Sproughton as a village is not mentioned in the Doomsday Book of 1086, but the land where Sproughton now stands is recorded in the Doomsday book.
The lands of Sproughton were at the time of the Doomsday Book in 1086, were in the ownership of King William 1, the land was registered under the kings land at Bramford, which was also owned by King William 1. Clearly it can be seen in text of the Doomsday Book, that two churches and two mills are registered in two seperate areas of land or hamlets both recorded as the kings land at Bramford.
There is no record of two churches or two mills ever being in Bramford, only one of each as there is today. One of theses areas is Sproughton
1212 Sproughton Manor is mentioned in a Deed by a grant of land from King John to Roger le Bigod of, late of Robert de Angervill.
1329 A mill, 3acres of land, an acre of meadow was recorded in Sproughton.
1708 A bridge was built over the River Gipping at Sproughton, which was when the private homstead or settlement of Sproughton was opened up to passing trade, before this date Sproughton was only accessable via the high street to Bramford in the north or Ipswich in the south where there was crossing points over the River Gipping.
1747 A old water mill is recorded on maps,as being sited on the same spot as the present day Sproughton Water Mill.
The present building dates from c. 1817-1820. In early 1817 it was advertised to be let by tender on a building lease “the mill to be improved agreeably to drawings, specifications and an estimate now lying at the offices of Mr. Bunn, Solicitor, and Mr. William Cubitt, Engineer, Ipswich”.
1818 The old water mill was dismantled, and the new/existing Sproughton Water Mill was built in brick, the building engineer later in his life was knighted for his works as an engineer and is the famous as Sir William Cubutt.
The Water Mill was built for the owners the Constable family of East Bergholt
In September 1820, it was again advertised “to be let and entered upon at Michaelmass next, as the Capital Water Mill…The above mill (which has been lately rebuilt on the most approved principles) with four pairs of stones, also a dwelling house. The mill has a 7ft fall.” Application was to be made as in 1817.
From this it can be inferred that rebuilding took place between these two dates. It is possible that no one took up the “building lease” and that the landlord carried out the work himself, letting the new mill once finished.
Sir William Cubitt was originally a millwright, the patentee of a self regulating windmill sail (in 1807) which became the standard design in this country and remains in use to this day. At this time he was working as chief engineer at Ransomes in Ipswich. He was later knighted after an illustrious career in Civil Engineering. No other examples of his millwrighting are known to survive (although it must be said that the mill has been refitted in 1840 and subsequently gutted since Sir William Cubitts time).
In 1835 it was again advertised, to be let following the death of Thomas Thurston. The Tithe Map and Apportionment of 1837 name Joseph Burch Smyth (a local landowner) as owner, and Henry Neeve as occupier. He developed a large business and also was a maltster and corn merchant with a shop in Ipswich. In 1840 Sproughton Water Mill was remodelled for Mr. Henry Neeve by John Whitmore, a millwright from Wickham Market.
From the layout of the water courses, it is clear that there were originally two waterwheels. It is however not so apparent in the surviving fabric and the present mill has only ever used one wheel; perhaps this change was part of the “improvement”. None of the original plant survives, but there is evidence in the hurst framing (which remains in the larger part) of a later alteration. The original floor beams are fir, and show evidence of being altered with many redundant mortises. It is not clear whether these alterations were made in the present building or whether the timbers may be second-hand. What is clear however is that the hurst frame is a later insertion, being of well finished oak. This is probably part of Whitmore’s mid 19th century remodeling, which also appears to have involved the construction of a raised floor at 1st level to clear the large 16 ft Iron waterwheel. The driving gear and shafts were of iron and would have replaced the earlier timber gear. The new hurst frame is independent of the brick structure, an indication that structural problems occurred early in the mill’s life.
Henry Neeve ran the mill until 1874, then William Ladbrook until the late 1870’s when William Rose took over. He died in 1893, being succeeded by his widow who by 1896 had given up the mill, J & E Mudd being listed as millers in that year until c. 1922.
In 1903 the mill property was sold for £1,275 to Mr. Godfrey Hempston. The last miller would seem to be Ernest Edwin Jacob, from c. 1922 to 1946.
In 1947 the mill was sold to the Hughes-Rickett family who still live in the mill house, after which the mill was gutted of its beautiful 16 ft Iron waterwheel, all the mill machinery and used for a variety of other purposes.
In 1990 the mill was put up for sale, nobody was prepard to take on the Water Mill untill 1995, which means it was for sale locally on the open market for five years.
In August 1995 the mill was sold to its present owner, with outline consent for residential use, which is when all the problems with Babergh District Council started, unbeknown to us a Conservation group had been trying since 1993, to purchace Sproughton Water Mill which Babergh District Council would have prefered, this is the reason why Babergh District Council started all the legal action they have with us.
The mill has retained a few fragments of its former equipment: the top mountings for two of the four stone cranes can be seen on the first floor ceiling and as well as most of the hurst frame the original wheel control sluice also remains in situ. The floor over the waterwheel and hurst has been crudely boarded over, covering any features which might give further clues to the machinery layout. The stairs up to the first floor have been replaced with a second-hand staircase in a new position, but the remaining stairs seem to be the originals. Rubbing marks of the waterwheel on the part of the paneling give an impression of its large dimensions. Part of the sack hoist machinery survives in situ on the top floor along with a few items of milling tools including a rare slate proof staff, unfortunately without its fitted wooden case.
The two cast iron bypass sluices, by Whiitmore & Binyon, Wickham Market, date from after 1868 (& prior to 1901) and are fine examples of this firms work.
Notes: 1.Ipswich Journal 25.1.1817 and Bury & Norwich Post 12.3.1817 2.Ipswich Journal 9.9.1820 3.Ipswich Journal 9.5.1835 4.Whitmore & Sons Catalogue 1862