1748-9 survey
(fn. 90) and gave its name to Windmill Field which survived until well into the 19th century.
Another windmill was built on the common land outside New Gate by John Mylner, a miller, in 1583.
(fn. 92) A committee of the corporation viewed a piece of land outside New Gate in 1715, with the object of having a windmill built there.
(fn. 93) It was either not built or soon fell into disuse, for the 1748-9 map marks Windmill Hill, but no mill southeast of New Gate.
There is evidence of several 18th-century mills. A windmill in Foleshill was sold in 1682,
(fn. 95) in 1718, and to Thomas Miller, miller of Berkswell, in 1724. Miller bought Foleshill water-mill in the same year, and probably allowed the windmill to fall into disrepair. It may have been the building called the malthouse in 1733.
(fn. 96) A windmill in the area was shown in 1767,
(fn. 97) and a building was still marked in that position in 1775.
(fn. 98) Another windmill was marked in 1793 just north of Foleshill water-mill near Hall Green.
(fn. 99) A windmill just south of the river, opposite the water-mill, appears in 1822.
(fn. 1) It is probable that one of these maps gave the wrong position.
The windmill built on Whitley Common in 1722
(fn. 2) was presumably one of the two marked on a map of 1725, one north-west of Whitley water-mill and the other further north again. The same map also shows a windmill in Stivichall, south of the water-mill there, and a windmill on Hearsall Common,
(fn. 3) built by Thomas Wotton, a miller, who had been granted a licence by the corporation in 1716.
(fn. 4) Joseph Parker, a miller, was given permission in 1740 to erect a windmill on Whitley Common between the gibbet and Green Lane End.
(fn. 5) None of these mills appears on later maps.
(fn. 6) A windmill called Wasting's Mill lay north of Cook Street Gate and east of Leicester Row in 1807.
HORSE-MILLS. A horse-mill seems to have replaced the priory's windmill in Sowe late in the 14th century, but it, too, was disused by 1410-11.
(fn. 8) At that date there were four horse-mills in Coventry, three combined with water-mills at Earl's Mill, Hill Mill, and Priory Mill,
(fn. 9) and one, probably a fulling mill, between Radford Road and St. Nicholas Street.