Recording Studios

The Sol Studios (aka The Mill Studios)

1975 Gus Dudgeon, a celebrated producer, decided to have his own music studio.  He found a dilapidated mill building straddling a tributary of the River Thames in Cookham.  The property, an old watermill that straddles a quiet backwater of the River Thames near Maidenhead in the Berkshire countryside, became a music recording studio and control room with access over the weir to a residential wheelhouse on its own small island with the river flowing underneath.


“The Mill was one of the world's finest recording studios, built at the very peak of the recording industry's success in the mid 1970's. It was built and privately owned by the late Gus Dudgeon, whose attention to fine detail produced a beautiful recording environment and a legendary sound quality from the superb MCI equipment” – Rod Duggan


Gus had very clear ideas about the studio performance he wanted and set about finding a designer to work with


“Of all the designers I spoke to, Eddie was the most positive and up-front about what could be achieved – my needs were very demanding” – Gus Dudgeon


At that time, Gus was working in many studios at home and abroad producing a wide range of artists (Elton John, David Bowie, Chris Rea, Joan Armatrading, Elkie Brooks, The Beach Boys and many others) and had developed a preference for recording the artist in the studio at one location and mixing in the control room of another.  One of Gus’s demands for his studio was to have the acoustics of the studio and control rooms of his two favourite locations.


Gus appointed Eddie Veale and Veale Associates to lead the creation of his new studio and deliver Sol Studios.


Studio Names:

The site in Cookham that Gus acquired comprised three buildings, the main building with a cottage attached to the eastern end and a mill building with water wheel on an island.  The main and mill buildings were in a various stages of dereliction and collapse.


On the front of the building over one of the doors there was a lead plaque dating back to the days when building owners purchased fire insurance in the form of fire brigade attendance and the fire fighters would look for the plaques before starting work to fight the fire.  The plaques displayed name and numbers, and this one had the name ‘SOL’ with a picture of a sun.  The Sol was the name of the building, Gus liked the name and this was adopted as the studio name.


The site was in Mill Lane and, later, the ‘Mill’ was adopted and the studio became known as The Mill Studio.


The project possessed many challenges, the high-lights being:


  • Planning permission
  • Residential location
  • Reconstruction
  • Flood
  • Acoustical qualities


It took several months to obtain Planning Consent.  Local residents, the local Authority, Thames Water and English Heritage wrestled with the advantages of having the site restored and the commercialism of a building in a highly valued residential area.  Permission was granted that contained a number of conditions ranging from limitations on noise to times of use.


The location was a key factor for Gus who wanted a quiet and tranquil setting and pleasant relaxing place to work.


The local residents were concerned about the invasion of their privacy during the extensive works and the possibility of being invaded by a bunch of unruly youngsters following their dream idol.  Many of these concerns disappeared as the plans were digested, work got underway and Gus’s intentions became clear.


Reconstruction was a major task.  The structural report identified that whilst much of the foundations were in reasonable condition the superstructure was in an advanced state of collapse.  Planning consents required the size and appearance of the buildings to be maintained; fortunately this met with Gus’s approval because he wanted to preserve the charm and appearance of the buildings.  However, this did create additional challenges to the creation of the ‘state-of-the-art’ music studio that Gus wanted.


The site is in a River Thames ‘flood plane’ and records showed that the water levels had risen some 2ft (60cm) above the road level of Mill Lane and flooding to road level was a frequent event.  The studio was to be on the ground floor to obtain sufficient ceiling height and flooding presented a high risk.


Acoustical designs to meet Gus’s requirements had not previously been achieved and presented additional challenges.  Consideration had to be given to ways in which the acoustical qualities of the studio and control room Gus wanted replicating could be measured, modelled and replicated in rooms of different size and shapes.