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MORE SUSSEX WINDMILLS
By Mary Cranfield
 

Extracted from The Sussex County Magazine - September 1930

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It is still possible to find a real live windmill in Sussex ! After visiting most of the deserted mills up and down the country, climbing disused ladders and listening to the creaks and groans which are all the response that broken sails and derelict machinery can ever again give to the wind that was once their lift, it was with a strange sense of unreality that I stood gazing at Earnley Mill, with its well painted sweeps on which the half furled canvas stood ready for instant adjustment.

The door opened - a very different door from those others through which the mill enthusiast goes cautiously, if he goes at all - and a miller appeared, going about what is now so rare a business. Inside. the usual bewildering array of cogged wheels and grooved stones and all the other gear of a windmill meets the eye, but with this difference - here all is alive and in constant use. A trickle of barley lies in the wooden trough above the stones, and through the clean glass of the windows the sun pours in cheerfully.
 

Earnley Mill, Near Chichester

EARNLEY MILL, NEAR CHICHESTER

Yet even here it is impossible long to forget that the windmill's day is really over. However much we may regret its passing, it must be owned that dependence on a source of power which no one can control, or ever forsee with any exactness, was only possible in a leisurely, unorganized age, when it mattered little if an order was completed to-day or tomorrow, or several days after that. The breeze dies down and the great sails slacken, and on one after another full canvas is set and the mill turns merrily again: the pace increases with a sudden rise in the wind and, if disaster is to be avoided, the canvas must be reefed with all speed. This is not the way the work of the world is done to-day !

Perhaps the most interesting part of the mechanism of any windmill is the great cogged wheel turned directly by the sails, from which, by gears and shafts, the power is transmitted to the various parts. At Earnley the main wheel, with brake surrounding it, is enormous. During the war it became necessary to renew the beechwood cogs and the date then found on some of them told of fifty years of good service. Like most war-time material, the wood used proved faulty, and the new cogs ground away in powder and had to be again renewed.

It is on the floor below that the actual grinding is done, and here lie the stones of "Derby Peak" for the barley meal for pigs and other stock, which is all that is ground at Earnley now.

The periodical "dressing" of the stones, or re-cutting of the grooves by which the flour runs out from between the stones, was once an important part of the routine of mill life. In old days no amateur ever touched the stones, but skilled "dressers" traveled a regular round of mills, visiting each at stated intervals. Now no windmill can hope to find such a trained and specialized service, and the dressing of the stones is part of the mill-hand's ordinary duties. Judging by the true and delicate lines on the Earnley stones, the skill of the stone dresser is by no means lost.

It is sad to go from the busy life of Earnley Mill to the desolation of Henfield, and, having procured the key from the owner, to climb the broad ladder beneath the massive "'tail" and through the door at the top. pass into the silent and deserted mill. Very carefully one tries each floor and step before trusting it, but the old wood seems surprisingly sound, and by successive stepladders the top is at last reached.
 


Henfield Mill

HENFIELD MILL

Here, above even the storey that contains the great wheel, we find ourselves in a sort of glass lantern, surprising and inexplicable in a windmill, but accounted for by the last owner's love of astronomy. It is more that thirty-five years since Henfield did the work for which it was built, but until comparatively recently it served as an observatory, and the glass windows inserted for this purpose give a marvellous view of the wide sweep of surrounding Downs and sky.

 

On a windy day the visitor is glad to descend a floor or two and stand where the swing of the whole mill to the wind can be less distinctly felt ! For Henfield is one of the oldest type of all - not founded firmly on the ground, but hung suspended on a massive central post, and turned by means of the tail and ladder to suit the direction of the wind. Here - a rare survival - the heavy iron wheels on which both tail and ladder moved still remain, and rusty iron cogged gears show a far more elaborate means of turning than the simplicity of High Salvington.

Further information on Henfield Windmills


 
 

Henfield Mill

TAIL AND LADDER OF HENFIELD MILL

A few miles away, between West Grinstead and Partridge Green, stands one of the most beautiful of our windmills. The finely curved wagon-shaped cupola of Jolesfield Mill has hardly a rival in Sussex or out of it. Unfortunately is has been found necessary to shorten one of the sails. Even now in a high wind bits of the shutters, which in this type of sweep serve the same purpose of reefing as Earnley's canvas, are scattered far over the field, and the same fate befell the fly wheel by which the cupola was automatically turned.

