The Bache Mill & Pool

as researched by Kate Roberts (see also early history of the Bache)

The The site of the mill was on the Bache Brook where Liverpool Road now crosses the stream. The mill pool was on the east side of the road and the mill on the west. The stream, pool and mill complex were worked for over 700 years from pre 1119 to around 1845 –1883.

BACHE BROOK Bache Brook enters the township as Newton Brook before joining Finchetts Gutter and draining into the River Dee. The stream was dammed in the medieval period to create Bache Pool for the mill. The early 1960’s saw a major rearrangement of the drainage and water systems locally and the brook was greatly effected and its flow reduced. 20 years later when Countess Way was put in across Bache Hall land the stream was diverted and in some places culverted. There is still the odd stretch left as natural. Photo 6A and B (not yet included) are of Bache Brook before any of these modern changes and shows its former self.


Bache Pool took the place of the village green as a meeting place for the inhabitants of Bache and Upton. It seems that all the business of the village was conducted there for many years, for example on May 9th 1751 a meeting was held there to settle the accounts of the Overseer of the highways. In St Mary's on the Hill vestry minutes book of 1741 - 1893–there is a reference to meetings for the township of Upton held at Thomas Ithell’s house at Bache Pool. This and others could be the origins of the public house that now sits on the junction of Mill Lane and Liverpool Road. Meetings were definitely held there from 1860 – 77 when it was called the Egerton Arms or Bache Hotel.

The pool also gets mentioned in defining the boundary of the liberty of the City of Chester. In the vestry orders of St Oswalds it is mentioned several times `in the perambulations to the boundaries’ of St Oswalds in 1656.

To ensure that the water mill kept working even in times of low water or drought, the pool was created by damming Bache Brook right back in the medieval origins of the site.

For monks the ample supply of fish to supplement their restricted diet was the main reason for the large-scale consumption of fresh water fish. Fresh water fish was part of the diet of the aristocracy, this is indicated by the frequency with which ponds are found in association with moated sites, castles and monasteries. The dietary rules enforced by the church that forbade meat consumption for a large proportion of the time meant that any source of fish was a valuable asset. Sea fish was consumed in much larger quantities than fresh water fish but any source of fish was a valuable asset. Lakes were important sources of fish and the right of monastic houses to exploit them was usually carefully defined.


It is widely recorded that the Bache mill was granted to the Abbey of St Werburgh in 1119 by Earl Richard. But why did the monks of the abbey need the cornmill at the Bache, to answer this we must look at the mills within the city.

There seems to be no mention of any mills on the River Dee before 1093 when Hugh Lupus, Earl of Chester granted to the Abbey the right to put a mill on the Dee at the bridge and also the road that led to the abbey i.e. Northgate Street. The soke rights that this gave the monks meant that people living on Northgate St had to take their corn to be ground at the monks mill. This arrangement did not last all that long as it was a very awkward one, tenants had to traverse the length of the city with their corn to a mill outside the south gate. Hugh Lupus’ son Richard regranted his fathers gifts to the abbey with the addition of extra land at the Northgate and the water mill of Bache and this is the first documented reference to the mill.

Ranulf II great charter of 1151 – 1152 confirms in detail the gifts made to St Werburghs Abbey by his predecessors and their barons and other donors, followed by a statement of his own gifts and those of his barons. The original is at Eaton Hall MSS No 1.

Post obitum HUGONIS comitis Ricardus comes filius eius dedit pro anima illius deo et sancte Werburge terram Wlfrick prepositi foris portam de North, et molendinum de Beche, et tres mansuras quitas et pactas, duas in civitate et unam extra murum. Teste Willelmo constabularia, Walterio de Vernona, Radulfo dapifero et alis multis.

After the death of Earl Hugh, Earl Richard his son has given for his soul, the land which was Wulfrics against the Northgate, to the Abbot of St Werburgh and the mill of Bache, and three dwellings of free and quiet, two in the city and one outside. Witnessed by William the constable, Walter de Vernon and Rudolf the steward.

Omerod has a slightly different version, he quotes Earl Richard but both have the same general meaning.

Ego comes Ricardus post obitum patris mei dedi pro saluta animae mea et suae terram quae fuit Wulfrici praepositi foris portam de North, prius per unam spicam frumenti deinde per unum cultellum super attare Sanctae Werburgae: et molendinum be Bache : et tresa mansuras quietas et ab omni re liberas, duas in civitate et unam extra portam de North...

