The River Wandle runs through Morden Hall Park, now a National Trust property. For centuries, its waters were used to power mills, driving early industrial endeavours.
In the 18th century, taking snuff was very fashionable particularly with upper class gentlemen. Two mills at Morden Hall Park were used for this industry and still stand today, one of which has a working water wheel. Several millstones remain too.
The mills ground dried tobacco leaves into snuff between two stones. The resulting powder was left natural or perfumed with flower essences or spices. Gentlemen, and sometimes ladies, sniffed pinches of snuff from the back of their hands which gave them a swift nicotine buzz – and often made them sneeze.
The first mill was built in 1750 but by 1830, snuff was in such demand that a second mill was added.
The Hatfeild family had great connections in the tobacco industry, with plantations in Virginia. They ran the snuff operation in Morden Hall Park between 1834 and 1922.
In 1922, the millworkers went on strike to support comrades in the rest of the tobacco and cigarette industry. Hatfeild closed the snuff mill forever, but made sure his workers found other employment on the estate.
Currently, the mill buildings are closed to the public.