Cogglesford Watermill, Lincolnshire

Situated amongst trees and grass meadows on the outskirts of the market town of Sleaford, Cogglesford Mill and its associated mill house, stables, and mill pond is probably close to the 'ideal' of a traditional English watermill scene.

Historically important, Cogglesford Mill is a rare survivor from a river that once boasted some 18 watermills at the time of the Doomsday Book. Originally referred to as the 'The Sheriff's Mill', it belonged to a group of mills considered to be the most valuable in Lincolnshire, and amongst the most important in the country.

Vessels could only navigate up the River Slea to a point near modern South Kyme during medieval times - beyond this, their passage was blocked by fish weirs and watermills. The group of mills around Sleaford belonged to the Bishop of Lincoln, with the mills to the east of Cogglesford being part of the Haverholme Priory estates. Most of these mills would probably have been built using timber and thatch, later being rebuilt in stone.

As is usual with most historical buildings, Cogglesford Mill encompasses several phases of development. Stonework in the north wall appears to be recycled stone from a previous mill on the site, but the brickwork is predominantly 18th century with some 19th century additions. Much of the internal timber is also of considerable age, having been re-used several times through the mill's evolution. The group of buildings as seen today were largely constructed during the 18th century, although the mill building itself would have been single storey with a loft above, and the stables would have had a thatched roof. Capacity would also have been increased at this time by the addition of a second waterwheel, allowing two sets of stones to be worked.

Between the years 1792-94 the 'Slea Navigation' came into being, which would transform the fortunes of the remaining mills in the area, for a short time at least. Corn-carrying vessels could now navigate into the heart of Sleaford town itself, opening up numerous opportunities - corn could be delivered directly to the mill, but the meal and flour produced could be transported in bulk to the ever growing canal and river network beyond. A new reservoir was built at Cogglesford Mill at this time, and this survives today as a tranquil mill pond to be enjoyed by both wildfowl and ramblers in the area.

During the 19th century, Cogglesford Mill was further extended by the addition of an upper storey (the Garner floor), and this was used for the storage of grain. Advancements in gearing also allowed the two 18th century waterwheels to be replaced by a single paddle-wheel. The mill house was also extended and the stable roof was pan-tiled in keeping with the rest of the complex.

With the advent of the railway, the prosperity of the businesses along the Slea Navigation soon fell into sharp decline. Dwindling river traffic, and falling revenues inevitably resulted in proper maintenance schedules being cut back, and this led to river silting and general decay. By 1878 the Slea Navigation was wound up by an Act of Parliament, and a very prosperous era in the town's history came to an end. Although Cogglesford Mill continued to operate for some years after, it was eventually closed in 1885 when the installation of a new sewerage pump made the water course unavailable.

For over 100 years Cogglesford Mill lay dormant, exposed to the ravages of both vandalism and weather. However, in 1988 the site was purchased by Mr R Staples who restored and converted the mill house into his offices. In 1990 he conveyed the mill building and its water courses to North Kesteven District Council, and an opportunity to restore the structure could be realised.

Work on the mill and the surrounding area was completed in the early 1990s - today the fully restored and operational mill has a regular calendar of events allowing the public to enjoy the experience of seeing the mill in action once again. The mill house has recently been converted, and is now a very picturesque 'cottage' restaurant.


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