Lower Mill is a Grade II listed, late eighteenth-century Victorian water mill, with water wheel still intact. In transforming the structure from water mill to home, the architects aimed to preserve as much of the building’s original character as possible, while teasing out new life.
In reference to the mill’s industrial origin, materials used are simple, functional and honest. Raw plate steel was chosen as the primary material throughout the original mill and is the key material used in this transformation. The material palette further includes simple painted surfaces, stone, concrete, timber and metal, which are combined in surprising and unexpected ways.
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Nestled in a small village which sits in the folds of the chalk hills below The Ridgeway is Lower Mill – one of two village mills recorded in the Domesday book. As it stands today Lower Mill is a late eighteenth century structure which, despite various alterations and extensions, has retained the essence of a water mill - with Victorian milling machinery and water wheel still in place. The mill is Listed Grade II.
There has been no permanent inhabitation of the building since it ceased to function as a working mill. Our restoration of, and extension to, the mill was therefore an exercise in preservation as much as restoration: we were in the privileged position of converting the mill into a home for the very first time.
The mill is nestled into a three metre bank of earth – taking advantage of the natural fall of the stream through ancient water courses. Such was the dilapidated nature of the building that water had breached the perimeter walls and created long-established rivulets across the internal floors. A comprehensive water ingress strategy was necessary before considering any further work, and shoring up the structural integrity of the long-saturated retaining walls.
Internally, our approach was necessarily simple: minimal intrusion, with materially sensitive interventions. The light industrial origins of the building became our single most important preoccupation and our decision process drew on these humble origins – like the mill itself, our work had to be simple, functional and honest. Raw plate steel was chosen as the primary material presence throughout the original mill, having a clear sensibility with the cast iron axles and cogs of the machinery and the workmanlike nature of the building’s structure. With small eighteenth century leaded windows, we needed to maximise what natural daylight was available, so light wall and floor finishes sit in serene contrast to the visual weight of the steel elements.
Owing to the space occupied by the mill machinery, a modest extension was added to the side of the mill to provide additional accommodation. This small additional has enabled the mill to function as a two bedroom house.