Hidden Places Around Portsmouth: A Miller’s Tale

Wheel and weir pit, Brockhampton Mill. Image by John Callaway 2020

Local resident and photographer John Callaway, gives us a glimpse into the little known history of Portsmouth and the surrounding area, alongside some of his stunning photography. In this essay, he heads to Old Bedhampton following the railway to Langstone Harbour.

Another ‘off the beaten track’ walk last weekend, seeking out historical fragments on the margins, starting once again at Old Bedhampton, this time heading over the railway bridge on Old Mill Lane, towards the coast. On the face of it, a footpath which follows the rear boundary line of a Southern Water sewage treatment unit doesn’t seem to be the most obvious choice, especially when it’s located in the middle of an industrial estate…even if it is part of the Solent Way.

Running alongside the path is Brockhampton Stream, which comes fully into view when it is crossed by a footbridge. On the north side of the bridge is what remains of the wheel and weir pit (see featured image) belonging to the Brockhampton Mill, itself long since demolished. On the south side is a brick tidal basin.

The first known mention of Brockhampton Mill is in the Domesday Book which states that Havant had two mills. Brockhampton was a separate manor and described as having one mill, both manors being in the possession of the monks of St Swithuns. A History of Mills at Havant, Langstone and Brockhampton”, found hereis very informative. (Me, I just take the pictures!)

Self-evidently, the tidal basin and wheel pit came much later.

Brockhampton Mill was replaced again in the 17-18th century and it is thought this later brick and tile building stood on the same site. It covered some 10 customary acres, equivalent to 6⅔ statute acres, comprising the mill, mill house, cottages, outbuildings and water meadows. In advertisements it is said there were ‘3 or 4 pair stones’ and to have been a working mill until about the 1870s.

Brockhurst Mill Tidal Basin. Image by John Callaway 2020

Continuing seaward the Brockhampton Stream, which is tidal by this point is overseen by a large conveyor belt, sited in the aggregates yard owned by Tarmac, and located at the confluence of the Brockhurst Stream, and the much bigger Hermitage Stream.

Towards Bedhampton Wharf. Image by John Callaway 2020

The Tarmac facility, located at Bedhampton Wharf – purveyors of quality marine aggregates.

Bedhampton Wharf. Image by John Callaway 2020

And before you know it, you’re looking towards Portsmouth over Langstone Harbour. The view from the jetty might be modern, but there’s a lot of history under the sea out there…most of it unwritten and unrecorded.

History is that certainty produced at the point where the imperfections of memory meet the inadequacies of documentation.
[Julian Barnes:“The Sense Of An Ending”]

Towards Portsmouth. Image by John Callaway 2020

This article was originally published on John Callaway’s website, Ideas & images from Portsmouth and beyond. You can read more of John’s writing on his website and also see his live music photography.

Images by John Callaway.

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