SMALL DOLE, WEST SUSSEX
There is evidence that a watermill has been on the site where Woods Mill stands since the time of William the Conqueror as there is an entry in the Domesday Book, which was compiled in 1086. However the mill mentioned could have been West Mill, which has now disappeared.
In the Sussex Weekly Advertiser dated 3rd December 1770, a notice appeared to the effect that Woods Mill, a watermill with three pairs of stones, two flour bolters and two wheels, would be offered for sale on 12th December 1770. James Geere was the tenant at the time, but by 1792 Joseph Straker occupied the mill. Woods Mill was operated by a number of other owners until the late 19th century, when Charles Coote purchased the mill and operated it until his death in 1916. His son Caleb, the last miller, continued to run it until 1927.
In the 1930's the Mill and surrounding area was used as a tea garden. It then passed through various ownerships until it was bought in 1950 by Dr. J. N. Douglas-Smith, whose family gave it to the Sussex Trust for Nature Conservation in 1966. It is now the headquarters of this organisation, now known as the Sussex Wildlife Trust.
When the mill was taken over by the Trust, only the sluice gear, pentrough, water wheel and pit wheel from the original mill remained. These items would need restoring and new mill machinery required to restore the mill to its original design.
The mill building consists of four storeys, the two upper floors housing the bins.
The general layout of the mill is in the form of a conventional watermill. Originally the mill drove three pairs of stones, two pairs of Derbyshire Peak stones and a pair of French Burr stones. However to avoid introducing undue stress on the upper floor, the stones are now positioned on the ground floor, where they can be used for demonstration purposes.
There are no plans to bring the mill back into working order.
[Text : Robin Jones]