diamond geezer

 Saturday, August 23, 2003

Famous places within 15 minutes walk of my house
Number 3 - Three Mills

three millsThere are, of course, two mills at Three Mills. There used to be three in medieval times, but go back to the Domesday Book and there were as many as eight. You'll remember that Bow used to be the bakery of London, so it was here on the tidal part of the River Lea that the most important mills were built to grind the flour for the capital's bread. The mills have also been used for distilling gin and grinding gunpowder. Here's an clever interactive map showing how the area around Three Mills has built up since Norman times.

The two mills you can see in the photo (the House Mill on the left and the Clock Mill on the right) date from 1776 and 1817 respectively. The House Mill is the largest tidal mill in the country, stretching 45 feet across four internal mill races and two waterways. Grain arrived by barge or cart and was then lifted by the sack hoist to be stored on the uppermost of the five floors. At high tide a sluice was closed and the water then left to flow back at a controlled rate to operate the mill wheels. Here's a flash illustration of how it all worked, and here's a much better history of the site.

The mills closed over fifty years ago but have recently been restored as a working museum, open to the public on Sunday afternoons in the summer. Here's a slideshow, here's a map, and here's a photo-heavy page showing what you can see on the tour.

On an island in the river here can be found one of London's largest media production facilities - Three Mills Studios - a 20 acre site with 16 film stages. The most famous film produced here was East End classic Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. As for famous TV there's been London's Burning, Bad Girls, Crocodile Shoes, Cold Lazarus, Neverwhere and the first two series of Big Brother...

...and Bugs. The classic mid-90s BBC adventure series Bugs was based here, 40 episodes of hi-tech hokum with location filming all over Docklands. Here are three fine fansites devoted to the series. Ahh, Ed, Ros and Beckett! Oooh, the theme tune! One particular episode ends with Ed trying to escape from a warehouse before it explodes - that warehouse was Clock Mill. Look, here are pictures! And here's the script! Don't you just love what you can find on the internet?

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