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Mystery Lambeth mill

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Just yards from the Royal Pharmaceutical Society’s headquarters is the site of an 18th century windmill that for at least part of its life appears to have been used for grinding drugs. The mill was in a street that is now called Juxon Street but has had several other names in the past.    

Unfortunately, the historical records are unclear. Historians have muddied the water by confusing the mill with other Lambeth mills and copying and amplifying each other’s errors.

Several historians have repeated a claim that the mill belonged to the Society of Apothecaries, but this has been disproved. Its records for the time include detailed inventories of properties it owned, but there are no records of any properties in Lambeth, let alone a mill.

Artists and engravers have added to the confusion. The image that seems most reliable is a watercolour from about 1780 that shows a small, brick-built, three-storey tower mill. But later paintings and engravings have either distorted this image or depicted a different mill.

What seems clear is that the mill existed through much of the 18th century, since it is shown on a map based on a 1741–45 survey and appears on several later maps up to 1791. But there is no later cartographical record.

The mill may have been used in its early days to prepare materials for pottery-making, but there is evidence that it was probably used for grinding drugs for at least 30 years. The court rolls of the Manor of Lambeth record that in 1760 a druggist called George Rudd was granted tenancy of the mill. And in 1788, after Rudd’s death, the tenancy was transferred to the trustees of his estate, who included an apothecary called John Field.

What happened to the mill after Field died in 1791 is not known, but in the next century the site was obliterated by the railway viaduct that still carries trains in and out of Waterloo station.

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