Chilworth Gunpowder Mills - History and Facts | History Hit

Chilworth Gunpowder Mills

Chilworth, Guildford, England

Celeste Neill

19 May 2022
Image Credit: Alex Manders /

About Chilworth Gunpowder Mills

Set in the woodland of the Tillingbourne Valley in southern England, the Chilworth Gunpowder Mills were built nearly 400 years ago by the East India Company and once housed a thriving and successful gunpowder mill. The Tillingbourne River runs along the northern boundary and the original mills canal runs along the southern boundary.

The history of the Chilworth Gunpowder Mills

The Chilworth Gunpowder Mills were first established in 1626 by the East India Company (to supply its forces abroad), and are one of the earliest examples of a gunpowder mill – an industry that dominated the area for almost 300 years. By the start of the 17th century, the gunpowder works at Chilworth were no longer run by the East India Company, but by other private enterprises.

In the first half of the 17th century, George Evelyn established a number of further mills for the manufacture of gunpowder at Long Ditton, Godstone and Wotton, all in Surrey. The Evelyn family were the sole legal producer of gunpowder in England to the King until 1641, when the royal monopoly system was abolished, though the mills later also became an important supplier of gunpowder to the government.

Although the Chilworth works were taken over by the Admiralty during World War One, most Admiralty structures were demolished at the war’s end, and the mills finally closed in 1920.

Chilworth Gunpowder Mills today

Although a large majority of buildings were demolished in the 20th century, more than 100 key buildings still remain within this Surrey Hills site. Most visible surviving components date to the 1880s-1890s. Part of an associated water management system, a packhorse bridge and the remains of a tramway are also included.

The remains are owned by Guildford Borough Council, who have a duty of care to protect this designated monument. It was awarded a Green Flag in 2017 in recognition of its status as location of tremendous natural and historic interest.

Getting to the Chilworth Gunpowder Mills

The nearest station is Chilworth, and the nearest road is Dorking Road (the A248). Access to the mills is via Blacksmith Lane, Vera’s Path (next to Chilworth Infant School). Other routes includes the Downs Link Path on Lockner Farm Lane.

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