Heston and Isleworth: Mills

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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'Heston and Isleworth: Mills', in 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, (London, 1962) pp. 112-114. British History Online https://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/middx/vol3/pp112-114 [accessed 19 April 2024]


In 1086 there were two mills in Isleworth manor. (fn. 1) In 1297 the lord of the manor owned a mill 'of Isleworth' and a mill 'of Brentford', (fn. 2) and by 1300 there was a mill at Oldford, on the Crane in Twickenham. (fn. 3) The Brentford mill was presumably driven by the Brent and was probably that which was granted about 1235 with land by the Brent from Henry de Stoke to his daughter Maud. Henry held it of the Abbey of St. Radegund, Bradsole (Kent). Ralph de Pyrie, perhaps Maud's son, granted it to Edmund, Earl of Cornwall. (fn. 4) It seems to have been still in existence in 1326. (fn. 5)

There are several references to a mill belonging to the manor in the early 14th century, which perhaps concern the mill 'of Isleworth'. (fn. 6) Its situation is first indicated in 1352, when it adjoined the manor-house and stood on a stream called the Bourne. (fn. 7) This seems to have run through Isleworth town in the course of the present Duke's River, and the manorhouse probably stood south of the river and west of Church Street. (fn. 8) One chronicle includes a mill among the buildings belonging to Richard of Cornwall which were destroyed by the Londoners in 1264: (fn. 9) if this is correct, it may have stood here, beside the manor-house which the mob burned, or at Baber Bridge, by the fishpond which they emptied. In 1370 there were two water-mills attached to Isleworth manor, one of them in need of rebuilding; (fn. 10) just before this the reeve had been ordered to rebuild the water-mill of Isleworth. (fn. 11) The Bourne seems to have had defects as a mill-stream in the 14th century, and by 1463 the Isleworth mill was totally in decay and disused. Later the mill-stone was sold, and before 1506 the derelict mill-house had been leased with the adjoining manor-house to John Fox, Bishop of Winchester, who had granted Syon Abbey another mill in exchange. This new mill had been built between Twickenham and Isleworth by a man who had leased the manor-house about 50 years before. (fn. 12) The most likely, if not the only possible, place for a mill between Twickenham and Isleworth was on the Crane.

The Crane worked other mills in Isleworth before this date. The Oldford mill in Twickenham has already been mentioned. The site of a former mill at Imbury (i.e. near Baber Bridge) was conveyed to the Crown in 1375 (fn. 13) and is perhaps to be connected with the mill at Baber Bridge which may have been destroyed in 1264. (fn. 14) It seems that the Crane was little more effective than the Bourne in driving a mill, for the new mill between Isleworth and Twickenham is not referred to again, and by 1543 yet another mill (later known as the Isleworth Manor Mill or Kidd's Mill) was being built at the old position near the mouth of the Bourne, while the Bourne was reinforced by a new river specially built across Hounslow Heath from the Colne. (fn. 15) The new mill remained an appurtenance of Isleworth manor until 1876. (fn. 16) It had two mill-stones in 1553, (fn. 17) and five in 1633, of which four ground corn and the fifth ground wood for dyes. It had only the four corn-grinding wheels in 1669, when it was to be rebuilt by the lessee. (fn. 18) By 1845 there were two steam-engines to assist the water-power and the mill was said to be one of the largest for flour in England. (fn. 19) The lessee was then Richard Kidd. After some variations in the firm's name, Samuel Kidd & Co. Ltd. were the owners when the mill stopped work a little while before it was demolished in 1941. (fn. 20)

The new river which was built under Henry VIII soon served other mills in the area. Norden described a copper and brass mill between Isleworth and Worton, where 'many artificial devices' were in use. (fn. 21) This mill stood on the Duke's River in St. John's Road, and was managed by a partnership, of which one member, John Broad, claimed to employ processes for making copper plates which had never before been used in England. According to the proceedings in a dispute between the partners in 1596 the mill was probably built between 1581 and 1587. (fn. 22) Glover's map of 1635 describes it as a copper-mill, but it was marked as a paper-mill in a map of 1607 (fn. 23) and may have been the Isleworth paper-mill which was stopped with other Middlesex mills from working in 1636, because of danger from plague-infected rags. (fn. 24) The mill never belonged to the owners of Isleworth manor and had no inherent right to use the water of the Duke's River; deeds survive from the later 17th century and later by which the miller of Isleworth Manor Mill leased the use of the water to the owners of what was almost certainly this mill. These deeds show that the mill was used in 1671 both to make paper and to grind brazil wood for dyes, and by 1721 as a brazil-mill only: one of the terms of these leases was that it should not be used as a corn-mill. (fn. 25) By 1694 the mill was generally called the Brazil Mill, (fn. 26) a name which adhered to Brazil Mill Lane (now St. John's Road) and to the mill itself some time after it had in fact become a corn-mill in the 19th century. (fn. 27) By 1862 the mill had been burned down and the site was bought by the owners of the adjoining brewery, who demolished the remaining buildings. (fn. 28)