Earl Richard, after the death for my father, have given, for the welfare of my soul and of his, the land which was Wulfrics over against the Northgate, by service of first an ear of corn and afterwards of a knife or sickle upon the alter of St Werburghs : also the mill of the Bache, also tree messuages free from all dues, two being in the city and one outside the Northgate…

Interestingly the grant is not of land to build a mill as before but of an existing one, how long the mill had already been on the site is completely unknown.

The people of Northgate duly transferred their business to Bache mill. What happened to their mill on the Dee? It seems to have been leased or granted back to Earl Richard and it eventually passed to the Crown and became known as the Kings mills from earliest times. The people of the city were duty bound to use these mills. The monks milling estate for themselves and their Northgate tenants lay at the North Gate and comprised of Bache water mill and a windmill they erected in later years close to the gate. This windmill was destroyed in July 1643 to prevent parliamentary troops doing any harm to the city with it.

As mentioned above the soke rights were rigorously kept to, milling at home was forbidden and even possessing a hand quern meant a heavy fine. The mill was therefore a financial asset to its owner and also to the miller especially if they leased the mill. A fascinating dispute between the Bache mill and the Dee mills took place in 1567 concerning these very rights.

Thomas Bavand worked the Bache mill and had been sheriff of Chester in the same year that Ralph Goodman had been mayor, 1547. Goodman leased the Dee mills, but Bavand died and left his widow dependent on the mill for a living. She carried on the business and kept the old connections going this included the business of some citizens who did not live in Northgate St and who should have used Goodmans mills. The Goodmans did nothing about this whilst Thomas Bavand was alive but did take action against his widow Margaret, as well as others who were working mill and attracting custom which should have gone to their mills.

Robert Dandrey occupied Broughton windmill, Thomas Ball Christletons windmill, John Moreton Great Barrow’s water mill and Philip Prince at Marfords water mill were all indicted with Margaret Bavand. The Goodmans, Ralph and Thomas claimed that their mills had always had the right to seize as a forfeit any corn carried out of the city to be ground at any other mill. All of the defendants except Mrs Bavand abstained from entering a defence and allowed judgement by default. Two of them though, Ball and Dandery gave evidence against Mrs Bavand after she pleaded that “ such a prescription in favour of Dee Mills is injurious and against the law, for that a prescriptive right cannot be in a matter of law”. Evidence was called on to prove her wrong and a court order was issued to prevent her or her servants from carrying on the practice. But the widow carried on, getting what custom she could from anyone who was favourable to her and her case.

A second bill of indictment was issued against her three years later in September 1570 as she was in daily breach of the first. During the court case Margaret Bavand’s contempt was proven and another order was issued in March 1571 against her, her miller John Marshall, Her carrier Thomas Meire and three women servants. Margaret was taken to Chester Castle to be punished and kept until she could enter into bonds with sufficient sureties no to break the order again. She also had to pay the Goodmans 35 shillings for their costs of the suit. That is as far as the story goes but does it tell us that Margaret Bavand was a greedy women with scant regard for the law or was she a brave hearted poor widow, desperately trying to earn a living for herself and family? Either way it all ended futilely.

The next reference to Bache mill is 250 years later when at the end of its life the Dean and Chapter of Chester Cathedral sell it to Thomas Brodbent of Bache Hall. The indenture made on the 21st March 1816 and shows that the mill had already stopped milling grain and was used by John Dod who was a skinner. It does describe the extent of the mill, it consisted of the mill building, shippon, sheds, pool, ponds, water courses, floodgates, streams, fishing and Bache Pool. This list gives the only physical description of Bache Mill, no illustrations or images exist, it has been difficult to picture the mill insitu as the landscape has been changed completely

The last reference to Bache mill is in 1845 when it was valued at £145.

The exact end of the mill is not known but it had obviously stopped milling corn before 1816 and as the mill pond had mostly been allowed to silt up before it too was filled in around 1883, this shows that in the 19th century it had an uneventful life of gradual decay. In 1774 a windmill was erected in Upton, situated at the other end of Mill Lane towards the centre of the village. This could have played a part in the decline of Bache Mill.

That no physical remains are to be found after so many centuries of continuous industrial activity is such a pity. Although in September 1973 workmen uncovered what was first thought to be a dugout canoe but on removal to the Grosvenor Museum for cleaning and examination it was identified as a chute. Made from a single piece of oak measuring 3m long, 50cm wide and 35cm deep, the core had been dug out to create a trough with an opening at one end. It had peg holes and some pegs still in position, a last piece of the lost mill.

For the many possible origins of the name & the history of the Pool and the Mill as noted in the 1951 WI History