Kent’s Lord Lieutenant, Viscount De L’Isle visited the village of River outside Dover today to unveil a bicentenary plaque at Crabble Corn Mill. The Mill is the finest surviving example of an early 19th century merchant watermill in Europe, and it’s a Listed Building of National Importance having a grade II star.
Built in 1812, on the site of a much earlier one, the Mill used to be managed by Dover District Council, but when major repairs became necessary in the mid 1980s, they decided it was too costly a project. The building stood for years in a state of near collapse, supported by scaffolding and having failed to interest the National Trust, the council decided to apply for permission to demolish it.
But in 1987, a group was set up by many local people and tradesmen to save the Mill. The resulting Trust is an independent chairty whose sole responsibility is to own the historic watermill and preserve it for posterity. The Reid family are a central part of this, Harry Reid being the Trust’s chairman, his wife Pat running the cafe and tearooms, and son Anthony, the Mill’s manager.
After the speeches made by Harry Reid and the Viscount De L’Isle, the unveiling of the very smart blue plaque took place accompanied by the quacking of ducks and clicking of press camera shutters.
In attendance at the ceremony were local dignitaries including Sue Nicholas – the Chairman of Dover District Council, Pauline Beresford – River’s District Councillor, Derek Leach – the Chairman of River Parish Council, and many Mill trustees and volunteers, whose work, given for free, along with workers from the Community Payback scheme, maintains the building. Disappointingly, Charlie Elphicke, Dover’s Conservative MP, had been invited, with no response.
As for the future, the Mill cottages, bought in 1995, aided by a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, still need considerable refurbishment, but two spaces are now used as Mill shops, providing a small additional income. More urgent, is the repair of the waterwheel itself, which lost some blades in a mishap towards the end of 2012.
The Mill runs an annual beer festival in May, a cider festival in October, and a big Christmas event. In addition, quiz nights, folk music nights and OAP lunches are held every month. Amazingly however, few of River’s current 4,000-plus residents have visited, or support this important building in their midst.