Pin Mill

Pin Mill is a hamlet on the south bank of the tidal River Orwell, located on the outskirts of the village of Chelmondiston on the Shotley peninsula, south Suffolk. It lies within the Suffolk Coast and Heaths Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and is a designated Conservation Area. Pin Mill is now generally known for the historic Butt & Oyster public house and for sailing.

Pin Mill

The shoreline at Pin Mill, Chelmondiston
Pin Mill
Location within Suffolk
OS grid referenceTM2052537997
Shire county
Sovereign stateUnited Kingdom
Post townIpswich
Postcode districtIP9
Dialling code01473
EU ParliamentEast of England


The expression "pin mill" means a pin factory, and also a word for a wheel with projecting pins used in leather production. But neither of these activities are known to have taken place at Pin Mill, so the origin of the name remains uncertain.

Pin Mill was once a busy landing point for ship-borne cargo, a centre for the repair of Thames sailing barges and home to many small industries such as sail making, a maltings (now a workshop) and a brickyard. The east coast has a long history of smuggling, in which Pin Mill and the Butt and Oyster pub allegedly played key parts.[1]

During World War II Pin Mill was home to Royal Navy Motor Launches and to a degaussing vessel created from a herring drifter. Pin Mill and Woolverstone were home ports to many Landing craft tank used in the invasion of Normandy in 1944.

There have also been recent improvements in the sailing infrastructure, and responsibility for the Hard at Pin Mill has been handed over to a new 'community interest' company.[2]

Immediately downriver of houseboats are a number of wrecked traditional vessels popular with artists and photographers.

Leisure activities and places of interest

Pin Mill has often been the subject of painting and photography, and is a popular yacht and dinghy sailing destination. During WWII many yachts were placed for storage west of the hamlet in what were then called 'the saltings,' awaiting the cessation of hostilities. The moorings in the river were home to the Royal Harwich One Design Class boats for many years in the 1940s. There are two boatyards, and the Pin Mill Sailing Club has hosted an annual Barge Match since 1962.[3] The Grindle is a small stream that flows alongside Pin Mill Common down to the Pin Mill Hard on the foreshore. It is used by dinghies to ferry sailors ashore.

The Butt and Oyster is a traditional 17th century public house that serves real ale.[4] It is a listed building with bay windows in the bar and restaurant that offer panoramic views of the Orwell estuary.[5]

Pin Mill lies along the Stour and Orwell walk. There many signposted walks in the immediate area, including through the Cliff Plantation forest owned by the National Trust.[6]

Pin Mill can be reached at the end of a lane half a mile from the centre of Chelmondiston, which is serviced by the B1456 Ipswich-Shotley road. There is a public car park near the foreshore, and also limited customer parking in the Butt and Oyster pub.

  • The 1933 novel Ordinary Families by E. Arnot Robertson is the story of a young girl growing up with her family in Pin Mill.
  • In Arthur Ransome's 1937 novel for children We Didn't Mean to Go to Sea, the young adventurers stay at the real-life Alma Cottage, situated just by the Butt and Oyster pub. Pin Mill also features in the next book Secret Water. Ransome had his own boats built at Harry King's boatyard in Pin Mill and had kept his yacht Selina King at the Pin Mill anchorage in 1937–39, although he himself lived for some time at Levington on the opposite side of the Orwell. In 1911 he had declined an offer to go sailing with the bibliographer Walter Ledger, as he was told by Oscar Wilde's friend Robbie Ross that Ledger had episodes of homicidal mania. Later though he said he always regretted that I did not sail with him, for he kept his "Blue Bird" at Pin Mill, and, if I had gone, I should have known that charming anchorage twenty years earlier.[7]
  • The film "Ha'penny Breeze" was made in Pin Mill in 1950, featuring a yacht that was based in the area.[8]


  1. "The East Coast". Richard Platt. Retrieved 17 April 2012.
  2. "Celebration Ceremony As Pin Mill is Restored". Babergh District Council. Retrieved 17 April 2012.
  3. "Pin Mill Barge Match History". Pin Mill Sailing Club. Retrieved 17 April 2012.
  4. "Pin Mill Butt & Oyster". Suffolk CAMRA. Retrieved 17 April 2012.
  5. "The Butt and Oyster Public House, Chelmondiston". British Listed Buildings. Retrieved 17 April 2012.
  6. "Chelmondiston and Pin Mill Walk". East Anglian Daily Times. Archived from the original on 23 April 2012. Retrieved 17 April 2012.
  7. The Autobiography of Arthur Ransome p142 (1976, Jonathan Cape, London) ISBN 0-224-01245-2
  8. "Ha'penny Breeze". IMDB. Retrieved 18 April 2012.
  9)Ipswich Dock Act 1950 sections 12 and 13,
 10) Ipswich Borough v Moore and Duke 2001 Appeal Court Judgement
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