Bourton Mill, nr Gillingham, Dorset

On the second day of our Devon & Dorset camping trip, we stopped at Bourton in North Dorset near Gillingham to check out Bourton Mill. Having only seen one report online of a fairly battered and near-ruin state we weren’t holding out for much.

With the graffiti and sheer carnage aside, there’s still some nice features and machinery in place at Bourton. The mill was actually mentioned in the Doomsday Book and has operated under many different guises. From supplying canvas to the Royal Navy it also produced boilers, steam lorries and gas engines. During the First World War, Mills Bombs (hand grenades to you and me) were also made here until a flood destroyed the machinery. In 1933 Bourton Mill re-opened as a dried milk plant and continued to produce throughout WW2 until it’s closure in 1998.

My favourite part was the water feature running through the centre of the mill. We all heard running water but assumed the rain was coming down hard outside, we didn’t think we’d find such a diamond in the rough of this dereliction!

The mill has clearly been left to the elements and vandals. We walked around the site for over an hour without any trouble or seeing anyone else at all.

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Important, noteworthy & interesting comments are highlighted below

  1. David says:

    This place has now been demolished. It’s such a shame. Was an amazing place to do photoshoots. As usual, like all these awesome spots, it’s all been turned into shitty old age homes. :(

    1. Sue Ashby says:

      Not true, David. It’s been demolished and an ‘urban village’ of 35 homes are going up. A very complicated site to develop with oil spills into the River Stour, the river being diverted through a culvert involving millions of tons of cement and disruption daily to us locals living in Bridge Street.

      If you want to read about the foundry during the Great War go to when it goes live next month.

  2. Cheryl says:

    I worked for Dr Maggs his family once owned the mill there are some great pictures I have of the workers who once worked there sadly Dr Maggs has now passed away.

    1. Is this place still worth visiting or is it all demolished now?

      1. Chandler says:

        Hey Oliver we went down there last night and it’s gone completely, I live 5 miles from it so it wasn’t that far to travel but it’s a shame it’s all gone now.

        1. The Urban Explorer says:

          Did you take any photos of the current state, Chandler? Are you sure you were in the right place – I know that demolition was imminent, and it sounds stupid but it’s a mistake that’s been made before!

          1. Shane says:

            I can confirm it’s demolished, it’s mostly a pile of rubble now. It’s going to be a housing development.

          2. Helen says:

            I checked it out yesterday and there’s about 20% of it left. Shame

          3. Neil Buttery says:

            Hi there
            I saw your page and went had a look as its 2-3 miles from where we are.
            Took some photos yesterday (17 July 2021) if you want me to send them?

            1. The Urban Explorer says:

              Hi Neil, that would be great albeit sad to see it gone! Contact me here.

        2. Tusk says:

          I went there last week and there’s still a lot there. The tower itself is demolished but the side buildings are still intact. It is a live demolition site though so I do not know how much longer it will last.

      2. Martin Lightbown says:

        Unfortunately it’s all but gone now, houses are being built on the site now.

    2. tony benge says:

      Hi Cheryl.

      Intrigued to see you have photos of foundry workers at Bourton Mill.

      Currently we’re leading a WW1 Project and are always on the look-out for old photos.

      Do you have copies you could forward?

      Many thanks.

      Tony Benge & Sue Ashby
      Bourton WW1 Project

    3. John Farthing, Newport, Isle of Wight says:

      Hi Cheryl, I’m a bit late in the day having only just come across this site but my family were heavily involved in Bourton Mill from way back.

      I only know back as far as my great grandfather, he died in 1916 but his sons and grandsons carried on as Millwrights, Patternmakers etc. We have photos of my aunts who worked there in WW1 but none of the men and I guess my great grandfather was there when it was Maggs, if you have any early photos of the men at Bourton Mill I would much appreciate it if you could e-mail me some.

      All the best, John Farthing.

  3. Hobbsy says:

    Me and my mate visited this today excellent explore but they are starting to demolish it now which is a shame there are diggers and machinery all over the place now if you’re planning a visit I would do it soon.

  4. Rhea Garnett says:

    I visited here at the beginning of October, was exactly how you described! The running water feature and the back room with the big machinery make this place such an awesome urban gem!

    Link here:

  5. Tom says:

    We went to explore this on 29/08/16 got in fairly easily, it’s actually in Silton. You can see all our pictures here

    1. The Urban Explorer says:

      Hi Tom, not sure what kind of map you’ve got but it’s definitely not in Silton. Thanks for the update & photos.

