Ship’s timber for watermill

Chesapeake Mill pictured in 1900
Chesapeake Mill pictured in 1900
Portsmouth in 1717 (from William Gates History of Portsmouth, 1900)

NOSTALGIA: A seed of learning planted 300 years ago that’s blossomed into Portsmouth Grammar School

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Visitors often query the name of the old water mill building just off the Square at Wickham – Chesapeake Mill.

The site itself is ancient, but the present mill was rebuilt in 1820, as the datestone high above the doorway shows.

Chesapeake Mill, Wickham, 1937

Chesapeake Mill, Wickham, 1937

During the American War of Independence the British ship Shannon captured the American vessel Chesapeake outside Boston harbour – the first British success of the war.

The Chesapeake returned as a British ship and eventually was sold to a breakers’ yard at Portsmouth.

Many houses in the city were built using Chesapeake wood and a large amount was bought by a Mr Prior to rebuild the Wickham mill.

The evocative 1937 picture shows the bags of grain on the sack floor of the mill.

This floor was nearly always high enough for the sacks to be hoisted from the wagon below.

The exterior view of the mill shows clearly the ‘luccam’, the wooden projection at the top of the mill building.

This enable the bags to be hoisted in one single lift through the loading door of the mill.

From the sack floor the grain would work its way down the mill ending up as stone-ground flour or, in some cases, animal feed.

The finished product was unloaded into the waiting cart by means of a hinged slide which folded up after use.