Kingsbury Mill is open to the public as The Waffle House restaurant. Its construction points to it being Elizabethan on an older site. As such it is at the heart of agricultural medieval St Michael’s & Kingsbury. Kingsbury Barn (not open to the public but visible from Branch Rd) dates from 1373 and so is the oldest intact, largely unaltered, structure in St Michael’s. It is an excellent example of a timber framed grange barn. Kingsbury Manor (private residence) is also of medieval foundation. Corn sheaves would have been stored at the Barn, later to be winnowed & then sent to the nearby mill(s) for grinding into flour. Kingsbury Manor would have administered this on behalf of the Abbey.
Description & History of Kingsbury Mill
Kingsbury water-mill is situated on the river Ver, by the Ford & Bridge, in the heart of the village of St. Michaels and very close to the remains of the Roman City of Verulamium. The site for the mill would have been chosen with great care – influenced by the presence of an adequate stream, sufficient fall of water and nearby corn-growing areas. It is impossible to exactly date the existing mill at Kingsbury, but the large amount of timber in its construction would point to Elizabethan times. A Georgian brick façade was added in the eighteenth century and since then the mill, with the miller’s house attached, has remained basically unaltered. It is a two-storey building of simple design with the lower brick storey supporting a timber-framed construction with weather-boarded exterior. The roof is simple pitch and is tiled.
The name Kingsbury (King’s Burgh) is Saxon and refers to a royal manor and it is known that King Bertulph of Mercia held a Council here in 851. It is reasonable to assume that a watermill existed here in Saxon times. In Norman times it is likely the mill of that time was one of 5000 referred to in Domesday survey of 1080, and by the 12th Century the Abbey of St. Albans owned much of the land around the mill. As referred to above the Barn was built in 1373.
On the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1539 Sir Nicholas Bacon, Lord Keeper of the Great Seal to Queen Elizabeth I, purchased Gorhambury; and we find that in 1568 a “watermill and free fishery in St. Michaels” were conveyed by “John Machell and Frances his wife to Sir Nicholas Bacon and Anne his wife” (Feet of F. Herts. Trin. 10 Eliz.). This is the mill at Kingsbury.
After the death of Sir Nicholas Bacon and his elder son Anthony, Gorhambury was inherited by the famous lawyer, philosopher and scientist Sir Francis Bacon. On his death, his kinsman, Sir Thomas Meauty, became its owner and subsequently Sir Harbottle Grimston, a famous lawyer of his day and speaker of the first Restoration Parliament, purchased the reversion of Gorhambury from a Meauty in 1650. The Grimston family, of which Lord Verulam is the head, still owns Gorhambury; thus the estate has belonged to the Grimstons for over three hundred years, but Kingsbury Mill has belonged to Gorhambury for an even longer period.
The ground floor workings of the mill are still visible within The Waffle House restaurant which is open from 9am daily. Please see their website for current seasonal opening hours.