The Abbey Mill straddled the perimeter wall and the
Holy Brook stream that powered it. This stream diverges from the Kennet at Theale five miles up river and in mediaeval times it ran through the town open to the sky. It is a natural channel, deepened and given made-up banks by the monks and it ran at a higher level than the Kennet before dropping to meet the river again at the Abbey Wharf just beyond the Mill, its hurrying waters turning the underside of the mill wheel. In Abbey times there was a secondary channel which led any excess water off to the south. The
Mill was a stone building, contrasting with the more usual wooden structures such as can still he seen at Mapledurham. The miller had great strength from lifting the sacks of grain and a 'miller's thumb' broadened by constant testing of the fineness of the flour.
Read Chaucer's Canterbury Tales for a description of a mediaeval miller. The mill continued in use after the
abbey ended in 1539 until 1959. In its later days it ground flour for
Huntley & Palmer's biscuits and cakes. Only one of the arches still stands.
The Corpus of Romanesque Sculpture in Britain and Ireland has excellent pictures and a description of the Mill http://www.crsbi.ac.uk/crsbi/frame21.html.
Copyright Reading Museum Service from "Reading Abbey", published by Reading Museum & Art Gallery 1988.
click to return to Discovering Reading Abbey