This exceptional image was made by the amateur antiquarian Francis Grose in the 1760s. The view shows mills and factories situated on the river Wandle and as such is a rare depiction of Wandsworth, eighteenth-century London's most densely industrialised quarter. Grose was a career soldier who combined his military activities with an amateur passion for drawing and antiquarianism.
Grose retired from the army in 1751 at which point his father acquired for him the place of Richmond herald, but Grose showed no great taste for heraldry and sold the position. In the mid-1750s he attended William Shipley's drawing school in London. The embodiment of the militia enabled him to don uniform again and in November 1759 he was commissioned as a lieutenant in the Surrey regiment and appointed adjutant and paymaster of the 2nd (western) battalion. Its movements provided ample opportunities for drawing. The battalion was disembodied in December 1762, following the end of the Seven Years War, but as adjutant Grose continued to receive salary in peacetime. Promotion to captain in 1765 gave him the title by which he was commonly to be known.
Grose moved to Wandsworth, Surrey, living in Mulberry Cottage on Wandsworth Common. Grose sketched in the vicinity making a number of drawings of local landmarks. This sheet is rare for showing a mill on the banks of the river, an indication of the enormous number of industries, which were found there in the eighteenth century. Wandsworth was home to numerous paper-mills; copper milling at Adkins Mill where copper was beaten into plates; dyeing, the Wardle became famous for scarlet dyeing, using cochineal from Mexico, bleaching was also introduced at Adkins Mill in 1657; gunpowder grinding; snuff grinding and Calico printing, introduced by Hugenot refugees. Grose's view shows Middle Mill, which used the Wandle to grind corn. The distinctive windmill and building to the left were landmarks of Wandsworth and appear in a number of contemporary views of the area, including Jean Baptiste Chatelain's 1750 engraving Wandsworth from the East. Grose's view offers an important insight into London's most densely industrialised suburb, showing not only the mill with its windmill, but smoking chimneystacks and a warren of workshops.