Pinchmill Islands
are an archipelago of islands within the
River Great Ouse  between
Felmersham  and Sharnbrook
(O.S. TL997587)


Pinchmill Islands
and Pinch Mill
   Pinchmill Islands in October  

Five bridges provide access to the islands via a right-of-way footpath and a sixth bridge gives public access to the south bank of the river.

The islands are open to the public by kind permission of Ouse Manor, therefore the public are welcome to walk or picnic on the islands or the riverbank. (The area marked green on the map.)

Pinchmill Lower School is named after the islands and the mill which spanned the river at Pinchmill Islands.

History of Pinch Mill or Pynche Mylne

According to the Domesday Book there were two [water] mills in the parish of Felmersham - one at Radwell and the other at Felmersham. The Radwell mill was most likely located near the railway bridge which crosses the River Ouse between Milton Ernest and Radwell (O.S. TL009570), and the Felmersham Mill was probably located at Perch Islands (O.S. SP987578). In Sharnbrook the Doomsday Book lists two [water] mills and it is possible that one of these mills was located at Pinchmill Islands.

Pinch mill (or Pinch mills) spanned a branch of the river, which was also the parish boundary, however the mill is generally considered to be in the Sharnbrook parish.

One of the sluices of Pinch Mills - 1895

The first documentary evidence of a mill at Pinchmill Islands is in the Hundred Rolls Of the hundred of Wilye in 1278-79. A deed dated 1286 states that the Prior of Newnham held fishing rights over the river from the Mill of Pinch to the Mill of Stoke.

In the Court Rolls of 1608 under the heading of a Perambulation of the bounds of the parish, the Rev Nicholas Craven refers to Pynche Mylne in his account of a Felmersham parish boundary walk.

The earlier documents refer to the mill as the molendinium de Pynches however there are no surviving early records of a family with that name. This suggests that the mill may have belonged to a small manor or farm named Pynche lying within the parish of Sharnbrook or Felmersham.

The mill was situated in a natural narrowing of the river which could be described as a pinch so this could be an alternative, but  less likely, explanation for the name.

Having been unused for many years, the old mill was demolished in 1880. Frank Hipwell, in an article for the Sharnbrook Review 1949 describes the old mill as follows:

"The original layout of the ancient mill with its house and premises is not easily traced, but the main structure spanned the river and its wheel house was furnished with three gates.

 These discharged into the now silted-up and rusty mill-pit, one delivering direct to an undershot wheel, while others, less frequently raised, were there to give passage to the rush of water in time of flood, which also was provided against by slip-ways still in evidence.

A cut to allow pleasure boats to pass from Sharnbrook water to the Felmersham reaches was made shortly after the demolition, for the main waterway was left too blocked to admit of such use, and several field dykes flow into it. The effect of these numerous channels is to create a miniature archipelago, its islands smothered in a dense jungle of undergrowth among thriving trees and old fallen trunks."

All that remains of the mill is a small section of a wall, visible when the river is low, and a few stones on the river bed.

References: Domesday Book - Bedfordshire, Phillimore.    Bedfordshire Mills by Hugh Howes, County Planning Dept. Bedfordshire Magazine Vol 18 No.141.
Sharnbrook Review 1949 Frank Hipwell.      Photo: One of the sluices of Pinch Mill, BLAARS

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