The Fulling Mill

“A Taste of Alresford”, by Sally March, published in 1985, advises:

When Bryan and Elinor Gush bought and restored the derelict Fulling Mill, standing astride the lovely River Alre, they little realized that in thirty-odd years it would attract visitors from all over the world.

In the 13th century, the English wool staple was at Winchester, where wool was sorted and graded. The Fulling Mill probably dates from then, soon after Bishop de Lucy had built his Great Weir, and where the River Alre now ran purposefully along its new path. The mill was built above the water, with a smooth slope down to it, where the woollen cloth could be washed and laid out to be dressed with powdered chalk (there being no Fuller’s Earth in the district). It was then trodden or beaten to rid it of excess oil, and to shrink and concentrate the loosely woven cloth. The industry declined when the staple was moved to ‘English’ Calais some time before 1452.

The Old Mill, almost surrounded by running water, has the most beautiful garden designed and cared for by Mr and Mrs Gush. They have also developed a small nursery alongside the river, where the old open swimming pool used to be. By selling its produce to passing visitors, they have raised £27,000 for charity since 1974.

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In 2013 the footnote to this is that Mr and Mrs Gush eventually retired to live in the Churchyard cottages in Alresford. The new owners restored the pond where the nursery garden had been created, and although this was stocked with fish these did not survive the attentions of the growing populations of otters in the area. Pictures of the thatched Fulling Mill itself feature on most Hampshire and local calendars, and tea towels, so that it is indeed known worldwide.

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