A thousand years of milling ended in 1987 when the grist mill closed its doors. The last of the millers of Flitwick had passed away and the mill fell into neglect.
Our story with the mill begins when we took ownership in 2012. The ravages of nature had taken hold and the building was in dire need of some tender loving care. Planning permission to make it into a house was eventually obtained in 2009.
We bought the derelict watermill with planning permission to turn it into a dwelling. Our challenge as new owners is to do that in a sensitive and creative way, preserving as much as possible the overall feel and character of a grist mill.
Flitwick mill is a great story and we have done our utmost to discover the evolution of the building and the history of the people who ran it. We have fallen in love with the building and this is our story of the journey to put it into good order for the next thousand years.
This is a letter held by the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings (SPAB). Dated 1st November 1962, it is from Richard Goodman to Mr P V Guy of Ampthill Preservation Society.
The letter reads...
The Water Wheel here requires re-lining and several buckets replacing.
After repeated attempts we can find no-one who will take this type of work on, and as this Mill is a building of Special Architectural or Historic interest I shall be glad to know if you know of any Millwrights.
This letter, dated 9th January 1963, is a reply to Mr Goodman's plea for help repairing the waterwheel. Mrs Dance suggests getting in touch with Mr Edwin Hole of Messrs Hole & Son who are based in Burgess Hill, Sussex. However, Mrs Dance warns that they are very busy and may not be able to undertake the repairs before April.
This letter dates from 11th December 1987 and is from David Stuart, the District Planning Officer for Mid Bedfordshire District Council. He writes to Philip Venning to follow up an approach by the Goodmans for a possible grant for repair works to both the mill and the mill house. He is asking for useful background information about the worth of the mill and its machinery.
An article from Stephen Mitchell who vigorously opposed the conversion of the mill into a private house. Mr Mitchell says "I was most surprised when Central Bedfordshire Council invited the applicant to resubmit his plans to the new authority.
[The date is approximate]
This article reports that "Mid Beds District Council rejected plans to turn the building into a private residence on the grounds that the alterations would not be in accordance with regulations governing appearance, preservation and historic use of a listed building."
The petition was organised by Friends of Flitwick Mill who propose to turn it into a heritage centre and to restore the mill to working order so that they can run demonstrations much like Bromham or Stotfold Mills do today.
This is another newspaper article reporting on the deferred plans to convert the mill. The decision is deferred for three months to see if funding can be raised to keep the mill in working order.
The article reports on both sides of the discussion, with one councillor saying "This suggestion by English Heritage to turn it back into a working mill is completely naive. It's not just the cost of restoration but the upkeep in the future."
Another councillor points out that it took 13 years and the best part of £1 million to restore Stotfold Mill.
This is one of the earliest photographs of the south-west faces of the mill and mill house that we have seen. The subject is the two children in a canoe in the foreground.
The chimney of the lean-to between the mill and greenhouse is sensibly much further away from the mill than it is today and the chimney for the steam-engine is still standing next to the mill.
A noticeable absence is that of the Sequoia or Wellingtonia tree that was rather inappropriately planted near to the sluice gates at a later date.
Many thanks to Jon Goodman for sharing this photograph.
This is the Goodman family in the garden of Flitwick Mill House. These people are the grandparents and great-grandparents of the current generation of Goodmans.
In the background, you can see the chimney still standing by the mill.
Thanks to Jon Goodman and his brother for this photograph