LYME Regis Town Mill has a string rich history, dating back 1,000 years with far too much to fit on these pages.

We take a look back at the very brief history of the working mill and the incredible effort to restore it nearly 30 years ago.

A mill has stood in the heart of Lyme Regis since at least 1340, when King Edward III granted the people of the town a licence to build a new mill. However, Domesday Book records the existence of a mill at Lyme in 1086.

The town mill was owned by Lyme Regis borough until 1838 when it was sold to William Wallis and his family, who owned it until the 1890s.

The town mill continued to work into the twentieth century, and in 1928 the mill was bought again by the borough, with plans to install an electricity generating plant, but were deferred due to cost, and after 90 years in private hands, the mill became a council depot and store, with the mill itself laying unused and decaying.

With local government reorganisation in 1974, ownership of the town mill was transferred from the disbanded Lyme Regis borough to the new West Dorset District Council.

In 1991, West Dorset District Council made a planning application to demolish the former bake house and sell the mill site for redevelopment, however a group of local residents came together to oppose the application and save the mill.

They created the Town Mill Trust and were dedicated to saving the mills buildings and returning the mill to full working order for the benefit of people in Lyme Regis.

The trust had the active support of author John Fowles and Muriel Arber, a distinguished geologist, who both became patrons of the Town Mill Trust.

In 1992, after initiating historical research and archaeological investigation of the site, the trust was able to show the historical significance of the mill and its long-standing role within the town.

Detailed proposals for the restoration of the buildings were put forward and, once the district council was persuaded that this was a better option than redevelopment, the trust set about raising a target of £330,000. This was enough to carry out basic repairs and to commission further feasibility studies of the mill and its machinery.

The district council gave the site to the Town Mill Trust in 1995 and work to repair the buildings was started by Case Construction, with David Highet as the project architect.

The aim of the restoration – which sought to retain as many original features as possible – was to bring the mill back to its late-Victorian working condition.

In order to develop an income for the mill, the first phase of the renovation concentrated on the provision of art galleries, workshops and a café in the former bake house and stable mill. These opened to the public in 1996.

The second phase of the redevelopment started in 1999 and the project was one of the first in the south west to be awarded a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

The mill house was restored to provide a shop, giving public access to the mill, a meeting room for public use and offices, with the former garage providing exhibition space.

Millwrighting work started on the site in 2000 with the repair of the surviving machinery and the installation of the salvaged waterwheel. In February 2001, the waterwheel and machinery once again turned by water power and in March the Peak millstones produced stone-ground wholemeal flour at the town mill for the first time in more than 75 years.

The town mill opened to the public in 2001.

It continues to produce its own flower through the historic method of the waterwheel and is open to the public to visit and tour.

The mill’s fascinating history can be found in Martin Watts’ ‘A thousand years of milling’, with copies available at Lyme Regis Town Mill.

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