Students Staff

15 December 2015

“On tenterhooks” for pedal-powered conference about history of Bourne Mill

Thanks to funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) Essex students have spent the last year working with National Trust staff to find new ways to interpret the history and spirit of Bourne Mill in Colchester.

A free one-day conference on Saturday 16 January will give people the chance to hear about that work while also uncovering how future visitors to Bourne Mill might be using pedal-power to find out more about Colchester’s working heritage.

At the conference heritage experts will be speaking alongside Department of History students and graduates who have been looking into many different aspects of the Mill’s history – which stretches back more than 400 years.

There might even be the chance to hear about the real meaning of ‘on tenterhooks’, a common term within the weaving industry which became part of our wider language. 

As part of the day a set of bicycle-powered fulling-stocks will be unveiled which were constructed as part of the HLF Young Roots project.

Fulling-stocks, originally powered by water, were once used at Bourne Mill to pound woollen cloth to clean it and make it thicker before the cloth was stretched on frames using tenterhooks in the fields surrounding the site. Now children will be able to power the fulling-stocks themselves to see how the process worked.

Student Abigayle Cockett, who is completing the public history project module as part of her history and art history degree, said: “I think Bourne Mill is amazing and is a hidden gem in Colchester that more people need to find out about and engage with.

“I am excited about the conference because it is going to be of great interest to myself as I love the Mill and want to find out more about its history. It is also getting different institutions and bodies in Colchester actively engaged with the Mill while giving the general public a chance to get a greater appreciation of the place.”

Look at Bourne Mill today in its idyllic grounds and it’s hard to imagine that this beautiful building once played a key part in the local cloth industry. It has also been a fishing/banqueting lodge for Colchester’s elite and a corn-mill at different points in its history.

The free public conference is an invitation to explore the rich history of Bourne Mill and the role that it, and the people connected with it, played in the local and regional community. Expert speakers will discuss the key themes of mills and milling; textiles and fashion; and social history.

‘Bourne Mill: A Window onto Colchester’s Working Past’ is at the University of Essex’s Colchester Campus on Saturday 16 January. Book your place at:

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