Kempston Mill

In the Domesday Book (AD 1086) it is recorded that Countess Judith owns 10 hides in Kempston, which includes a mill valued at 5 shillings. Judith founded Elstow Abbey around 1075 and her lands in Kempston were attached to it in order to provide an income.  It seems reasonable to assume that Judith’s mill was on the same site as the later Kempston Mill.  Some Roman remains were discovered during alterations to Kempston Mill in the early 20th century, therefore it is likely that a mill has stood on this site since Roman times.

Later it is recorded that part of the property of Elstow Abbey, including Kempston Mill, had been assigned to one William Heys in 1535 for a period of 40 years and in 1541, after the Abbey has been dissolved, one Edward Harvey was granted a lease for a period of 21 years.  In 1553, King Edward VI granted the Elstow Abbey land that included Kempston Mill to Sir Humphrey Radclyff. In 1636 Edward Cater, Lord of the Manor of Hastingsbury, granted a nine-year lease to Ralfe Hooton.

List of known millers and tenants of the Mill

1636              Ralfe Hooton
1801-1802   James White
1838              Joseph Warth
1850-1859  Thomas Corder
1859-1863   Joshua Ransom
1863-1868   Edwin Ransom
1868-1882   Edwin Ransom and George Horn
1886-1899   George Horn
1899-1940   George Horn (Kempston) Limited.

In 1801 Kempston Mill still formed part of the Manor of Kempston Hastingsbury, because it formed part of a conveyance of the manor by the three daughters of John Kendall Cater to William Long, but a year later the Mill left the Manor when Sir William Long sold it, together with land, to James White.  Confirmation that White was the tenant when Long bought to Mill is given on a stone found in the Mill House and inscribed  “J W: 1801,” which indicates the date at which alterations were made to the house. In 1863 Edwin Ransom took over the mill, together with a partner, George Horn of Clophill in 1868.  In 1913 the owner was W. Horn who leased the mill to George Horn (Kempston) Ltd.

The mill worked throughout World War One and in 1917 there was a valuation, which described the mill as being of brick, weatherboard and slate construction, with the weatherboard being much newer than the rest.  The main building had five stories.   In 1952 the main source of power was electricity rather than water, and the mill then produced animal feed instead of flour.  The mill continued to work into the sixties, but in 1968 it was closed and an engineering company occupied the premises.  On Sunday 18th May 1969 it burned down whilst its owner, John Clover, was abroad.  In 1980 a new sluice was built across the river, diverting the channel away from the site of the mill.  The area of the mill is now a residential estate.

The Old Mill House

In 1913 the Old Mill House was tenanted by G.A. Clover (presumably a relative of the John Clover who was the last owner of the mill in 1969) and described at that time as being built of brick and tile with a plain stucco front.  The house is dated c. 1800 and probably is encasing an earlier building.  It is listed Grade II (1984/1990) for its special architectural or historic interest.

Steam Lorry at Kempston Mill

This lorry, painted blue, was registered to Mr W. Horn and G.A. Clover.  In 1903 it was in service to G. Horn and had a permitted speed of 5 mph.   The driver shown is George ‘Buster’ Morris who worked at the mill for over half a century.

The River near the Mill

Generations of Kempston children have used the river near the Mill, sometimes in the past gathering in large numbers, for fishing, paddling and swimming.

Peter C Horn

Further information about Kempston Mill can be found on the Bedfordshire and Luton Archives and Record Office website