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History

 
Bentley Mill is a country house of noted antiquity; it is recorded in the Domesday Book, but rebuilt circa 1640 as a Paper Mill to reduce wood harvested from the nearby Alice Holt Forest, to paper.

It was subsequently used as a Fulling Mill. Fulling is the beating and cleaning of cloth in water. The process shrank the loose fibres of the cloth, making it a denser fabric. Superior cloth was usually fulled, dyed, brushed with teasels to raise the pile, and finally trimmed of loose threads to produce a finished surface of great quality.

The cloth was placed in the fulling stocks with fuller's earth (a soapy clay) and compressed in water. Here it was pounded with wooden hammers, which were driven by a tappet wheel turned by the water wheel. This process was a favoured country industry since the headwaters of rivers provided the only source of process power at the time.

It is said that there was a ‘Mill every mile’ in Hampshire, the next Mill to the West being the former home of Viscount Montgomery of Alamein.

The Mill was subsequently used as a Corn/Flour Mill and later as a farmstead. There are later additions to the house, which date from the Georgian period, giving the building its distinctly Georgian appearance and it is Listed Grade II, as being a building of architectural and historic interest.


The original mill workings were dismantled in about 1915 but the weir (which can be crossed by a footbridge) with a sluice gate and wheel pit, together with the working rooms, remain intact.

The area has changed little since the author William Cobbett described it in ‘Rural Rides’ in 1825: “Here is a river with fine meadows on each side if it, and with rising grounds on each outside of the meadows, those grounds having some hop gardens and some pretty woods”.