diamond geezer

 Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Random borough (27): Newham (part 3)

Somewhere historic: Three Mills
Britain's oldest, and largest, tidal mill is in Newham. It's the House Mill, at Three Mills. Unfortunately it's not open on Saturdays, so I couldn't go then. Thankfully I live ten minutes walk away, so I broke all the "random borough" rules and went there on Sunday instead.


Three MillsThere are only two mills at Three Mills, although there used to be eight in medieval times. One survivor is the Clock Mill, so called it has a clock on the tower [photo], and the other is the House Mill, so called because the miller's house used to be nextdoor. The House Mill's the bigger, and dates back to 1776 in approximately its current form [photo]. It was built to grind grain not for flour but for the distillation of alcohol, most notably gin. All that came to an end one incendiary night during the Blitz, and it took sixty years for the mill to be rebuilt and restored. A fine upstanding body of volunteers maintain the site and open it up once a week (once a month in the winter) so that visitors can take a look around. It's busier than it could be, but not perhaps as busy as it should be.

Unlike most modern visitor attractions, the café and gift shop are located on the way in. You can have a sandwich or a toasted teacake while your tour guide gets ready, and maybe watch the introductory video (if you can hear the commentary above the hubbub of raucous diners). It's all endearingly amateur, even the unlikely second hand book stall in the corner, and all the better for it. Eventually you'll be heading off up the metal staircase which links together the old and the new parts of the mill. The miller's house turns out to be the wholly new part [photo], containing offices and a penthouse conference room, although from out the front it's a terribly convincing fake. Up top there's a fine view of the tidal river, and how it splits in half to feed the two different mills on the site. You also get some idea of the grand scale of the Three Mills film studios nextdoor, once all part of the same refinery complex, and apparently a former distribution centre for Bacardi.

But it's the old mill you'll be wanting to explore. This is a splendid building, on several storeys, lovingly assembled from pine beams beneath a steeply pitched roof. Some of those beams are English Heritage replacements, but others (the chunkier, woodwormier ones) date back over 200 years. Health and Safety dictates you can't climb right to the top, but you can look up to see the wheel which hoisted sacks of grain to the high level bins. A series of hoppers and chutes directed the grain back down, ensuring it ended up between the right millstones at the right time, ready for the clunking machinery to whirr into action and get grinding. You have to watch your head lest you hit some wooden or metal protuberance, and watch your step in case you dislodge some trapdoor and open up a direct route to the floor below.

Eventually the tour reaches ground level, which is where the milled grain ended up and where the four waterwheels are. They're in two pairs, and also from completely different generations. The largest is a metal Victorian contraption, while the oldest is wooden and so fragile that the trustees daren't even touch it. All are controlled by their own sluice gate, and exist in a dark netherworld of decay and pigeon feathers. If there's ever any money going for further restoration, it's hoped that at least one of these wheels might turn again, powered as before by the ebbing tide. Alas, given that Newham can no longer spare any money even for local schoolchildren to come visiting, further regeneration may be several years off.
by tube: Bromley-by-Bow

Somewhere random: Plaistow
BestMate lives in Plaistow, and I always joked that when Newham emerged from my random jamjar I'd visit his hometown and try to find something interesting there. And it did. So I went. And I failed.


Plaistow's part of the amorphous blob of housing that makes up the majority of central Newham. It merges seamlessly into its surrounding neighbourhoods, having no distinct identity, only a vague focus. The name's widely known only because of the tube station (now properly pronounced 'Plahstow' rather than "Playstow' on passing trains). Plaistow's been luckier in this respect than poor old Plashet up the road. Almost nobody's heard of that, not least because the District line skips from Upton Park to East Ham without stopping. Plashet's quite interesting - prison reformer Elizabeth Fry used to live there, and it has an award-winning millennial bridge linking two halves of a school across a main road [photo]. Ah, if BestMate lived in Plashet, the stories I could tell. Plaistow, however, is more of a challenge.

Wikipedia describes Plaistow as "a mainly hoodrat area, including several council estates", which is at least semi-accurate. It's not somewhere renowned for its shopping. The main street has an Iceland, a Job Centre and lots of those takeaways that fry stuff, as well as umpteen pound shops with brightly coloured plastic baskets stacked up outside [photo]. But there's also a dedicated dolls house emporium, and a couple of funeral directors, plus an unexpectedly high number of shops with the name 'Grace' in their title. BestMate and I sometimes hide away in the Abbey Restaurant, which sounds posh but in truth serves up all-day breakfasts and tea beneath a reverential photo of Princess Di.