Jolesfield Mill

JOLESFIELD MILL

It was fifteen years ago that the end of its working life came for Jolesfield Mill, to the sorrow of George Knight, who was the last man to work it, and whose initials are deeply cut on one of the beams on the first floor. He "thought everything of that mill" - but then windmills and ships have always won and held men's hearts as no mere lifeless machinery can ever do. Perhaps after all men love best what they can never wholly conquer and subdue, and there was a fascination in harnessing and using the power of the wind, all the greater because no laws could ever really bind it. For the wind remained free, and the man who would borrow its strength for his own purposes must give in return an ungrudging service that took no heed of time. When the wind blew the corn had to be ground - if it was to be ground that way at all - if by day, so much the better for everyone concerned: but if the days proved calm and a useful breeze sprang up at night the wind could not be wasted, though it might mean working all night to save it !


 

There certainly are reasons, as anyone can see, for the modern preference for steam: but, for all that, it was the exacting, capricious windmill that was loved !

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Extracted from The Sussex County Magazine - September 1930

 
ANCIENT MILL SITE AT BREDE
Not only have innumerable mills disappeared in Sussex, but many of the sites upon which they stood cannot now be traced.

Some time ago, one was discovered accidentally in the middle of the Broadlands Wood, Brede. We had long known of a certain mound there, which was thought to be a tumulus. Permission was obtained from the Brickwall estate agent to excavate in the hope of discovering the remains of some ancient Briton ! With two friends (Messrs. G. Miller and S. Martin) and two labourers armed with spades and picks, we dug a deep wide trench right through the center of the mound, but came across no bones. We found, however, some broken fragments of French burr millstones. Evidently this was the site of a very ancient mill, all record of which has been lost.

In the same wood we discovered the remains of ancient pottery, specimens of which have been sent to the British Museum, and identified as Roman - EDMUND AUSTEN.

Sussex Mills Group

Extracted from The Sussex County Magazine - September 1930

SOME WEST SUSSEX MILLS
I was very interested to see in the COUNTY MAGAZINE of December last an illustration of Coolham Watermill by J. Martin, showing an array of bottles at a supposed smuggler's hiding place, as my father used both the watermill and windmill at Bailey's Farm. My brother and I assisted him after I left school. My father (who is still living) was the last man to use the windmill, also the watermill driven by water - it is at present worked by a tractor - which was built about 1780 by the late Henry Killick's family. The windmill was similar to that at Bodle Street Green. I have two postcard views of it, showing two cloth sweeps, for which I cut the last sail cloths. The other two sweeps were spring shutters, one of which blew off one Ash Wednesday. My father was grinding at the time, consequently we had to remove the other sweep, and grind with two only from that day onward. The mill is now demolished. I notice it is not included in Colonel Mudge's list: neither is Shipley Mill.

There were formerly two windmills at Billingshurst, one standing at the back of the village, but the latter was burnt down. The other mill was blown down on Shrove Tuesday the year previous to the dismantling of Bodle Street Green Mill. It was a very rough day and we were not working the mill, but the wind was behind it, causing it to revolve the reverse way. I remember noticing the mill intact when I went up the steps, but when I came out a few minutes later the top was blown off.

There was also a mill in Wimblehurst Road at one time and the Star Mill at Roffey. - G. E. NALDRETT (Horsham).

Sussex Mills Group

Extracted from The Sussex County Magazine - September 1930

HIDE'S MILL, POLEGATE
This mill was not Ovenden's till 1909; it was previously owned and used by Benjamin Hide for 29 years, i.e., from 1879.

The mill was built by the local farmers to grind their corn, but first one and another sold his right until in 1929 it came into the hands of William Hide, of Arlington, farmer, and four of his sons at different times had an interest in it, and, later, a grandson, who on leaving it became a leading representative of Mr. J. H. Carter, who made the roller mill which was the downfall of small mills. Mr. Carter sold his patent to Messrs. Turner, who are leading makers of milling machinery to-day. In 1848 the mill was insured against fire for 200 and the running gear for 150; the 8-roomed house with cellar, the dairy, for 100 and a barn 50, a big contrast to to-day's values. There was a duty on the premiums paid of over 40%.

