"DONT GIVE UP THE SHIP!"

CHESAPEAKE MILL

A Hampshire watermill has its origins in a desperate battle cry uttered in a dying breath when a British frigate tackled a materially superior foe Words:

Action between HMS Shannon and USS Chesapeake on June 1, 1813. An anonymous painting from the collection of the Royal Museums Greenwich
THE PICTURE ART COLLECTION/ALAMY

To tourists in Wickham, mere miles from Portsmouth and all the significance of that city to Royal Navy history, Chesapeake Mill seems a picturesque building home to antique and souvenir shops. Yet, the 200-year-old watermill has a secret past. Indeed, some say its floorboards still show traces of blood ingrained in the wood, spilled during an epic battle that took place off Boston, Massachusetts, on June 1, 1813. It is a historical curiosity confirmed by the presence of American longleaf pine and Georgia oak in the floors, joists and roof timbers inside the Regency-era mill – once decks that echoed to the crash of cannon. But how did the timber from an American warship find its way all across the Atlantic and end up being repurposed into a Hampshire watermill?

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