Flatford Mill lay at the heart of the corn milling business run by Constable’s father, Golding. The trade in corn (that is, what we now call wheat) flourished in the early 19th century, when Napoleon’s continental blockade forced the country to depend almost entirely on its own food supplies.
Constable shows a pair of barges travelling upstream. They are about to be disconnected from the towing-horse so that they can be poled under Flatford footbridge (just out of the composition to the left). Constable painted much of the picture on the spot in the summer of 1816.