What to see and do at Woodbridge’s Tide Mill Living Museum
PUBLISHED: 10:32 09 April 2019
Stephen Harvey, a guide at the Tide Mill Living Museum in Woodbridge, explains the attraction of this Suffolk icon
My fascination with Woodbridge Tide Mill grows and grows. Although now in its third (probably) incarnation, the mill has stood there with its feet in the waters of the River Deben for, perhaps, 850 years.
Since before the Wars of the Roses, the building of the great cathedrals, the invention of the printing press, the Reformation, the Enlightenment and the dawn of modern science, the mill has quietly done its job, grinding flour for people’s bread.
The Tide Mill breathes in – and out. The tide comes in and the mill holds its breath. The sluice is opened and the mill exhales pushing the machinery into motion.
The water comes in and the water goes out, the grain comes in and the flour goes out. In the old days the manor’s tenants came in and out, until replaced by the commercial customers and now the museum’s visitors.
The tenants came with some reluctance, perhaps, forced to use this mill only and obliged to pay a fee for the privilege, but they came in and out.
Reasons to visit Woodbridge
Woodbridge is a beautiful, vibrant market town, steeped in history, on the banks of the River Deben. It has excellent shops, superb pubs and restaurants, and offers lots to do, both indoors and out.
On the edge of Suffolk Coast and Heaths Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Woodbridge is the perfect base from which to explore the Suffolk Heritage Coast.
Walk beside the River Deben and visit the Tide Mill
Voted the most loved element of Woodbridge by the town’s residents, who love to enjoy a coffee on the Quayside, stroll along the riverside paths admiring the iconic working Tide Mill and soak up the views across the river – maybe even spotting the local seal.
You can download maps at thesuffolkcoast.co.uk - Woodbridge Explorer Guide-AONB, Woodbridge and the River Deben Walk
You’ll find independent shops stocking everything from DIY and craft supplies to wool shops, outdoor clothing, boutiques, delis, cook shops, tailors, and even a violin shop.
National Trust Sutton Hoo is home to one of the greatest archaeological discoveries of all time. Walk around the ancient burial mounds and discover the incredible story of the ship burial of an Anglo-Saxon king and his treasured possessions.
Come face to face with your ancestors and explore the award-winning exhibition, the full-size reconstruction of the burial chamber, stunning replica treasures and original finds from one of the mounds, including a prince’s sword. Currently closed for major upgrading to the visitor experience, Sutton Hoo will reopen in April.
Today’s visitors come with enquiring minds. They wander round the old building, marvelling that technical innovation and construction is much older than they thought. Out they go with a bag of flour and a new sense of respect for our forefathers.
Nothing is ever quite still around the mill. Wind ruffles the surface of the pond. Birds follow the ebb tide, foraging on the strand line for food.
At the top of the tide the water slaps against the Tide Mill Quay as the river makes up its mind. Inside children scamper round hunting down the last elusive mouse on the mouse trail. On the stone floor visitors move from foot to foot in front of the cut-out of the Augustinian canon, enduring the guide’s monologue about the obligations of the Lord of the Manor.
Eight and a half centuries of moon-rise and tide-rise. Eight and a half centuries of people being fed physically and in other ways.
Eight hundred and fifty years of doing its job, untouched by the petty pre-occupations of the humans down the centuries, apart from Henry VIII who did change things for the mill, but even he did not stop it doing its job. Long may it continue to feed us all.
The Tide Mill is open every day 11am - 5pm, from March 29 - September 30, and by special arrangement for groups and schools at other times.
Keeping the wheels turning
The Tide Mill is at the heart of Woodbridge, prominently featuring in the annual regatta (June), Maritime Woodbridge festival and the Shuck Festival (October), and providing a dramatic backdrop for the Spirit of Beowulf Festival in May.
The mill costs around £5,000 a month to run and, in addition, needs to build up a reserve to pay for regular renovations and repairs. The Tide Mill Living Museum, a registered charity, relies on entry fees, sales of flour and merchandise, donations and grants, and the enthusiasm and hard work of volunteers to maintain its historical infrastructure.
John Carrington, chairman of the Tide Mill Trust, says there is a lot of local pride in the mill, and the aim is to encourage more people to visit, and to find new ways that people in Suffolk can become involved with and support this important building.
Become a Friend of the Tide Mill
- Chipping in a little each month or annually can make a big difference. As well as staying in touch with the Mill, membership offers discounted flour and free entry. Find out more here: https://woodbridgetidemill.org.uk/be-a-friend/
- Buy Tide Mill flour from local Co-Ops and other distributors. Full list here: https://woodbridgetidemill.org.uk/our-flour/
- Volunteer and learn our history to show people around, or help at our shop or, if you have a practical bent, assist with maintenance
- Consider Tide Mill mugs, aprons and other merchandise for use as gifts
- If you or your business need a small, out of the ordinary venue for meetings contact firstname.lastname@example.org If you have children at school suggest to the appropriate teacher that we are open for school visits. Ask them to contact email@example.com to arrange.
- Finally, if you enjoy your visit, be sure to leave a positive Facebook or TripAdvisor review to encourage others to visit.
Eating & drinking in Woodbridge