There has been a mill here at Sonning for centuries. The Domesday Survey of 1086 describes no fewer than three mills at this location.
Over the years, fleets of barges were plying their trade bringing goods – latterly wheat from London for grinding in the mills. This traffic lasted until 1950, when the mill doors finally closed. Sonning Mill was one of the last flour mills on the river to be driven by water wheel.
On the site today is The Mill at Sonning, producing plays and musicals. In 1984, it 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.
Before the first pound lock was built here in 1773, there was probably a flash lock here, harnessing the water to aid navigation and probably power the mill’s wheel. The lock’s wooden gates were replaced during the winter of 2004/5 with steel gates.
Sonning Lock has received a major grant from Defra (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) which funded the installation of new automated gates.
Wildlife to be found in and around the lock includes kingfishers, owls, woodpeckers, wagtails, and a frequent visiting cuckoo. There are also deer and mink, while below the waterline are large pike, terrapins and probably otters.
Poem by James Sadler (1845-1885), bee keeper, poet and Sonning Lock Keeper:
Is there a spot more lovely than the rest,
By art improved, by nature truly blest?
A noble river at its base running,
It is a little village known as Sonning