Tale of the last working water mill in Suffolk

David Eddershaw is the curator at Pakenham Mill and his book on its history.
David Eddershaw is the curator at Pakenham Mill and his book on its history.
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Exploring the area around his new Bury St Edmunds home turned into a busman’s holiday for David Eddershaw and has resulted in a book.

He moved to Suffolk about 11 years ago after retiring as assistant director of the Oxfordshire Museum Service.

“I went to explore the villages round Bury and found Pakenham Water Mill,” he said. “I had a tour and I’ve been there ever since.”

He is now the volunteer curator of the mill, which belongs to the Suffolk Building Preservation Trust, so he was the ideal person to write its history. The book will be launched with a signing at Waterstones in Bury’s Buttermarket on Monday at 7.30pm and is the result of several year’s research.

David said: “The Domesday Book records it but in the thousand years between then and now there’s very little recorded.

“200 to 300 years ago and more there were lots of water mills and windmills in East Anglia. They were something people took for granted, so, apart from business accounts, there isn’t much written about them.”

David has tried to put the mill into its social context. The book explains how the mill works and how it developed, who built it and who ran it, but it also puts it into the context of local and national history.

Naturally, national events like the Napoleonic wars had an impact on its trade.

But David added: “In the early 19th century there were bread riots in Suffolk because of the price of bread and flour and some mills were attacked. Pakenham didn’t get attacked.”

He believes this was because the miller Charles Lowe was the parish’s poor overseer, responsible for handouts to the poor, and reduced the price of flour sold to the parish, which it sold on at subsidised prices to the poor. It was not entirely altruistic because he sold huge quantities of flour to the parish, but it probably saved his business.

nThe Story of Pakenham Water Mill is on sale at the mill, Waterstones and www.amazon.co.uk