In an attempt to find Plaistow interesting, I tried hunting down some of its more interesting architectural features and street art. Not a great success. I couldn't find most of the murals, and the Tudor 'Hidden House' tucked behind the doctor's surgery alas lived up to its name. I did discover a cul-de-sac called Routemaster Close, built on the site of the old tramway depot, but that didn't exactly inspire. One local boozer (the 'D k f Edinburgh') had a supposedly interesting sign, but on arrival I discovered the place was instead being gutted. I was more taken by the Black Lion. This low-timbered hostelry packs a characterful punch, and its courtyard was allegedly a haunt of Dick Turpin. On my visit, however, the place was packed out with raucous West Ham fans downing a swift pre-match lager while their kids kicked footballs up a sidestreet. As kick-off approached they marched east to join further beery gaggles assembling up the road in Upton Park. Plenty of heart and soul, Plaistow, but all the action's elsewhere.
by tube: Plaistow


<< click for Newer posts

click for Older Posts >>


click to return to the main page


...or read more in my monthly archives
Jan16  Feb16  Mar16  Apr16  May16  Jun16  Jul16  Aug16  Sep16  Oct16  Nov16  Dec16
Jan15  Feb15  Mar15  Apr15  May15  Jun15  Jul15  Aug15  Sep15  Oct15  Nov15  Dec15
Jan14  Feb14  Mar14  Apr14  May14  Jun14  Jul14  Aug14  Sep14  Oct14  Nov14  Dec14
Jan13  Feb13  Mar13  Apr13  May13  Jun13  Jul13  Aug13  Sep13  Oct13  Nov13  Dec13
Jan12  Feb12  Mar12  Apr12  May12  Jun12  Jul12  Aug12  Sep12  Oct12  Nov12  Dec12
Jan11  Feb11  Mar11  Apr11  May11  Jun11  Jul11  Aug11  Sep11  Oct11  Nov11  Dec11
Jan10  Feb10  Mar10  Apr10  May10  Jun10  Jul10  Aug10  Sep10  Oct10  Nov10  Dec10 
Jan09  Feb09  Mar09  Apr09  May09  Jun09  Jul09  Aug09  Sep09  Oct09  Nov09  Dec09
Jan08  Feb08  Mar08  Apr08  May08  Jun08  Jul08  Aug08  Sep08  Oct08  Nov08  Dec08
Jan07  Feb07  Mar07  Apr07  May07  Jun07  Jul07  Aug07  Sep07  Oct07  Nov07  Dec07
Jan06  Feb06  Mar06  Apr06  May06  Jun06  Jul06  Aug06  Sep06  Oct06  Nov06  Dec06
Jan05  Feb05  Mar05  Apr05  May05  Jun05  Jul05  Aug05  Sep05  Oct05  Nov05  Dec05
Jan04  Feb04  Mar04  Apr04  May04  Jun04  Jul04  Aug04  Sep04  Oct04  Nov04  Dec04
Jan03  Feb03  Mar03  Apr03  May03  Jun03  Jul03  Aug03  Sep03  Oct03  Nov03  Dec03
 Jan02  Feb02  Mar02  Apr02  May02  Jun02  Jul02 Aug02  Sep02  Oct02  Nov02  Dec02 

eXTReMe Tracker
jack of diamonds
life viewed from london e3

email    twitter    G+

my flickr photostream

What's on this weekend?
Sun 4 December (8am-10pm)
Tower Bridge fully closed
For one day only, cross the river by free passenger ferry!

twenty blogs
853
arseblog
ian visits
londonist
scaryduck
blue witch
city metric
the great wen
onionbagblog
edith's streets
spitalfields life
linkmachinego
in the aquarium
round the island
wanstead meteo
london museums
christopher fowler
ruth's coastal walk
london reconnections
dirty modern scoundrel

quick reference features
Things to do in Outer London
The DG Tour of Britain
Comment Value Hierarchy

