The Old Mill, Snape

A Brief History

This article was researched and produced by Roger Horton, a former owner and resident of The Mill 


The Mill around 1907 from the Terrace

Old Mill, Snape

Old Mill, Snape

A mill has stood on this site since at least 1688 and possibly considerably longer, certainly the high ground overlooking the river catches the wind to provide ample amounts of motive power. This particular post mill with brick roundhouse and wooden sails was constructed in 1797/8 by Thomas Butcher of Wickham Market for William Ship and John Hunt of nearby Parham at a cost of £210:0:0. It seems William Ship died in the very early 1800’s because all the remaining documents are in the name of Mary Ship and bear her mark in the form of a cross until she disappears from the documentation in 1855. Following this short history is a list of the documents still surviving which includes leases, sub leases and mortgages (in those days arranged from private individuals and formalised at the Courts Baron for the Manor of Snape). There are also some receipted solicitors’ invoices from the late 1800’s when the daily fee seemed to be around two to three guineas and the railway fare from Saxmundham to Wenhaston 2/6d, (this would have been travelled partly on the old Southwold Railway, closed in 1929).

The modest miller’s cottage and granary were constructed at the same time and a Norwich Union fire insurance policy exists dated 1801 which insures the windmill, working gear, granary, stock and “his new dwelling house and chattels” at £550:0:0 for an annual premium of one guinea! Interestingly another policy dated 1884, when additional buildings had been constructed, shows a sum insured of £500:0:0 for an annual premium of £1:16:4. Negative building cost inflation in those days it seems!

The mill worked through various owners producing fine white flour and, in the middle of the 19th century, was also used for the grinding of coprolite, a phosphate rich material found under the abundant crag deposits locally, to produce an artificial manure. The material was discovered by Edward Packard a Saxmundham chemist who subsequently built his own mill near Ipswich and went on to become a founder member of Fisons.

In 1897 the mill was purchased by Harry Hudson from the widow of Joseph Lee, he worked the mill until he sold it in 1925 and, since that time, it was known as Hudson’s Mill. There were two other mills in Snape, Markins mill, with an open trestle bottom and cloth sails, in Sandy Lane producing brown flour, built in 1800 and demolished in 1922, and a smaller cloth sail mill somewhere on the track from Sandy Lane to Blackheath Mansion used for turning a wood lathe.

Markins Mill

Markins Mill

With competition from mechanised roller mills increasing, the traditional millers were finding life difficult and it seems, in common with many other windmills, the sails were removed and an oil engine was installed to provide more constant motive power to drive the stones. This was not sufficient to save the mill and grinding ceased in 1933. The buck was later dismantled by John Brown of Leiston but the stones were stored in the roundhouse until 1936 when the runner (upper) stone was taken to Saxtead Mill; this mill is preserved by English Heritage and is open to the public.

In 1937 the mill and outbuildings were purchased by Benjamin Britten and converted into a house. The conversion is described in “The Britten Years” section of the website. Britten moved to Aldeburgh in 1947 and let The Old Mill initially to a Mrs June Billows for a monthly rent of £8:6:8. Other tenants resided in the property until 1955 when Britten sold it to Mr and Mrs Philip Terry as a holiday home. Mr Terry was a solicitor with a London firm while Mrs Phylis Terry nee Whiteman was an artist who illustrated children’s books. Up until 1970 the Old Mill was used as a holiday home or let to various people including some teachers stationed at the nearby American air force base, RAF Bentwaters. The Terrys retired to permanent occupation in 1970 until Mrs Terry died in 1998 after surviving her husband by some eight years. The Old Mill was purchased in August 1999 by Jane and Roger Horton and very extensive renovations and refurbishment were carried out.

Weather vane

The original plans for Britten’s conversion show a weathervane on the central post. This was never fitted until the Hortons commissioned Peggs of Aldeburgh to make the weathervane shown depicting the Mill with the sails in the form of musical bars and notes denoting the two past uses of the building

