Saturday, 26 April 2014

Three into Two

We are taking a different route back to Little Venice via Limehouse Cut, Lee Navigation and Duckett's Cut before rejoining the Regent's Canal.  Less than an hour's cruising from Limehouse Basin we arrived at  Three Mills where we are mooring for the night.
We are right in front of the old tide mills and opposite a large Tesco store; ten minutes' walk from Bromley-by-Bow tube station: and no mooring fee to pay.These tidal drainage channels, collectively known now as the Bow Back Rivers have been in use for over 1000 years and mills powered by the rise and fall of the tide have existed on this site from well before the Dutch introduced us to windmills. The Doomsday Book (1086) listed eight mills in this area to the west of Stratford.but now there are only two - House Mill and Clock Mill.
House Mill built 1776
So why is it known as Three Mills?

 As far as I can ascertain the name probably dates from the 18th century when there was also a windmill on the site.  This burnt down a couple of times leaving us with just the two existing mills.
The origin of the name Bow (as in Bow Back Rivers and Bromley-by-Bow) seems to be much older, however.  Around 1100AD the wife of Henry I nearly drowned crossing the river close to where Old Ford Lock is now and subsequently had a bridge built. It was, evidently,  a bow-shaped arch which led to the adoption of that name for this area.
Clock Mill built 1817
In the 16th century one mill ground grain and the other produced gunpowder. Those of you who remember the Bird's Custard Powder factory in Banbury exploding will wonder which was the more dangerous activity.
Many years ago Watford & District Industrial History Society had an outing to visit various properties of The Workspace Group.  One of these is on this site and used as TV studios.  The series London's Burning was made here: as was the very first Big Brother.The house for this was built just across the river in what is now the Olympic Park.
The film studio occupies what was once a distillery, a spin-off of the grain trade.
I believe these are the only tide mills existing in London and may be the largest ones in the UK.

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