There has been a mill at Sonning for many centuries. In the Domesday Book of 1086 three mills at ‘Sonninges and Berrochescire’ are mentioned.
In the 1600s the rents for the mill went to the Royal Revenue.
During the Civil War when Cromwell had his headquarters in London and King Charles had his in Oxford, the troops met in the middle – Reading. It was Sonning which supplied the flour for the besieged garrison in the town. The site of the earliest Sonning mill could very well have been in a different place. Wooden buildings had a habit of burning down. This one dates back to the eighteenth century but the main parts of the present theatre building are from around 1890. It was owned then by the Witherington family who added the top two storeys and the larger waterwheels for more power to drive the machinery. Around 1898 they put in a steam engine to supplement the water power.
The Phillimore family took over the mill in 1913 but they still traded under the name of C.H. Witherington and Sons Ltd. They remodelled the inside of the mill the following year.
Up until 1950 the mill had its own fleet of barges which brought wheat from London right up to its door. In 1962, when the business was taken over by Associated British Foods Ltd., they remodelled yet again and introduced electric engines although the main source of power was still produced by the wheels.
When the mill closed in 1969, it was one of the last flour mills on the Thames driven by wheels. The new port mill at Tilbury had opened and Sonning, being much smaller could not compete economically. Also, one of Sonning’s major customers, Huntley and Palmers, stopped making biscuits in Reading.
The mill remained empty until 1977. It was then that Tim and Eileen Richards, who had a great love of theatre, found the derelict building and decided to convert it into The Mill as it is today. Tim invited his brother Frank to join them and the transformation took four years to complete. THE MILL AT SONNING DINNER THEATRE opened on July 22nd 1982.
Sadly Frank Richards died in 1994 and Tim Richards died in 2002. Eileen Richards and her children are now the owners of The Mill which continues to go from strength to strength thanks to its ever loyal staff and audience, having produced an abundance of plays and musicals. In 1984 The Mill At Sonning was given a conservation award by The Times newspaper and The Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors for the design, restoration and conversion of the derelict mill into a dinner theatre, and recently was nominated Most Welcoming Theatre by the Theatre Managers Association.
In 2012 the Mill was approved to open its doors as a wedding venue.