Ancient Monuments

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Remains of watermill 500m east of Freeth Farm

A Scheduled Monument in Compton Bassett, Wiltshire

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Latitude: 51.4521 / 51°27'7"N

Longitude: -1.9602 / 1°57'36"W

OS Eastings: 402864.540629

OS Northings: 172567.64772

OS Grid: SU028725

Mapcode National: GBR 3V1.WT7

Mapcode Global: VHB3W.ZR3P

Entry Name: Remains of watermill 500m east of Freeth Farm

Scheduled Date: 15 February 1999

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1018613

English Heritage Legacy ID: 31658

County: Wiltshire

Civil Parish: Compton Bassett

Traditional County: Wiltshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Wiltshire

Church of England Parish: Compton Bassett St Swithin

Church of England Diocese: Salisbury


The monument includes two linear earthworks and associated features
representing the remains of a medieval watermill situated in the wooded valley
of the Abberd Brook near the village of Compton Bassett, 1.2km west of the
edge of the Marlborough Downs.
The linear features are orientated north west to south east across the floor
of the stream valley and are interpreted as medieval mill dams. They are 340m
apart and both are now cut by the stream leaving the mill ponds dry. The dam
to the south west is 85m long, up to 3m high and spans the entire valley floor
apart from a break through which the stream currently flows. The dam is
conical in section, the top is up to 2m wide while the base is up to 22m wide
splaying slightly on the east side. On the west side, a channel up to 1.5m
wide crosses the top of the dam and is interpreted as a leat possibly
associated with the management of the millpond as a fishpond. The level area
upstream of the dam is at a higher level than the area downstream. This is
interpreted as the silted bottom of the former mill pond.
The dam to the north east, upstream of the other is smaller, 60m long and up
2m high. On the east side it stops 40m short of the edge of the valley while
the stream cuts the dam close to the valley edge to the north west. There are
some remains of a channel crossing the dam to the south east. The mill pond
from the larger dam would have reached the base of this structure. It is
interpreted as a secondary feature which may have dammed a smaller fishpond.
The wood in which the larger of the dams is located is still known as `Mill
Pound'. The earthworks are known locally as `Fisheries'. Two mills are
mentioned at Compton Bassett in the Domesday book, three estates of the manor
of Compton Bassett holding a third share. A document of 1233-41 grants land
beside a stream in Compton Bassett to Gilbert Bassett for use as a fishpond
and in 1662 there is a copyhold of a mill known as `Cowmill' recorded. A
survey of 1706 refers to a lease of 1703 on a mill known as `Kewmill' in which
there were two fulling stocks and a Ragg mill as well as stones and other
materials for a corn mill.
The monument was archaeologically surveyed in 1986.

The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

A watermill uses the gravitational force of water to turn a paddled wheel, the
energy thus generated in the axle of the wheel enabling the operation of
varying kinds of machinery. The waterwheel can be set directly into a stream,
with a simple 'shut' to control water flow, or may be spring-fed or use tidal
waters. More usually, however, an artificial channel, or leat, is diverted
from the main watercourse and its flow to the wheel regulated by sluices. The
spent water returns to the main stream via a tailrace which may be
straightened to increase efficiency. Where the natural flow of water is
inadequate, a millpond may be constructed to increase the body of water (and
thus the flow) behind the wheel. During the medieval period, mills, usually
used for corn grinding, were a sign of status, and an important source of
income to the lord of the manor who usually leased the mill and its land to
the miller. As a common feature of the rural and urban landscape, watermills
played an important role in the development of technology and economy.

The millpond dams to the east of Freeth Farm are well preserved examples of
this type of monument. Documentary evidence from the early medieval period
shows that the watermill was in use for several hundred years.

Source: Historic England

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