Between the junction of the Duke's River and the Crane above Baber Bridge and their divergence below Fulwell in Twickenham a number of mills were built at different times. The highest up the river was the Bedfont Powder Mill, north-west of Baber Bridge, in the parish of East Bedfont. It was in operation as a sword-mill in 1635, (fn. 29) and was converted to gunpowder during the Interregnum. (fn. 30) It stood on the Duke's River just above its confluence with the Crane. A paper-mill was built above Baber Bridge just below the junction of the rivers about 1620. (fn. 31) It was still working in 1636 but had apparently gone by 1675. (fn. 32) Below Baber Bridge on the Crane Ogilby marked a sword-mill in 1675, and the sword manufactory is said to have moved here from the Bedfont Mill further up after that had been converted to gunpowder-making. (fn. 33) In 1687, however, it was reliably said that the owners of the Bedfont Mill above the bridge had received a joint lease about 21 years before from the Earl of Northumberland, the owner of the river, and Francis Phillips, the owner of the land, and had thereupon built a second powdermill on the Feltham bank below the bridge. (fn. 34) A powder-mill on the south of Baber Bridge, but this time said to be in Isleworth manor and parish, was to be pulled down and replaced by a brazil-wood mill under a lease of 1752. (fn. 35) The brazil-mill was working in 1756 and 1784, but in 1810 it was leased as a flaxmill. (fn. 36) In or before 1834 it was again converted, this time to make snuff, and between 1865 and 1894 became a cartridge factory. (fn. 37) This last change may have been made in 1871 when the Duke of Northumberland sold it to Messrs. Curtis & Harvey, who also worked and bought from him at the same time the Bedfont and Hounslow Gunpowder Mills. (fn. 38) This last, with another mill at Fulwell, stood on the Crane in Twickenham parish. (fn. 39)

On the Duke's River after its separation from the Crane two calico-printing mills were set up quite near to the Brazil Mill but over two centuries leatr. The first seems to have been started about 1769, and stood on the east bank of the river just north of Worton Bridge. It was leased from the Duke of Northumberland. (fn. 40) The other, which did not belong to the duke, stood on the west bank a little farther upstream. It was in existence by 1818. (fn. 41) Both had been discontinued by 1833. (fn. 42)

Heston, with no streams of any size except for the Crane on its western boundary, seems to have had no mills in the Middle Ages. Sir Thomas Gresham, however, built corn-, oil-, and paper-mills which were worked by the stream running through Osterley Park: (fn. 43) the mill pond was the farthest east of the several ponds on this stream, and lay between Windmill Lane and the Brent. (fn. 44) The mills were probably all in one building: in 1584 the corn-mill was said to have been set up on the Brent about twelve or thirteen years before and the paper-mill to have been added to the same building about seven years later. (fn. 45) All were 'decayed' by 1593, except for the corn-mill, which does not seem to have survived much longer. (fn. 46)

In 1818 there was a mill on the Brent just above Brentford Bridge. (fn. 47) It was no longer there in 1865. (fn. 48)

A windmill belonging to Isleworth manor in 1352 and 1362 may have stood at Whitton, in Twickenham parish, where one is known to have existed later. (fn. 49) 'The Windmill' in Heston, mentioned in 1718, (fn. 50) seems to have been an alehouse, but after the inclosure of 1818 a real windmill was built on Hounslow Heath north of the Staines Road, to grind corn. A steam-engine was added in a nearby building shortly before 1891, when all the buildings were burned. The factory of Parke Davis & Co. Ltd. later took over the site. (fn. 51)

The Good Intent Flour Mill was a co-operative venture started in 1802. There is no evidence that it flourished or even functioned as a mill, but it attained considerable notoriety while it was being built because its share-holders claimed to vote as freeholders in the parliamentary election of that year. (fn. 52) It is said to have stood at the Town Wharf in Isleworth (i.e. in Swan Street), (fn. 53) but the source of its power for grinding is unknown.


