Early mills a fire risk
The mill was first recorded in the Domesday Book in 1086 when it was part of the manorial estate & valued at 30 shillings. It would have been mainly grinding corn & possibly later cloth fulling. In the early 13th century it was given by Maud of Lanvaley to the Knights Hospitallers of Shingay but reverted back to the manor in 1298 & for many years was in the Wale family as Lords of the manor of Tiptofts.
It’s history for the succeeding 400 years is not well documented but in 1709 Gregory Wale leased the land including watermills to Edward Nightingale. Like most mills, it was built of timber and had a high fire risk. One such fire was reported in the Cambridge Chronicle on 23 March 1776:
‘Last Friday morning, about 4 o’ clock, a fire was discovered in the bakehouse at Harston Mill, in this county, which destroyed the bakehouse, and several out-houses, and burnt some pigs, but was providentially got under control without reaching the mill or dwelling house.’
Changing owners & occupiers
In 1778 Thomas Wale leased William Allen the watermills. In 1802 the Wales sold the manor to the Taylors by which time James Allen was the tenant. From the 1840s the Smith family, who also owned the Barrington watermill, leased the mill.
The mill buildings were built in 1869 -1880s & used until 1925 to grind flour.
The Smiths purchased the freehold in 1933 for £2000 although the need for local milling was declining. The sale notice described it as having an engine room, dust-collecting and wheat-dressing rooms, centrifugal room and stores. For many years the buildings were used for storage & were sold by the Smiths to Jack Green of Barrington for £17,200. He then sold it on to Trouw & Co Ltd in the late 1960s. The site was used until the 1980s for the production of animal feed.
It was then purchased by Generics, later becoming Sagentia and now stands, surrounded by new buildings, housing scientific, research & development companies.