Regarde. Mon rêve.
Walk just a few hundred yards away from Alresford town in Hampshire, past the quaint Georgian facades, and you will find the river Alre.Take the right path, along the river, and very soon you will find this; a gingerbread cottage, a chocolate-box dwelling, a wattle-and-daub confection actually straddling the river.
The house of many of our dreams. A stone’s throw from Winchester, a short drive down the M3 from London, this house inhabits another time. Its tiny leaded windows peep out from under the thatch; its white plaster pristine against the black beams. It has a stunning traditional English garden. It is a fairytale, built centuries ago on the Alre.
It has a sign on the side:
And I can tell you today that it is for sale; though the amount is undisclosed.
The house over the River Alre is, in fact, not a house, but a mill.
In mediaeval times the fields surrounding the mill would be packed with sheep, and the sheep would generate wool. And it would be spun, and woven into cloth; but that was not the end.
Because cloth needed to be fulled. Cleaned, and whitened; but most importantly matted to draw the fibres closer together. For this the Romans used urine and the feet of slaves, but the mill would have been a more sanitary option by far.
Water driven mechanical paddles beat the cloth once it was soaked in water. Fuller’s earth – a sort of pale clay – served to whiten it.
The 19th century, and the event of large industrial mills, put paid to the activities here, and the mill was left derelict for many years until, in the fifties, it was bought privately and renovated.
And now, it is being sold. You can download the brochure here.
With every fibre in my body I will myself to win the lottery and bag this incredible place, gift-wrapped in sunlight. But if one of you gets there first I shall not hold it against you. I shall simply cadge an invitation.
Imagine, if the mill worked once more.