  • 1. Dom. Bk. (Rec. Com.), i. 130a.
  • 2. Ministers' Accts. of Earldom of Cornwall, 1296-7 (Camd. Soc. 3rd ser. lxvi), pp. 44-45.
  • 3. C 133/95, no. 14: see p. 151.
  • 4. E 36/57, nos. 4, 5, 45; C.P. 25 (1)/146/9/119.
  • 5. S.C. 6/916/21.
  • 6. S.C. 6/916/10, 11, 21.
  • 7. S.C. 6/916/17.
  • 8. See pp. 86, 104.
  • 9. Liber de Ant. Leg. (Camd. Soc. xxxiv), p. 61; see p. 104.
  • 10. E 36/266, f. 48b.
  • 11. Cal. Close, 1369-74, 64.
  • 12. S.C. 6/916/17, 21, 22, 25; S.C. 6/Hen. VII 377, 1786; E 315/35, no. 40.
  • 13. Cal. Close, 1374-7, 213; for Imbury see p. 107.
  • 14. See above.
  • 15. L. & P. Hen. VIII, xviii (2), p. 131; xx (1), p. 270; for the river, see p. 86.
  • 16. 'Rep. on Duke of Northumberland's River' (1917; TS. in M.R.O.), appendix V.
  • 17. Cal. Pat. 1553, 171.
  • 18. Syon Ho., MS. M. xiii. 11. a-c, f.
  • 19. Kelly's Dir. Mdx. (1845).
  • 20. Hounslow Libr., framed illus.
  • 21. Norden, Speculum Brit. pt. 1, p. 41, and map.
  • 22. Req. 2/131/38; B.M. Lans. MS. 81; see V.C.H. Mdx. ii. 128. Note also in plate facing p. 90 the house in Isleworth formerly occupied by John Broad, the famous metallist.
  • 23. Syon Ho., MS. B. xiii. 1. a.
  • 24. M.R.O., Acc. 249/821-2.
  • 25. Syon Ho., MS. M. xiii. 12. g; N. xiii. 6. c. (1).
  • 26. M.R.O., F. 34/165: the name derives from the wood, not from a corruption of 'brass' as has sometimes been supposed (e.g. G. E. Bate, And so make a city here, 279).
  • 27. M.R.O., Isleworth Incl. Award.
  • 28. L. Toms, 'Hist. of Isleworth Brewery' (TS. at Hounslow Libr.).
  • 29. Glover, Map of Isleworth Hundred; for possible dates of establishment, Cal. S.P. Dom. 1603-10, 537; 1671-2, 54; see also Cal. S.P. Dom. 1636-7, 45, 305; 1639-40, 134, 317; 1650, 4, 185, 525; 1653-4, 57; 1655-6, 143; D.N.B. xviii. 1294.
  • 30. Cal. S.P. Dom. 1671-2, 54.
  • 31. B.M. Microfilm 380 (Alnwick Castle, Syon MS. E. xv. 1. d. (2)); Syon Ho., MS. N. xii. 6. b, d; cf. Glover, op. cit.
  • 32. V.C.H. Mdx. ii. 196; Ogilby, Brit. plate 25 (following p. 48).
  • 33. Ogilby, op. cit.; D.N.B. xviii. 1294.
  • 34. B.M. Microfilm 380 (Alnwick Castle, Syon MS. E. xv 3. d).
  • 35. Syon Ho., MS. M. xiii. 11. d.
  • 36. Map of General Roy's base-line reproduced in Philos. Trans. lxxv, pl. 1; Syon Ho., MS. M. xiii. 11. i; see p. 118.
  • 37. Syon Ho., MS. M. xiii. 11. m; O.S. Map 1/2,500 Mdx. xx. 10 (1st and 2nd edns.).
  • 38. 'Rep. on Duke of Northumberland's River' (1917; TS. in M.R.O.), 2.
  • 39. See p. 151.
  • 40. M.R.O., Acc. 400/63; Isleworth Incl. Award; B.M. Maps K. 30. 5. g is a view of it in 1795.
  • 41. M.R.O., Isleworth Incl. Award.
  • 42. Pigot, Lond. and Prov. Dir. (1833), 923.
  • 43. Norden, Speculum Brit. pt. 1, p. 37.
  • 44. E 134/26 Eliz. Trin. 2; cf. Rocque, Map of 10 miles round Lond. (1746).
  • 45. E 134/26 Eliz. Trin. 2.
  • 46. Norden, op. cit.; Glover, Map of Isleworth Hundred.
  • 47. M.R.O., Isleworth Incl. Award.
  • 48. O.S. Map 1/2,500 Mdx. xx. 4 (1st. edn.).
  • 49. See p. 151.
  • 50. M.R.O., Cal. Sess. Bks. &c. 1715-18, 136.
  • 51. O.S. Map 1/2,500 Mdx. xx. 10 (1st and later edns.); T.L.M.A.S. xvi. 62: Mdx. Chron. 31 Aug. 1895.
  • 52. Aungier, Hist. of Syon, 235-9.
  • 53. Hounslow Libr., framed drawing.