Historic Documents Surviving

These are placed in the Suffolk Record Office

18th March 1797 Indenture, Lease 30 perches of land for 99 years from 10th October 1797 @ £2 10s 0d per annum. Mr Philip Fenton to Mr William Ship and Mr John Hunt.
5th January 1831 Copy admission of William Hurren
1833 Abstract of title, Mr William Hurren, copyholder. Lists occupiers back to pre 1732
1835 Abstract of title exors late William Hurren Esq.
7th January 1836 Bond as collateral security for £500, Mary Ship and others to Mr William Wainwright.
7th January 1836 Bargain and sale of copyhold land and hereditaments and assignment of a windmill. Mr Davy Hurren and Mr Isaac Backett to Mrs Mary Ship
7th January 1836 Deed of covenant, surrender of copyhold land and assignment of a windmill to secure £500. Mrs Mary Ship to Mr William Wainwright and Mr Thomas Grimwood.
9th January 1836 Admission of Mary Ship.
16th January 1836 Conditional Surrender of copyhold land, Mary Ship to William Wainwright and Thomas Grimwood.
28th October 1847 Acknowledgement of satisfaction William Wainwright to Mary Ship
28th October 1847 Conditional surrender copyhold land, Mary Ship to Frederick Steele.
28th October 1847 Deed of covenant, conditional surrender and assignment Mary Ship to Frederick Steele.
7th August 1851 Assignment of £300 and securities, Frederick Steele and another to Mrs Susan Wooly
15th October 1855 Deed of Covenant and absolute surrender and assignment of windmill Mary Ship and others to John Chenery.
15th October 1855 Absolute surrender, Mary Ship to John Chenery.
15th December1855 Admission of Mr John Chenery.
16th February 1872 Abstract of Title on sale to WS Kett
27th February 1872 Requisition of Title, questions and answers – John Read, purchaser’s solicitor.
20th March 1872 Memorandum regarding dispute over land and a fowl house William Scarff Kett and Abraham Abbott (settled for £1!!)
3rd April 1872 Conveyance of copyhold and windmill, Mrs H Chenery to Mr William Scarff Kett.
12th June 1872 Admission of Mr William Scarff Kett.
3rd October 1872 Mortgage securing £300 @ 5% William Scarff Kett to Mr John Read.
18th October 1882 Deed Of Covenant for sale William Scarff Kett to Joseph Lee for £500.
16th July 1891 Deed Of Covenant for securing £400 @ 4.5% Harry Hudson to Mrs Charlotte Garrett.
9th October 1891 Covenant for sale of copyhold and windmill Mrs Emma Jane Lee to Harry Hudson
11th September 1891 Abstract of Title exors Joseph Lee.
21st October 1891 Admission of Harry Hudson
11th & 27th January 1892 Conditional Surrender W S Kett and Mary Elizabeth Kett, Harry and Susannah Rebecca Hudson to Mrs Charlotte Garrett in the sum of £400.
13th January 1892 Solicitor’s receipted bill for Conditional Surrender above. Southwell and Fry £6:0:2 Mayhew and Sons £1 16s 4d
20th May 1897 Solicitor’s receipted bill Geo Lyus and Son to exors Mrs Charlotte Garrett re Hudson’s mortgage, £2 2s 0d
17th May 1897 Acknowledgement of satisfaction conditional surrender January 1892, Exors Mrs Charlotte Garrett to Hudson and Kett.
20th September 1897 Deed of Enfranchisement copyhold and windmill Lord Hylton and others to W S Kett.
20th September 1897 Ditto Lord Hylton and others to Harry Hudson.
5th October 1897 Receipts from Mayhew and Sons for above, W S Kett £77 4s 6d, Harry Hudson £12 14s 0d.
1st April 1921 Conveyance of land etc Harry Hudson to Mr F J Wilson for £600.
2nd April 1921 Mortgage £200 F J Wilson to Harry Hudson.
12th August 1925 Statutory Declaration of Harry Hudson.
12th August 1925 Conveyance Harry Hudson to E W and W H Self for £400
18th August 1925 Conveyance E W and W H Self to E A and B J Barnes for £480.
19th August 1925 Mortgage E A and B J Barnes to E W Self £380.
31st July 1937 Abstract of Title Bertie John Barnes.
8th September 1937 Statutory Declaration of Bertie John Barnes.
8th September 1937 Conveyance B J Barnes to E B Britten for £450.
1st December 1947 Agreement of tenancy E B Britten to Mrs June Billows monthly rent £8 6s 8d
29th October 1953 Redemption of Tithe annuities £3 15s 7d
? 1955 Abstract of Title E B Britten
21st June 1955 Conveyance E B Britten to Mrs P M Terry for £2850
10th August 1955 Redemption of land tax certificate £1:7:6
10th June 1968 Memorandum of agreement, land acquisition for new footpath.

Insurance policies

22nd June 1801 Norwich Union, mill, gear, buildings, stock in trade, dwelling house and chattels £550, premium 1 guinea.
3rd January 1883 Atlas Assurance Co, all as above £540, premium £1:16:6.
10th January 1940 Norwich Union, house and contents £2000, premium £3:5:9. Policy endorsed to say Britten living in America.
24th June 1956 Law Fire Insurance Society, house and contents £3500, premium £4:12:6

List of Former Owners of the Mill Possibly In Snape Churchyard


Elizabeth Paulson


Thomas Smith


John Aldrich


Samuel Aldrich



Philip Fenton

1816- 79 years

1817- 11 weeks

1834- 64 years

William Fenton

(William Hambling Fenton?)

1832 -59 year

1835 -10 years

William Ship


Mary Ship


Frederick Steele


John Chenery

1861- 67 years

Hannah Chenery (Wife of the above)


Joseph Lee

1879 -39 Years

Emma Jane Lee (His wife)


Harry Hudson

1935 -74 years

Susannah Hudson

1939 78 Years

Abraham Abbott (of the Fowl house dispute family? But this was in 1872)

1867 – 29 Years

Posted in History.