      1. Tom says:

        Maybe we went in a back route somewhere, but the nearest sign to us was Silton. Took us a long time to find!

      2. Nev says:

        Definitely in Bourton

      3. Anne says:

        Hi all
        I am really sorry to let you all know that the mill has now been demolished to make room for housing. The only thing they have had to keep is where the water wheel at the back of the factory was as this was listed.

        And yes it is definitely in Bourton.

        I am lucky enough to have been born and grew up in the village and work here as well thanks to all for the photos as this has brought back memories for me as both my parents worked there.

        1. The Urban Explorer says:

          Oh that is a shame, I suppose it was always going to be a matter of time before it was flattened!

  6. Karl says:

    I love Bourton Mill, it’s such a cool exploration site. I just love the whole environment, the lake being right next to such utter destruction. It’s sad the place is in shambles, but such a good place to have a few hours at. I’ve been around four times in the past year, never seen anyone except the first time, two Polish dog walkers who didn’t understand English. Although last time we went, a black van pulled up behind us as we parked, and the bloke got out, asked us what we were doing. The driver panicked and said we were looking for directions to a nearby town, so he just told us to drive off. I’ve filmed a few times and am hoping to go back in the month! Check out the video I did there!

    I hope they don’t destroy it for a couple more years, love the place.

    Thanks to this site, I managed to find it and explore. so thanks! :)

    1. tony benge says:

      The Mill and what remains of the old Foundry is being demolished as I type.

      To be replaced by 35 modern houses.

      So the evidence for several hundred years of industrial history is about to disappear.

      Which is why we are already planning a Community Play & Research project – Bourton At War – which will focus on the 70+ women workers who during WW1 made over 2 million Mills Bombs – hand grenades to you and me – at the Foundry.

      1. John Farthing says:

        Hi Tony,
        Fortunately my brother and I visited four years ago to have a look around. Three generations of my family worked there, the males as Millwrights, Pattern Makers and Engine fitters and Installers, my father was apprenticed there and four of my Aunts worked there during the great war, there is a picture identifying three of them but whoever supplied it left out Honora.

        All the best,
        John Farthing

        PS. My mother lived at Gasper Mill which took the first impact of the flood in 1917

        1. Dan says:

          Hello John’,

          I am trying to identify the location of Gasper Mill. My Aunty (Evelyn Hinks) lived at Millclose just downstream of the dam, during the 1940s. I remember there was no track to the buildings, access was down a field. They lived in a lovely old house, now since demolished. Would this be the site of the mill? Regards, Dan Kendall.

          1. John Farthing says:

            Hi Dan,
            No, the mill was completely refurbished (almost re-built) after lying derelict, not sure when that actually took place but it is now lived in by a member of the Hoare family who own and run the parts of the Stourhead estate that was not given over to The National Trust.; part of the outbuildings are in fact the Estate Offices. If you go by road from White Cross to Stourton there is a turning to the left soon after leaving White Cross which is the drive (about 100yds) down to the mill. It is a public FP. Alternatively one could come from Pear Tree Farm, Penselwood which is at the other end of that FP. All the best with your explorations. Regards John Farthing

          2. John Farthing says:

            Hi Dan,
            Sorry, a bit of a correction to my earlier reply that FP (The western end) starts at Pear ASH Farm, not sure where Mill Close was, or is. It may be where the Hunt Kennels were, about half way, across the fields, between the mill and the road up to Gasper village. All the best, John

            1. Dan says:

              Thanks for interest John,

              Where my Aunty/Uncle lived, which we called Millclose, was to the right, off of the lane to Zeals at a point between the turning up to Gasper (over the new dam) and the next turning down to Gasper Mill (I now realise). On OS Pathfinder 1239, the wood adjacent the field in which the steading was located (upstream of Gasper Mill) is called Mill Covert. I guess, the field was called Millclose being the field associated with Gasper Mill, also. As I said, I remember access was through a gate and down across the field to the buildings which were close to the river. I remember visiting and recalling some buildings closer to the river were in a bad shape. And often wondered later whether this was due to 1917 flood. The buildings being immediately below the dam. One childhood memory for me and my sister was the splendid walnut tree in the garden.

              The buildings were demolished apparently (couldn’t happen today) and all visible trace from the road seems to have gone and any mention removed from modern maps. On one ancient map I’ve noticed some naïve blobs indicating buildings there. I still continue to search for later maps.

              A way of life disappeared.

