Our watermill dates from the 18th and 19th centuries but its position is so favourable that it seems likely that it is far from the first mill on the site. It stands on gently sloping ground between the River Nene to the south and the River Welland to the north, lying between poorly drained fens to the east and limestone hills to the west
There’s evidence of pre-Roman occupation in the area and extensive archaeological remains from the Romans themselves on Sacrewell’s land. Certainly, there were three watermills in the area by the time the Domesday Book was compiled in 1086.
There are few relics of these early watermills – sites would have been used over and over again as mills were repaired or improved, leaving little evidence of the earlier models. Sacrewell could, therefore, have been one of the Domesday sites.
The existing watermill buildings have a typical 18th century arrangement. It didn’t change much for some decades – an estate plan of 1838 shows little alteration to it since 1780. But the mid-19th century was a time of improvement and prosperity in British agriculture and a large scale Ordnance Survey map of 1885 shows many changes and improvements.
The buildings consist of the mill, a central adjoining mill house, with the ground floor mill flanked by a bakery and a stable block.
The surviving southern waterwheel is a mid-19th century iron wheel, with timber shafts that may date back to the 18th century. There was originally a northern wheel, too, which was removed in the late-19th or early-20th century, along with its machinery.
At the same time as upgrading the machinery, there was probably work to increase the power of the mill. Alterations to the millpond may have raised the water level, which would have allowed the waterwheel to change from a breastshot type (with incoming water approximately level with the hub of the wheel) to a high breast or pitchback type (with the incoming water near the top of the wheel). The upgrade would have increased the power the wheel generated, as the water would have been able to hit the buckets at a higher level.
The miller’s house was inhabited until the late 20th century, having undergone many changes over the years. Fireplaces and chimneys have been renewed and a new northern extension was added to form a corridor and staircase.