Combe Mill is a sawmill situated adjacent to the River Evenlode (at grid reference SP417150) close to Combe railway station, between the villages of Combe and Long Hanborough in Oxfordshire, England. Originally powered by a waterwheel, there is now a beam engine.
In about 1912 the engine ceased working, presumably because of a fault which either could not be repaired or was considered not worth repairing, and the beam engine then lay idle until its restoration. The waterwheel was replaced in 1934 with a metal one and the shaft replaced by the present timber one. It continued to function until the 1950s, when electric power was eventually brought to the mill. It was the principal source of power for the mill for about forty years, except for a time during the First World War when the government installed auxiliary stationary steam engines to cope with the war effort. When the wheel eventually ceased to be used the leat was filled in and the sluices buried in the mid 1960s.
In 1969 a working party from the City and County Museum (now the County Museum) at Woodstock surveyed the site and began negotiations with the Duke of Marlborough with a view to restoring the beam engine and its boiler. Three years later in September 1972 the efforts of the volunteers were rewarded when the engine was successfully steamed for the first time in sixty years. The Combe Mill Society was formed and the mill first opened to the public in 1975. Since then restoration has progressed steadily and expanded to include other aspects of the mill in addition to the beam engine.
The Mill still contains several historic trade catalogues from which hardware was once selected for use around the Blenheim Estate. It also still has several day books dating from the mid-19th century which record the names of workers and details of their earnings and day-to-day jobs.
The Mill is open between March and October and in steam on the third Sunday of these months. Schools and community groups may book visits at any time. The Mill has a working forge, where visitors can have the opportunity to make their own poker.
For more information see the society’s web site at www.combemill.org
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