Wight Life

Yafford Mill

By Mary Tatham

Picture of Yafford Mill

YAFFORD MILL, the working watermill and agricultural museum, stands on farmland owned by Michael and Angela Clarke of Shorwell.

When I visited the mill, Angela was busy showing visitors round. Michael was supervising the clearing of ground to be used in displaying a magnificent collection of old farm wagons, threshing machines and harvesters.

The Clarke children — Timothy, Sarah, Roger and Penny — were making themselves useful in the yard, where picnics may be eaten, and Mrs Kathleen Pettit the caretaker, who lives in the mill cottage, was busy selling stone-ground flour, home-made jam, and baskets, which are displayed in the barn next the mill. It is all very much a family project, nice to find in this day and age, and, judging by tourists' comments, much appreciated.

,p>The name 'Yafford', Angela told me, is derived from the early English word 'Hecce' which means a sluice or hatch connected with a mill and ford. The spelling 'Yafford' first appeared in 1637. It is known that there bad been a mill on this site since about 1750. Though no mention of an earlier one can be found, it is pretty certain that there must have been one, since the foundations are of a much earlier date, and the wall between the mill and the cottage and also the bottom of the dam wall could be 15th century.

Photograph of the water-wheel

The present buildings are 19th century; they were originally stables to house the miller's horses and carts, and contained styes where pigs were kept up to 1920. But the buildings were all badly damaged by a whirlwind in 1932 and subsequently had to be demolished.

Photograph of Yafford Mill

Yafford Mill was mainly a grist mill, grinding food for animals, and until the beginning of this century, had a large trade with local farmers. When these gentlemen started to instal their own milling equipment, trade began to fall off, but the mill was still paying its way until 10 years ago.

It is an attractive stone building, with a tiled roof. The large water wheel, carrying 42 buckets, provides the power for driving the mill grinding machinery.

There are three floors. At the top the grain was stored, pulled up from the ground in sacks. The roof frame is interesting, as although it was rebuilt in the last century, there is no ridge board — the rafter tops are tenoned into the principal rafters — as in late medieval times.

There is now a collection of old agricultural implements on this floor.

The floor below is called the 'stone floor.' Here are two sets of millstones, one for grinding wheat, the other for barley. The grain comes down from above in a canvas chute on to a wooden tray called the 'shoe.' From this the grain falls on to the stones, the rate of flow being controlled by a cord, which the miller on the ground floor can pull.

Photograph of feeding the duckas

On the ground floor is the gearing machinery for driving the stones. A long wooden box in front of the various driving wheels contains a worm screw. From this box hang canvas sleeves and, attached to them are the sacks into which the grain flowed. As each sack filled, the screw pushed the meal along to the next sack, thus enabling the miller to do other work while the sacks filled.

Outside the mill, an attractive walk may be taken along the mill pond and stream, tenanted by two inquisitive swans and a company of ducks. Looking deeper into the water, you may see a number of trout. The stream flows under the road, where there is another walk across fields.

The Clarke's intend to make other improvements as time goes on. Meanwhile, Yafford Mill is a delightful spot, as the many visitors who have seen it this summer will testify.