West Drayton: Mills

Page 196

A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 3, Shepperton, Staines, Stanwell, Sunbury, Teddington, Heston and Isleworth, Twickenham, Cowley, Cranford, West Drayton, Greenford, Hanwell, Harefield and Harlington. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1962.

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Drayton water-mill, belonging to the manor, was mentioned in surveys of 1086 (fn. 1) and 1222. (fn. 2) It is known to have been in continuous existence from 1467 at the latest, and appears always to have occupied approximately the same site, a short distance upstream from Drayton Point, at the confluence of Drayton Stream and the Cowley Stream or Frays River. This location is confirmed by maps drawn in 1645 (fn. 3) and 1694. (fn. 4) In 1842 it made possible the provision of a six-foot head of water. (fn. 5) No other mill is known to have existed in the parish.

In 1467 the Dean of St. Paul's and John Sutton, a canon residentiary and the farmer of West Drayton, leased the mill for 99 years to Clement Cook of Twickenham. With the mill were included an adjacent wharf and fish weir. (fn. 6) The wharf was mentioned in the subsequent deeds concerning the lease until 1538. (fn. 7) It lay between the High Bridge and Drayton weir, and was customarily kept in repair by the farmer of the manor. (fn. 8) Its existence is the only surviving indication of the contemporary navigation of the Colne to Drayton. After passing through various hands the lease was bought by William Paget in 1538. (fn. 9) The mill itself was granted to Paget in 1546, with the manor. He had enlarged it (fn. 10) by 1559, when it comprised two wheat-mills and a malt-mill under one roof. Under the 16th-century leases, (fn. 11) the miller was held responsible for grinding the lord's corn free of charge, (fn. 12) and for keeping the mill-streams clear and the banks in repair. (fn. 13) In 1587 the lease included fishing rights and some adjacent land, (fn. 14) and in 1615 a slaughter-house, (fn. 15) which stood in Mill Lane (now Money Lane), on the bank of the Frays River, opposite Pond Closes, (fn. 16) and probably close by the 15th-century house known in 1958 as the Frays. In 1650 (fn. 17) and 1688 (fn. 18) the slaughter-house was leased separately. The mill was leased in 1696 to Nicholas Falcon, (fn. 19) a paper miller, (fn. 20) and, before the end of the 17th century a part, at least, of the buildings was used for paper-making; in 1700 there were at least six paper-makers living in West Drayton parish, and the names of three more occur in the parish registers between 1704 and 1709. (fn. 21) Although it continued to be used in part as a corn-mill (fn. 22) from 1696 until its sale to Elizabeth Mills in 1772, (fn. 23) Drayton Mill was leased by the owner of the manor to a succession of paper-makers. (fn. 24) The connexion with the Mills family began in 1736, when James Mills secured a lease. (fn. 25) He died by 1764, but the business was continued by his wife Elizabeth and their son Alan (1746-c. 1794), (fn. 26) until about 1794. In 1796 it was in the possession of Nicholas Mercer, (fn. 27) mealman (fn. 28) and paper-maker, who 'almost wholly' rebuilt the mill, (fn. 29) and probably added the large millhouse, known in 1958 as Fraysbrook House. At the close of the 19th century this building was, for a time, the club-house of West Drayton Golf Club. (fn. 30) John Mercer, a partner in 1806, was sole owner in 1816. The mill had by that date begun to produce millboard. (fn. 31) At Mercer's death in 1833 there were two millboard mills in operation, one of which stood near a disused malthouse and had formerly been used as a flour-mill. (fn. 32) In 1876 Daniel and Richard Mercer's (fn. 33) mill was claimed to be the largest millboard mill in existence. 'Large heaps of ship rope soaking up clay' might be seen in its vicinity, with 'stacks of old book-covers imbibing air and moisture preparatory to re-issue'. (fn. 34) In 1905 the mill was still almost entirely water-driven. The three water-wheels powered four beating engines and other machinery, and there was one steam-powered board-making machine. The average output of the West Drayton and the Wooburn Green (Bucks.) mill, controlled by the same company, was estimated at 40 tons of millboard weekly. (fn. 35) West Drayton Millboard Co. was formed about 1893, (fn. 36) and the mill was operated by a succession of private companies (fn. 37) until about 1923, (fn. 38) after which date it stood derelict for more than 20 years. It was acquired, about 1948, by Penguin Books Ltd., (fn. 39) and a modern part of the buildings was again in use in 1958. Most of the 18th-century building was then in ruins.


  • 1. Dom. Bk. (Rec. Com.), i. 128.
  • 2. Domesday of St. Paul's (Camd. Soc. c), 99.
  • 3. G. Blaeu, Map Book (1645), 5.
  • 4. Plan of Design for Making R. Colne Navigable (1694: copy in B.M. Map Room, Crace collection).
  • 5. M.R.O., F 32.
  • 6. M.R.O., Acc. 446/E.D. 7; see p. 197.
  • 7. M.R.O., Acc. 446/E.D. 8, 10, 11.
  • 8. Ibid. M. 1.
  • 9. Ibid. E.D. 10, 11.
  • 10. A survey of 1557 mentions the 'New Mill' and the 'Old Mill': M.R.O., Acc. 446/E.M. 38.
  • 11. Ibid. E.D. 28;/E.F. 15/2.
  • 12. E 178/1430.
  • 13. M.R.O., Acc. 446/M. 3 (court roll, 1552).
  • 14. E 178/1430.
  • 15. M.R.O., Acc. 446/E.D. 29.
  • 16. Ibid. E.D. 47.
  • 17. Ibid.
  • 18. Ibid. E.D. 48.
  • 19. Ibid. E.D. 34, 35.
  • 20. A. H. Shorter, Paper Mills and Paper Makers in Eng. 1495-1800 (Paper Public. Soc. vi).
  • 21. M.R.O., D.R.O. 1 (W.D.).
  • 22. M.R.O., Acc. 446/E.F. (1706); Acc. 446/E.M. 35 (1749).
  • 23. Lysons, Mdx. Pars. 33, citing Fysh de Burgh.
  • 24. Shorter, Paper Mills; M.R.O., Acc. 446/E.D. 34-39.
  • 25. M.R.O., Acc. 446/E.D. 40; /E.M. 35.
  • 26. Shorter, Paper Mills; M.R.O., Acc. 446/E.M. 36; M.R.O., D.R.O. 1 (W.D.).
  • 27. Shorter, Paper Mills.
  • 28. Lysons, Mdx. Pars. 36.
  • 29. Rep. of Cttee. of Magistrates on Public Bridges in Mdx. (1826), 248.
  • 30. V.C.H. Mdx. ii. 281.
  • 31. Shorter, Paper Mills.
  • 32. B.T. 31/17457/84609.
  • 33. Kelly's Dir. Mdx. (1878 and later edns.).
  • 34. Thorne, Handbook to Environs of Lond. (1876), i. 154.
  • 35. B.T. 31/17457/84609.
  • 36. Kelly's Dir. Mdx. (1894).
  • 37. B.T. 31/17457/84609; /19616/111255.
  • 38. Cf. Kelly's Dir. Mdx. (1923, 1926).
  • 39. Local information.