The ‘Needs to Know’
Distance: Not really a walk, more of an exploration of a beautiful area. There are several walks that can be done along the river etc
Time to walk: Not applicable
Difficulty: Our look around is done on roads & hard paths
Parking: The car park at the top of the village – free to National Trust Members
Public toilets: In the Visitor Centre
History is courtesy of the National Trust…
The Domesday Book of 1087 mentions a mill at Flatford & records William the Conqueror‘s decision to keep it and some of the surrounding land for himself. This obviously means there was a Saxon mill at Flatford before the Norman Conquest of 1066
In the late fourteenth century the The Manor Court Rolls contain a record of a fulling mill at Flatford that was called ‘Flotfordmelle’
By the 1470s Suffolk produced more cloth from its mechanised fulling mills than any other county in England
Flatford Mill continued to ‘full’ wool until around 1700 when the cloth industry started to become concentrated in the larger towns of Ipswich and Colchester before dying out entirely in East Anglia by the end of the century
During the seventeenth century, the textile industry moved to the north of the country. Traditional sheep farming and rural textile industries declined and people moved from the country to work in town and city factories.
As the town populations swelled they created a huge demand for bread & Suffolk farmers realised they could make more money from growing grain (to be made into bread) than from grazing sheep for the wool & cloth trade. Fulling mills, including the mill at Flatford, were converted into corn mills so that they could grind grain into flour”
Anyway…that’s enough of the history lesson for the time being. Flatford is very small so this isn’t a structured walk…it’s more of an exploration. Come on…let’s explore!!
1. We park in the National Trust car park at the top of the village & walk down the steps. The Visitor Information Centre & toilets are on the left.
The first cottage we come to is Bridge Cottage…
We do have the option of continuing over the bridge, but decide to stick to this side of the river first & have a look round the cottage…
During John Constable’s youth, the family living in Bridge Cottage were tenants of his family. People collected tolls from the boats passing through Flatford Lock along the River Stour. Have a look at this link for a more detailed history of the cottage
2. Let’s have a look inside…
There’s also examples of Constable’s work. We’re going to see the ‘real thing’ shortly…
3. Right…back outside & there’s a small garden that looks out onto the river…
We’ll have a look at Bridge Cottage from the other side of the river later
Next door to Bridge Cottage is the National Trust Gift Shop & a fantastic Tea Room – the scones are immense!! They actually have a ‘Scone of the Month’ – when we visited it was ‘Chocolate & Hazelnut’. Here’s a link to it being made…yummy!
4. Passing the Boatbuilding Dock we arrive at the impressive property know as The Granary…it looks even better from the other side of the river (see later)
The Granary was once owned by John Constable’s father. Built around 1740, in the past it’s been a wool store, a granary, a steam mill & a macaroni factory
The Granary has Bed & Breakfast accommodation…
…here the link to their website…
…& we met the owner & his dog coming up the lane
5. Right come on….further down the lane on the left is Valley Farm. How stunning is this place…
Valley Farm was built in the early fifteenth century & is an example of a medieval, open hall house which is now a Grade I listed building.
At one time Willy Lott’s (we’ll come to Willy Lott in a minute) grandparents (English & Mary Lott) lived at Valley Farm & it was later owned by Willy Lott’s brother John who lived there with his wife & 14 children.
In 1959 Valley Farm was acquired by the National Trust. The National Trust leases it to the Field Studies Council for student accommodation, but it is open to the public on Heritage Open Days
6. Ok…it’s now time to come to the ‘Main Event’…Flatford Mill
I think the first thing to say about this place is it’s absolutely everything you hope it would be &, on a day like today, simply stunning
Let’s firstly look at the Mill itself…
Flatford Mill is a Grade I listed 18th century watermill built in 1733.
John Constable’s father owned the mill & Constable made the mill & the pond & buildings the subject of some of his most famous paintings including ‘The Hay Wain’ which we’ll come to in a minute
The mill is leased to the Field Studies Council, a group that uses it as a locations for arts, ecology and natural history based courses
7. Right…do you want to take that photograph? Come on then let’s stand with our backs to The Mill on the steps facing Willy Lott’s house &………snap!
Isn’t it just stunning & you can see why Constable was inspired by this view
8. Let’s have a closer look at the cottage that was in ‘The Hay Wain’, also known as Willy Lott’s house…
Willy Lott (1761-1849) was a tenant farmer who worked the 39 acres around Flatford that made up Gibbeon’s Gate Farm. He lived in a house attached to the farmland, which long after his death, became known as Willy Lott’s House. Willy Lott’s parents lived in this house, Willy & his sisters and brothers were born there.
Although he could not read or write, Willy made enough money to buy the house & farmland around Gibbeon’s Gate in 1825. He never married, living with his sister Mary & he died in the house at the age of 88 leaving the farm plus about £450 to his sisters, their children & his brother’s children.
For the full National Trust details click on this link
9. Right it’s time for a cup of tea & maybe one of those scones so let’s head back up to the cafe & then we’ll head over the bridge to the other side of the river
In the meantime…what do other visitors think of this place? Well click on the tripadvisor link to see..
10. Suitably refreshed it’s now time to head over the bridge to have a look at the other side…
…& we immediately get a different perspective of Bridge Cottage
11. We’ll have another look on the way back. Next along here is a different view of The Granary…
Fancy staying over there & getting up for an early morning row along the Stour before breakfast? Yes please…
12. Pass by the lock…
…& then we can see the workings of The Mill…
13. Well that’s us just about done as today we haven’t time to do any of the other walks around here but…we will come back & try them as it’s such a beautiful place.
In the meantime here’s a couple of final shots…
So…this isn’t really a walk, it’s just a ‘visit’ but we hope you can see how stunning this place is
Whether you’re a member of The National Trust or not (& we recommend you join as there’s so many stunning places to visit) please come & enjoy this beautiful place