read the archive
Dec16  Nov16  Oct16  Sep16
Aug16  Jul16  Jun16  May16
Apr16  Mar16  Feb16  Jan16
Dec15  Nov15  Oct15  Sep15
Aug15  Jul15  Jun15  May15
Apr15  Mar15  Feb15  Jan15
Dec14  Nov14  Oct14  Sep14
Aug14  Jul14  Jun14  May14
Apr14  Mar14  Feb14  Jan14
Dec13  Nov13  Oct13  Sep13
Aug13  Jul13  Jun13  May13
Apr13  Mar13  Feb13  Jan13
Dec12  Nov12  Oct12  Sep12
Aug12  Jul12  Jun12  May12
Apr12  Mar12  Feb12  Jan12
Dec11  Nov11  Oct11  Sep11
Aug11  Jul11  Jun11  May11
Apr11  Mar11  Feb11  Jan11
Dec10  Nov10  Oct10  Sep10
Aug10  Jul10  Jun10  May10
Apr10  Mar10  Feb10  Jan10
Dec09  Nov09  Oct09  Sep09
Aug09  Jul09  Jun09  May09
Apr09  Mar09  Feb09  Jan09
Dec08  Nov08  Oct08  Sep08
Aug08  Jul08  Jun08  May08
Apr08  Mar08  Feb08  Jan08
Dec07  Nov07  Oct07  Sep07
Aug07  Jul07  Jun07  May07
Apr07  Mar07  Feb07  Jan07
Dec06  Nov06  Oct06  Sep06
Aug06  Jul06  Jun06  May06
Apr06  Mar06  Feb06  Jan06
Dec05  Nov05  Oct05  Sep05
Aug05  Jul05  Jun05  May05
Apr05  Mar05  Feb05  Jan05
Dec04  Nov04  Oct04  Sep04
Aug04  Jul04  Jun04  May04
Apr04  Mar04  Feb04  Jan04
Dec03  Nov03  Oct03  Sep03
Aug03  Jul03  Jun03  May03
Apr03  Mar03  Feb03  Jan03
Dec02  Nov02  Oct02  Sep02
back to main page

diamond geezer 2015 index
diamond geezer 2014 index
diamond geezer 2013 index
diamond geezer 2012 index
diamond geezer 2011 index
diamond geezer 2010 index
diamond geezer 2009 index
diamond geezer 2008 index
diamond geezer 2007 index
diamond geezer 2006 index
diamond geezer 2005 index
diamond geezer 2004 index
diamond geezer 2003 index
diamond geezer 2002 index

my special London features
a-z of london museums
E3 - local history month
greenwich meridian (N)
greenwich meridian (S)
the real eastenders
london's lost rivers
olympic park 2007
great british roads
oranges & lemons
random boroughs
bow road station
high street 2012
river westbourne
trafalgar square
capital numbers
east london line
lea valley walk
olympics 2005
regent's canal
square routes
silver jubilee
unlost rivers
cube routes
metro-land
capital ring
river fleet
piccadilly
bakerloo

ten of my favourite posts
the seven ages of blog
my new Z470xi mobile
five equations of blog
the dome of doom
chemical attraction
quality & risk
london 2102
single life
boredom
april fool

ten sets of lovely photos
my "most interesting" photos
london 2012 olympic zone
harris and the hebrides
betjeman's metro-land
marking the meridian
tracing the river fleet
london's lost rivers
inside the gherkin
seven sisters
iceland

just surfed in?
here's where to find...
diamond geezers
flash mob #1  #2  #3  #4
ben schott's miscellany
london underground
watch with mother
cigarette warnings
digital time delay
wheelie suitcases
war of the worlds
transit of venus
top of the pops
old buckenham
ladybird books
acorn antiques
digital watches
outer hebrides
olympics 2012
school dinners
pet shop boys
west wycombe
bletchley park
george orwell
big breakfast
clapton pond
san francisco
thunderbirds
routemaster
children's tv
east enders
trunk roads
amsterdam
little britain
credit cards
jury service
big brother
jubilee line
number 1s
titan arum
typewriters
doctor who
coronation
comments
blue peter
matchgirls
hurricanes
buzzwords
brookside
monopoly
peter pan
starbucks
feng shui
leap year
manbags
penelope
bbc three
vision on
piccadilly
meridian
concorde
wembley
islington
ID cards
bedtime
freeview
beckton
blogads
eclipses
letraset
arsenal
sitcoms
gherkin
calories
everest
muffins
sudoku
camilla
london
ceefax
robbie
becks
dome
BBC2
paris
lotto
118
itv