My maternal grandmother’s maiden name was Adams, and her grandfather George Adams migrated from Southampton to Dunedin NZ in the 1860’s. Many of his mother Elizabeth’s extended Burgess family were involved in businesses that processed grain from milling to selling wheat corn and barley. However,the common connection of the families was through the large clan of Soffe and George’s grandmother Philadelphia was a Soffe before her marriage to William Adams.
Very few of the families lived far from Southampton, and the village of Eling is just across the River Test from the port city. The bridge had long been a toll point, and the miller supplemented his income with the pennies collected from passing traffic.
There has been a tidal mill on the waterways for centuries, it being mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086.Originally owned by King John,as Eling was a royal manor and a part of the New Forest, which were the royal hunting grounds. In the 1200’s, King John sold the manor and mill. They went through various hands until 1382 AD, when they were purchased by the Bishop of Winchester. He gave them to a school he was founding as a source of income. The school –Winchester College – owned the mill for almost 400 years (1382 to 1975), though they didn’t run it directly, but leased it out on long leases.
1806 It seems the Soffe family were granted a lease sometime prior to the marriage of Beaulieu miller William Adams to Philadelphia Soffe in 1806.Their first 2 children, Jane 1807 and George 1809 were baptised from Beaulieu Mill so it is unknown how long William worked at Eling.
1821 The next record of the miller at Eling is in 1821, when a George Soffe was declared insolvent. He was Philadelphia’s brother. From then until 1854 when he was 78 years of age, an older brother Joseph Soffe was the Miller in charge at Eling.
1852 A George Hunt worked with him for a while, but in 1852 William’s son George arrived at the mill with his wife and 4 children. Helen, George (who migrated to New Zealand) William junior and Henry had all been born in Gosport where their father George had variously been a clerk and a grocer.
In 1853 when Henry was 2 and a half, he fell into the tidal estuary and would have drowned but for the courage of a passer-by who jumped into the water to rescue him.
1854 George senior died in August 1854, aged 45, and his cause of death is recorded as effusion of the brain, most likely caused by a fall or injury to the head. The wooden beams of the mill loft are very low set, as can be seen by the photo below.
Interestingly, the Mill is said by some to be haunted! The present mill owner records the legend:
“The ghost of a dead miller has been seen by people passing the building outside, reporting him looking through the window. One would expect in a place such as this that the ghost occupying the building would be that of a former employee, from ages past and this is confirmed when further reports have been lodged by people who have witnessed the ghostly miller working in the sack loft. No -one seems to know who the miller is or even when he worked at the mill” (Paranormal Hampshire)
George is buried in the Eling Cemetery, just up the hill from the Mill.
1861 From then, it appears Phillip Stride operated the mill through from George’s death until sometime after 1861 when he appeared on the census at Eling, until 1871 when he was miller at Nursling, 5 miles away.Phillip’s wife Ann was the sister of George Adams wife Elizabeth, nee Burgess.
1871 By 1871 the miller was George H Mackrell. His mother was Jane, nee Adams, daughter of William and Philadelphia. Jane had married his father but was widowed a month after George was born. She remarried ( a miller named Robert Arnold) two years later and they spent the rest of their lives at Fox’s Mill, about 7 miles further north on the River Test.
1881 In 1881 George was a corn miller in Romsey village.One of George Mackrells’ 6 children was Sydney, born in 1863.At age 10, he was employed to collect the tolls from the mill bridge and in 1881 when he was 17 he was working as a flour miller in Eling. In 1911 he was still at the mill with his wife and family, including son Tom who was 10 at the time.
1931 Tom took over the mill in 1931,and worked until 1946 when the mill closed. He continued collecting tolls from the bridge until the late 1970’s.
1980 The mill reopened in 1980, and is now one of only two working tidal mills in the United Kingdom. The Mill was working on the day I visited, and the thrum of the mill working as the water ran through was like a heartbeat.
1841-1911 census documents
England births, deaths and marriages
Family trees online
UK city and country directories
Eling Tidal Mill Wikipedia
National Probate Calendar
The history of a working mill: Diana Smith
Tide Mill,Totton & Eling Historic England
Eling Tidal Mill Experience