Park Life (part 2) – Milling around

Many people in Berwick know of the path that leads from the riverside New Road past the remains of the castle to Coronation Park.  It passes through what is known as Tommy the Miller’s field.  But who was Tommy the Miller?

He was Thomas Thompson the last of a long line of millers on this site.  He gave up the lease on the mill in the 1830s when it was announced that the railway was being built through the site.

A mill had been at the top of this hill since the early 12th century; when still earl, King David I granted one seventh of the revenue from the Castle Mill to Kelso Abbey. This was a water mill fed by water from the Tappee Pond.  The Tappee was a reservoir formed by a dam over which ran the road to the Borders up what is now Castle Terrace.  Presumably the water flowed through a controlled conduit under the road. Indeed, this may be why it is called the Tappee Pond; it is the pond that is “tapped”. 

This mill was destroyed during the Battle of Halidon Hill in 1333, but was replaced on a temporary basis by two windmills and two horse mills. The new mills were in operation in 1335. The Castle Mill, later referred to as the High Mill was rebuilt and another was built nearby.  Maps of Berwick from the 1560s and ‘70s1 show an overshot water mill across the road from the Tappee Pond.

Best known is an engraving (from an original by JMW Turner) published 1834, showing a mill in this position. Judging from a map of 1839 this would appear to be on the site now occupied by the railway station platform. 

View of Berwick showing the Castle Mill ( extreme left),
after JMW Turner, 1834

The stream that flowed from the Tappee Pond continued down the east of Castle Hill, now Castle Vale Park.  A third mill, the Low Mill, was built on its course.  Francis Cowe has stated his belief that it was in the Lily Pond area at the north of the park but an 18th century map shows the Low Mill towards the bottom of the hill near the river. It is safe to say it was on the west side of the steps to the river, just over halfway down. In 1551 it was said that the stream could support another two mills.

The Low Mill

As well as the two temporary windmills mentioned earlier, a survey of the castle in 1538 bemoans the lack of a windmill within the castle. In case the town and all the mills and storehouses should fall into enemy hands thus cutting off the castle from its supplies and ability to produce flour:

“…it wer verray necessary and expedient that a myln, with a brewhouse, a garner [for storing corn] …. wer mayd and set upe within the said castell.”2

After the castle was abandoned in the 17th century, a windmill was sited in the south east corner behind Constable Tower. Its remains can be seen in the 1834 Turner engraving and, from a similar date, a french lithograph Chateau de Berwick. It is often mistaken as being a castle tower but can be seen with its sails in one image, dated 1799, by Charles Catton, jnr.

Windmill on castle site. Detail from painting by Charles Catton, jnr, 1793.

Millstone, possibly from the windmill, in boundary wall of Castle Vale House

  1. Hatfield House CPM 1/23, British Library Cotton MS Augustus ii, 14
  2. History of the Berwickshire Naturalists Club, Vol.14 (1892-1893) pp.177-185

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