Redbournbury Watermill and Bakery – Hertfordshire, England - Gastro Obscura
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Hertfordshire, England

Redbournbury Watermill and Bakery

This operational mill has survived centuries of destruction and construction. 

Just an hour’s drive northwest from the heart of London, set against a placid, pastoral river valley, Redbournbury Mill captures centuries of history. The ancient structure may have been used to grind flour as early as the 11th century, and its operation continued until the 1950s. The property underwent a 10-year rebuilding and restoration project in the 1990s (which began after a fire in 1987) and once again reflects its former glory as a functional mill, as well as a museum and bakery.

The first possible evidence of Redbournbury Mill was recorded in the Domesday Book of 1087, which suggests the presence of a mill on the present-day site. Some of the currently-standing mill was built in the 16th century, but much of it was reconstructed in 1790. Visitors can find records of the rebuild on a commemorative brick nestled in the southern wall. 

When Edward Hawkins took over the mill in the 1840s, the enterprise became a family-run business for the majority of the next 140 years. His granddaughter, Ivy—referred to as “the only lady miller in England“—lived at Redbournbury until her retirement in 1985, at age 89.

Following Ivy’s departure, the Crown Estate Commissioners sold the property under the condition that the new owners restore it. The house and mill received protected historic status and a grant was dedicated to their revival. After rebuilding the edifice from original drawings, the living museum opened to the public. Guests can climb between four floors, filled with machinery, via steep ladders. 

One of the site’s barns was converted into a bakery in 2006. Though the structure of the building has been carefully preserved, the interior is outfitted with modern baking equipment. Before you’re close enough to examine the newfangled machinery, however, you’ll smell the fresh-baked bread and cake wafting through the air. After all, what’s a visit to the mill without enjoying the fruits of its labor?

Know Before You Go

You can explore the property's other structures—including a 15th-century farmhouse—and its surrounding natural beauty by taking the circular footpath known as the Ver Valley Walk. The trail offers stunning views over the valley that might reveal horses paddling in the river or wild fowl hunting along the banks.

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