The Old Mill is home to Duncan Soar and his family. Duncan is a professional photographer with 20 years experience working in corporate and events photography in the UK and overseas (www.duncansoar.com). Duncan founded the photo assistant database Photoassist.co.uk and, before moving to Wiltshire, ran professional photography courses in London. Duncan’s looking forward to starting teaching again, as soon as life returns to normal – hopefully! – in 2021.
The Old Mill is located on the site of an old paper mill, most of which was dismantled towards the end of the 19th Century, though some of the structure was incorporated into the current house. Read more about the history of the mill below…
18th Century Paper Mill
Located towards the Eastern edge of Salisbury Plain, the Old Mill is set on the site of an 18th century paper mill. The original mill was built around 1770 and used an old technique to produce paper from rag, hammering it into pulp using power from the Hampshire Avon flowing beneath it. As technology changed towards the end of the 19th century, the mill became redundant and was dismantled around 1880. The buildings and land were then purchased by the Ministry of Defence as they bought up much of Salisbury Plain prior to the First World War.
Pre WW1 military training
Around the start of the 20th century, Bulford Camp was established as a military training centre on Salisbury Plain and became home to increasingly large numbers of troops. As part of the MOD estate, the army took advantage of the mill’s riverside location to train cavalry. A weir was installed to control the level of the pond, allowing mounted troops and horses to familiarise themselves with crossing rivers before the outbreak of WW1.
After WW1, the remains of the mill and the land it sat on were purchased by General Haking, one of Haig’s generals during the war. General Haking constructed much of the house as it is today, and landscaped the grounds extensively, including planting the chestnut avenue which is now inhabited by impressive 100-year old trees.
The studio (originally built as a music room) is now a multi purpose space – photography studio, office, games room and classroom. Home to the kids’ games console and Duncan’s beer fridge, it is also our base for the courses.