              I am interested because I am just recording memories of my time in Stourton., 1942-1960.

              (I am aware of the kennels, thanks.)

              Your surname is vaguely familiar, I remember an Anne Farthing? But older than me perhaps.

  7. Liam says:

    I came here two days ago. It’s still standing and has some incredible art work on the walls. Walk past the building and keep going straight up the hill. You will find a whole in the silver fence. Then a path way inside.

  8. Ox Snowdon says:

    Have you guys checked out the other sites nearby? There are some old anderson bomb shelters in the woods just up the road from here. Also, there’s a derelict house up near the old airstrip road (Bourton/Zeals/Stourton area) It’s boarded up now but it had loads of cool newspapers from the 70s in some of the rooms. We walked into the bathroom and found some creepy baby dolls in there (don’t worry, I didn’t steal anything, but it was cool seeing loads of artefacts everywhere).
    Given that it’s since been boarded up I haven’t been again as a show of good faith, but it’s pretty cool!

  9. Olivia says:

    Is this place still around?! I’m local and would love to go see it. Can anyone help with directions coming from Motcombe? (Love this website :))

    1. The Urban Explorer says:

      If you’re local you should know where Bourton is, Olivia? It’s a small village you can’t miss this factory site when you’re there. As far as I’m aware it’s still standing, but there’s only one way to find out.

    2. Beth says:

      It’s definitely still standing as I went there just a few weeks ago! Your best bet would probably be to head towards Wincanton and go out via that way? (Follow signs for Zeals/Bourton) and you should see it once you arrive in the village :) It’s amazing although slightly difficult to get into now! Feel free to email me if you need any help getting further directions/info getting in:

      1. Alex says:

        It is definitely there, been up today, however have to be clever to get in around the back.

    3. Ox Snowdon says:

      Do you know Bourton? Google Maps it to there and once you get onto the main road through the village keep going. If you’re coming from Mere direction you’ll pass a left turn to Gillingham. Go past that and around the point where the hill starts to rise again there’s a right turn. Take that and very soon you’ll see the white tower of the factory proper. Hope that helps and be careful there!

  10. Corey collins says:

    How would I find this place, I live down in Devon and I can find Gillingham easily by Google maps but where is this mill?

    1. Alice says:

      Head from Stourhead. A friend and I came across this completely by chance, what a great find this was!

  11. Beth says:

    Hi :)
    So, as you know from some of my other comments I’m currently doing an exam paper on ruins and rephotography, I was wondering if I could possibly use some of your photos for a rephotography shoot at Bourton next week to mark how much it’s changed since you’ve been there to now as your photos are really good? (All credits will be mentioned in my project and it’s only for my college exam)
    Thank you for your time,

    1. The Urban Explorer says:

      Sure thing, Beth. Good luck with the project. Could you not find any historical photos of the factory? Surely that would serve your project better than my photos though?

      1. Beth says:

        I’ve looked everywhere and am struggling to find some actually of the factory that are inside and close shots/areas I can get to. I’d also like to note the use of rephotography to mark the steady deterioration of the building before it gets demolished. Could you possibly tell me an average (if possible, the specific) date you shot here so I can add it to the notes in my project please?
        Thank you so so much!
        – B :)

        1. The Urban Explorer says:

          Well, annoyingly for you, the photos here are of two separate trips to Bourton. Some images are from July 2011, and others November 2012. Once you’re done, if you want me to clarify the date of the photo you’ve used I can.

          1. Beth says:

            Thank you so much, that’d be awesome! :) I’ll let you know how it goes, thank you so much again :)
            – B

  12. Jack says:

    Visited today with a friend as our first ever ‘Urban Exploration’ thanks to this site. Got some really good pictures, a big new wooden fence has been put all the way around it now though. Even managed to get right to the top of the main building, and got some decent shots from above looking down at what’s left of the site.

    1. The Urban Explorer says:

      Nice one, Jack. It’d be good to see some updated photos of the place.

  13. Beth says:

    Went there yesterday (Sunday October 25th) with some friends and have to say, it’s absolutely amazing! The photos I got came out great! It’s a great place for any photographers. However, while we were in there, 3 guys did come in and were damaging the place (sadly) so we left earlier that desired, but we were there for a good hour or so. Best to wear thick boots though as glass and debree on the floor. Would definitely recommend going there and shall most definitely be going back myself! :)

    1. The Urban Explorer says:

      That’s a real shame that some feel the need to destroy our history, even though Bourton Mill is far beyond repair it still holds a massive historical significance in my opinion.

