The PowderMills Hotel stands in a thickly wooded tranquil valley with a small stream, the ‘Asten’, meandering through, next to the impressive historic Battlefield of 1066. The stream rises on a high ground to the left of Battle Abbey & its Ruins and runs in a South Easternly direction through the Great Park, former residence of the Abbot of Battle and by the way of Crowhurst Valley, straight to the vast English Channel.
The Asten was at one time a very hardworking stream with no less than 5 Gunpowder Mills stretched along its banks. The Farthing Mills stood by a millpond of 6 acres, whilst the powerful PowderMills included proprietor’s residence and several buildings for the various processes involved in the manufacturing of gunpowder. Further down the stream, there were mills known locally as ‘Pepper in the Eye’ & ‘Lower Pepper’ with the last one being situated in Crowhurst, a mile downstream.
PowderMill house was originally built in 1676 when the first lease was granted to John Hammond. Due to a tragic explosion in 1796 the house was destroyed along with much of the gunpowder works. The house, now the hotel, was rebuilt that year and by the end of the century the mills had recovered and were flourishing once more! It was reputed that these PowderMills produced the BEST gunpowder in all of Europe and the factory had a very high reputation throughout the Peninsula & Crimean Wars. It was these seemingly inconspicuous works that reportedly supplied the well-known Guy Fawkes prior to his plot to blow up the Houses of Parliament, which is famous, of course, for its failure. Word got around of the Battle Works involvement in this plan and as a result it brought a certain notoriety to the local industry. Famous visitors include Charles Dickens & the Duke of Wellington, who visited in 1806 when he was stationed in Hastings.
There was an enormous use of timber in the area which started with the Romans using Iron Mills at Dallington, Beauport Park, Brede & Crowhurst Park. In the 18th Century both the iron & gunpowder industries were flourishing, both requiring astronomical amounts of timber.
The packing of the gunpowder when it was ready was usually carried out by local women. It would be sorted into different batches, each for a different use, munitions for the Armies, Sporting & Blasting, sorted into magazines ready for delivery. It would be carted on wagons to Tonbridge, where it was then loaded onto barges and travelled via water to Erith. Throughout the Crimean War from 1854 to 1856 an impressive number of around 1,300 barrels of gunpowder were shipped from Battle Mills.
The extensive work over the years did not escape accidents and there were many deaths due to explosions. In 1876 the Duke of Cleveland refused to renew its lease because of the constant danger the mills posed so after 200 years of production the once mighty mills closed & fell eerily silent.
The house then remained empty until 1901, when following the death of the Duchess of Cleveland, Sir Augustus Webster bought back the Abbey and its local Estate and moved into the house, bringing his family with him, finally breathing life back into its walls. They then resided there right up until 1976 at which point the Government bought the Abbey and the rest of the Estate was auctioned.
In 1982, Douglas & Julie Cowpland purchased the PowderMills as an 8 Bedroom derelict house, falling in love with the charm of the place and its 150 acres of utterly enchanting parkland, woods and lakes. Over the course of the last 40 years, they transformed the house into a simply stunning & stylish 48 Bedroom Country House Hotel, adding on the graceful AA Rossette Orangery Restaurant, a selection of elegantly designed bedrooms and 2 large function rooms for hosting all manner of events from Weddings to Exhibitions.