QWAG’s latest walk revisited the mills of the Ravensbourne.
Last autumn QWAG members and their guests walked from Lewisham Central Library to Deptford High Street, learning along the way of the fate of the mills powered by the River Ravensbourne. In the Domesday Book (1086) 11 corn mills are recorded along the river in the Manor of Lewisham. For almost 900 years their fortunes fluctuated between riches and ruination, until the last mill finally fell silent in the 1960s.
Originally it had been intended to offer this walk as QWAG’s contribution to this year’s Lewisham Walking Festival, but unfortunately this was cancelled at short notice. Instead, a Fun Day in Ladywell Fields was organised, to celebrate the breaking out of the Ravensbourne into the northern field. The organisers wanted some varied walks to the event and luckily “The Millers’ Trail” met their needs. The only differences from last autumn were the start and end points (Deptford Creek and Ladywell Fields) and the direction of travel – upstream.
Photos from the walk
Mumford’s Mill stands guard over Deptford Creek. This mill – rebuilt in 1897 – was closed in 1968. The listed building has since found a new role as a residential apartment block. On the right of the photo, a two-storey Lewisham College building occupies the site of Robinson’s Mill, opened in the 1850s, closed in the 1960s and destroyed by fire in 1970.
Brook Mill began to supply river water to local houses in 1701. The venture prospered over the years and the site grew into a substantial water works. Between 1928 and 1932 the Metropolitan Water Board consolidated numerous engine houses and pumping stations into one new building, housing a massive steam engine and all the pumps.
The confluence of the Rivers Ravensbourne and Quaggy is just by Lewisham station. QWAG’s information board describes our aspirations for opening up the rivers in Lewisham town centre. Alas, with the massive Lewisham Gateway over-development of the town centre approved last autumn, this opportunity appears to have been lost.
Cornmill Gardens – opened last summer – stands on the site of Lewisham Bridge Mill, closed in 1920 and demolished in 1934. In the late 1960s the river was widened, straightened and channelised and the (recenly demolished) Sundermead estate built alongside. The concrete here has been removed and the bed and banks naturalised, with access to the water encouraged.
The 1828 rebuild of Brook Dale Mill is only one of two substantial mill buildings to survive – Mumford’s Mill at Deptford Creek being the other. The mill had an uneventful history, producing corn for most of its lifetime, except for a period in the mid 1700s when it was used in leather manufacture. Only converted to steam in the 1870s, it closed in 1908.
Activities at the Fun Day in Ladywell Fields included guided walks in the river. A party of walkers, including the Mayor of Lewisham, Sir Steve Bullock, stand just upstream of the weir that diverts the majority of the Ravensbourne’s flow through the park.