      1. Beth says:

        Yeah, we believed they were trying to get to an area that was possibly bricked off near the top of the building which we didn’t get a chance to explore! However the site itself is very easy to get in to which was useful! Definitely would say never to go in there alone however as you never know who will walk in. We were lucky that one of my friends went to school with one of them so they did not bother us. But it should most definitely be checked out by anyone in the area! :)

  14. Ox Snowdon says:

    Been here a few times as I live pretty close by. First time I went I was with my mate and we explored with flaming torches made of old t-shirt and sticks. Explored a lot in daylight since and pretty well acquainted with the place now; I know the safe spots to freeclimb and there’s a cool extractor fan vent on the roof which you can crawl through (wear boots though – there’s a few inches of water inside it) never seen anybody else there but does seem like a prime spot for drug users. There are plenty of hazards but providing you’re alert you’ll be fine.

    1. The Urban Explorer says:

      flaming torches made of old t-shirt and sticks

      Haha! That’s great. Indiana Jones style!

      1. Ox Snowdon says:

        Yeah… don’t use deodrant as lighter fuel on the rag though… burns up too quick. They lasted like 15 minutes and then we had to navigate with a crappy flashlight and phone torch.

  15. Rich says:

    Amazing photos, but clearly full of asbestos and it’s the really dangerous stuff as well… be very, very careful.

  16. Inigo says:

    Being local I have visited this site multiple times and I extremely enjoyed visiting this site however BEWARE: there may be drug users in this factory, once I was ceded out of it by a pair of drug users and me being on my own had to run however in the process I dropped my vintage Polaroid camera and I believe it to be there still

  17. Laurence Basset says:

    I’m adding to the electrical failure reports here! :-D Visited Saturday afternoon/eve.

    Thought nothing of it at the time but halfway in my phone made a high pitched beep and died, wouldnt turn on again for about 10 mins.

    Headlight failed twice and even the Lenser flickered a few times + intermittant problems with cam. I put it down to temps, but been out in colder before. Possibly electromagnetic interference or something? Weird!

    Warning!: A few innocent looking doorways lead to big unexpected drops. Another big thank you to Adam for yet another excellent bit of coverage and publishing this site!

    1. The Urban Explorer says:

      Must be all them ghosts… ;) Haha!

      It’s a nice explore. Trashed yeah, but still plenty to see and take photos of. That’s a very good point with the big drops, there’s definitely plenty of hazards in there!

  18. Sam says:

    Went here January 2015 for a school project and it really is a great place. It’s clear to say it’s seen better days but all in all the building is holding strong. Apparently they’re demolishing it in around 3 months so I’d advise anyone who lives near the area to pop in and take a quick explore. You won’t regret it.

    1. The Urban Explorer says:

      Oh that is sad news, although I expect the residents of Bourton will be happy to see it gone. It is now a bit of an eyesore in their pretty village!

  19. Jim Mann says:

    Great images and a fascinating place but you need to be aware Bourton Mill is full of asbestos much of in in a poor state.

    So although it’s a great location I’d skip it if were you and just look at the images already taken.


    1. Thanks Jim,

      I couldn’t agree more. The place is a death trap for anyone not taking the correct care and attention visiting it. Although I think the precarious state of the roof in some areas is worth mentioning too!

  20. Sam Rushton says:

    Went there a weekend ago for a photoshoot ! amazing place Did you happen to stumble past a set of 3 rooms and the middle one was blacked out ? while in there all or electrical equipment went dead on two different occasions ! creepy Huh ?

    1. Yeh it’s a great little explore and I’ve found new things every time I visit! I’m not sure I know where you’re talking about but I don’t really buy in to the whole paranormal thing though ;)

    2. Rob Spencer says:

      I worked at Bourton Mill for about ten years until just before it finally closed. The room I think you must be referring to was called the “Hot Room”. It had banks of steam radiators and the walls were cork lined. Machinery that had been washed was placed in there to ensure it dried quickly.
      My father worked at the factory before me until retirement and I don’t recall any paranormal tales about the place.

      1. The Urban Explorer says:

        Thanks for the interesting insight Rob! I was just looking at your Bourton set on Flickr and its amazing to see how much it’s changed in the last few years! Fantastic!

    3. neil says:

      Funny you should say that I visited the place one night about a year ago and upon exploring I was videoing with my Phone and it died on me with over 60 percent battery and wouldn’t turn back on, when we left it was fine, very creepy place but great to explore,

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