Remains of watermill 500m east of Freeth Farm


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1018613

Date first listed: 15-Feb-1999


Ordnance survey map of Remains of watermill 500m east of Freeth Farm
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

District: Wiltshire (Unitary Authority)

Parish: Compton Bassett

National Grid Reference: SU 02847 72503


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.

Reasons for Designation

A watermill uses the gravitational force of water to turn a paddled wheel, the energy thus generated in the axle of the wheel enabling the operation of varying kinds of machinery. The waterwheel can be set directly into a stream, with a simple 'shut' to control water flow, or may be spring-fed or use tidal waters. More usually, however, an artificial channel, or leat, is diverted from the main watercourse and its flow to the wheel regulated by sluices. The spent water returns to the main stream via a tailrace which may be straightened to increase efficiency. Where the natural flow of water is inadequate, a millpond may be constructed to increase the body of water (and thus the flow) behind the wheel. During the medieval period, mills, usually used for corn grinding, were a sign of status, and an important source of income to the lord of the manor who usually leased the mill and its land to the miller. As a common feature of the rural and urban landscape, watermills played an important role in the development of technology and economy.

The millpond dams to the east of Freeth Farm are well preserved examples of this type of monument. Documentary evidence from the early medieval period shows that the watermill was in use for several hundred years.


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.


The monument includes two linear earthworks and associated features representing the remains of a medieval watermill situated in the wooded valley of the Abberd Brook near the village of Compton Bassett, 1.2km west of the edge of the Marlborough Downs. The linear features are orientated north west to south east across the floor of the stream valley and are interpreted as medieval mill dams. They are 340m apart and both are now cut by the stream leaving the mill ponds dry. The dam to the south west is 85m long, up to 3m high and spans the entire valley floor apart from a break through which the stream currently flows. The dam is conical in section, the top is up to 2m wide while the base is up to 22m wide splaying slightly on the east side. On the west side, a channel up to 1.5m wide crosses the top of the dam and is interpreted as a leat possibly associated with the management of the millpond as a fishpond. The level area upstream of the dam is at a higher level than the area downstream. This is interpreted as the silted bottom of the former mill pond. The dam to the north east, upstream of the other is smaller, 60m long and up 2m high. On the east side it stops 40m short of the edge of the valley while the stream cuts the dam close to the valley edge to the north west. There are some remains of a channel crossing the dam to the south east. The mill pond from the larger dam would have reached the base of this structure. It is interpreted as a secondary feature which may have dammed a smaller fishpond. The wood in which the larger of the dams is located is still known as `Mill Pound'. The earthworks are known locally as `Fisheries'. Two mills are mentioned at Compton Bassett in the Domesday book, three estates of the manor of Compton Bassett holding a third share. A document of 1233-41 grants land beside a stream in Compton Bassett to Gilbert Bassett for use as a fishpond and in 1662 there is a copyhold of a mill known as `Cowmill' recorded. A survey of 1706 refers to a lease of 1703 on a mill known as `Kewmill' in which there were two fulling stocks and a Ragg mill as well as stones and other materials for a corn mill. The monument was archaeologically surveyed in 1986.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System number: 31658

Legacy System: RSM

End of official listing