For 127 years, generations of the Pope family made a living from the fast-flowing River Wandle here at the site of the Upper Mill. Sadly we don't have any pictures of the Popes, but we do have a potential signature. This is from the last will and testament of Christopher Pope in 1764.
But first, let's start at the very beginning.Claim this banner space for your business
1086 - 1620
The early years at Carshalton
The site of this unassuming little building is a source of so much local history pertinent to the Carshalton area. The mill has been rebuilt and adapted many times over the years, and although the current mill building is relatively recent it still provides a reminder of the long and industrious past of the River Wandle, here at Carshalton.
The very first official mention of a 'Carshalton Mill' was in the Domesday Book of 1086. It was owned on lease by the Abbey of Chertsey.
In 1355 the Mill became the property of nearby Stone Court.
In 1590 Stone Court changed hands and a sale document dated 1590 described the building as ‘two wheat mills and a malt mill’. It may have consisted of three small water wheels each driving an individual stone.
The year 1620 is the first mention of an 'Upper Mill'.
1660 - 1787
Generations of the Pope family
The workers with the longest known connection to the mill went by the name of Pope, and it's fascinating to try and imagine the lives of these millers so long ago. They must have been a well-known family within Carshalton. Christopher Pope was one of the first recorded millers back in 1660.
One of the first recorded millers at this site was Christopher Pope, who is believed to have married Elizabeth Matthews in April 1654. This was recorded in the Carshalton parish register.
By 1707 the mill is likely to have been in the hands of Elizabeth and Christopher's son, William.
On William's death, circa 1729 his wife takes over. She was another Elizabeth.
Eventually, Elizabeth's son took over around 1739-1741. On insurance documents at this time, the building was described as a "Corn Mill with Granarys over". Elizabeth's son was also called Christopher. Clearly, first names would run in the family. In centuries past, corn would’ve been used to refer to the dominant crop in a region, whether that was wheat, rye, oats, or similar. source
In 1764, Christopher's nephew George was given the reigns to the family business.
This was the end of the line - by 1787 George Pope had quit. Generations of the Pope family had made money from the mill for at least 127 years.
The mill is reconstructed by John Smeaton – famous for being the designer of Cornwall's Eddystone lighthouse
By the late 18th century the mill was considered long out of date. In 1779 the value of the mill was £1000. The owner at the time, John Hilbert, commissioned John Smeaton, a respected engineer to design a more efficient wheel.
It doubled in price following Smeaton's improvements. So on 18 November 1782 John Hilbert renewed his policy on the mill and dwelling house – now being worth £2000.
These are some of the original documents drawn up improve the efficiency of Carshalton's old mill.
What became of Smeaton's work? Much has disappeared at Carshalton, but two wheel pits remain and they are built of Portland stone.
Who was John Smeaton? He was a British civil engineer (1724-1792) and is most famous for being the designer of the Eddystone Lighthouse. The lighthouse stood near Rame Head, in Cornwall. Smeaton's is renowned because of its influence on lighthouse design and its importance in the development of concrete for building. This was the third of four lighthouses. The first lighthouse was swept away in a powerful storm, killing its architect and five other men in the process. The second stood for fifty years before it burned down. The Smeaton lighthouse was rebuilt due to rock movement. The upper portions of the third lighthouse were re-erected in Plymouth as a monument to Smeaton's ingenuity – pictured above.
1819 - 1880
The final years of corn
The Large Grade 2 wooden wheel you see in The Grove today has iron plates, and is thought to be the same wheel to have operated Charrington's flour mill. This mill was active from 1819 until the 1880s.
It's important to note the wheel was not in this position, but inside the building, and twice the width it is now. It was later adapted during the time of the Alpine-style mill.
It was a large and active mill and this is how it was described: "a very capital and most substantially erected Water Corn-mill, with an uninterrupted supply of water ... driving 5 pairs of stones to one 18 feet breast shot and one 6 feet overshot wheels, with bins for upwards of 1500 quarters of corn, ranges of stabling, sheds, kiln and loft, and other appurtenances, together with a comfortable and convenient dwelling house, large garden &c. in the occupation of Messrs. Charrington and Gray, on lease, which will expire at Midsummer 1822."
The Charrington mill was demolished in 1886.
The Charrington water wheel was described as Breastshot wheel – what is this?
"If you can only provide a head of water of some 6ft to 8ft your best bet is to build a Breastshot wheel. Here water is admitted to the wheel about half way up and it flows out with the rotation of the wheel. Breastshot wheels could be made very wide to increase their power output and, more than any other type, tended to be iron built wherever possible"
1895 - 1922
Alpine-style mill built to generate electricity
By the end of the 19th century, in 1887, the Alpine-style wooden building you see today was erected by wealthy widow Aurelia Cator. The building rests on the old Portland Stone wheel pits by John Smeaton.
The building was designed as an electricity-generating plant. This was one of the first water mills to generate electricity.
It's believed the old Charrington water wheel was originally used to power the new mill.
Initially the water power was augmented with a steam engine, and the mill was used as a private facility to supply the nearby Stone Court outbuildings and The Grove.
Around 1909, the large water wheel was no longer used. The wheel was kept in situ, but cut up, and by 1914 a water turbine installed. By 1922 the mill was abandoned altogether, and sold to Sutton Council in 1923 when the turbines were removed.
In the 1980s there was a part-restoration – the partial remaining wheel was removed from inside the building. It was reconstructed and made narrower and moved to the exterior of the building. It's grade 2 listed and parts of it date to the early 1800s. "It was cleaned, rebuilt as a complete narrower wheel, given new buckets and placed in the southeast wheel pit."
Restoration was finally completed in 2004 and the building is occasionally open to the public. Tiled roof which has since been replaced with material more resilient in 2014. It's said below the Mill there was a swimming pool from 1923, now long disused.
We've recreated what it would look like with water in today.
Compiled by Secret Carshalton based on extensive research from a range of sources such as the Wandle Museum and Sutton Heritage. We aim to get the facts straight, but new info can always come to light – and we will make updates accordingly. We also aim to credit sources, if we've missed you off please let us know.
Table of Contents
1086 - 1620: The early years at Carshalton
1660 - 1787: Generations of the Pope family
1782: The mill is reconstructed by John Smeaton – famous for being the designer of Cornwall's Eddystone lighthouse
Panel: Plans and drawings of the new mill
Panel: More about Smeaton's Eddystone Lighthouse
1819 - 1880: The final years of corn
Panel: A Breastshot Wheel
1895 - 1922: Alpine-style mill built to generate electricity
Panel: The Turbine