In the early 'eighties a steam engine was installed. This was not very satisfactory, as it had to be placed beyond the limits of the tailtree and so needed an unusually long belt out of doors. The mill contained one pair of wheat stones. made of French burrs, and one pair of peak stones; both were 4ft. 6in. in diameter. In addition there was a flour-dressing machine and screens for the separation of offals.

It was no easy matter to get a new millstone weighing over a ton on to the second floor nearly 30 feet above the ground.

For some years there has been a modern brick mill here, with a suction gas engine, for grinding poultry food. The mill, Mr. C. Guy, at one time ran the tower mill at Clayton for the late Mr. C. Hammond, grinding wheat, the flour of which was largely sent to Brighton. The late owner, Mr. Ovenden, has Mocketts Mill, near Polegate.
 

Sussex Mills Group

Extracted from The Sussex County Magazine - September 1930

UDIMORE WINDMILL
This mill owing to its dilapidated condition, was pulled down in 1922 by Mr. Elliott, who had recently acquired the property.

We have evidence that a mill stood on the same site as early as 1694. It belonged to John Sloman, who was both a miller and farmer; he resided at the "Vines" farm house adjoining. It remained in the possession of the Sloman family until the beginning of the 19th century.

In 1817, Peter Stonham (a relative of the Solmans) built the present mill-house and carried on the milling business until 1856, when John Collins Henley (also a relative) took possession. He dies in 1868 and his brother Henry Henley succeeded and remained there until his death in 1921. He was 88 years old.

The mill was probably built about 1790. There was a copper coin of that date affixed to the main post. A quantity of timber from the dismantled mill has been used in the restoration of some old houses in Church Square, Rye.

Udimore Mill

UDIMORE MILL

 

The main post, which is of tremendous dimensions, was utilised to support a corner of one of the houses there. A gentleman was passing recently, who knew its history. He was accosted by one of the "ancients" of the town who informed the stranger that he "remembered playing marbles as a boy at the foot of 'dat dere gurt' ole post"'; - which goes to prove that memory sometimes plays us sad tricks.- EDMUND AUSTEN
 

Sussex Mills Group

Extracted from The Sussex County Magazine - September 1930

EAST HOATHLY WINDMILL
I enclose a photograph of East Hoathly Windmill which was burnt down in 1892. I was 10 years old, and I remember seeing the mill burnt, about 8 o'clock one evening.

The mill stood about five minutes' walk from the village, and was the property of the late Dr. H. C. Holman, of Lydfords, East Hoathly. I have heard my father say that its predecessor was also burnt down.

This was also the fate of the Broyle Mill, Ringmer, near the Racecourse. This was burnt down in 1905. Mr. E. Kenward used this mill for many years, until it was destroyed. - E. BRISTOW.


East Hoathly Mill

EAST HOATHLY MILL

Sussex Mills Group

Extracted from The Sussex County Magazine - September 1930

THE BURNING OF TILLINGHAM MILL
The old Tillingham windmill, Rye, one of the town's most famous landmarks, was completely gutted in a spectacular fire that brought half the town to watch late on the evening of Friday, June 13th last. It was an unforgettable sight. The structure was soon a column of seething flame that lit up the landscape like a beacon and was seen for miles around and far out to sea. It threw a lurid glare on the faces of the surrounding crowd and bathed the town in an angry glow so intense that it was easily possible to read the inscription above the church clock.

 

The climax came when the cap of the mill, with fan-tail and heavy gear wheels, a blazing mass weighing several tons, crashed to the ground in a cataract of sparks. It was all over in little over half an hour, and them all that remained of this picturesque veteran were its lower walls of gaping brickwork - a smoking heap of charred timber and twisted ironwork.

The fire originated in an adjoining bakehouse, owned by the lessee of the mill, Mr. Albert Webb, who held it under a lease from the Rye Corporation on condition that he kept the structure in a state of reasonable preservation. He had recently spent a large sum on repairs, and painters were at work on the very day of the fire. The mill had been let to an architect as a dwelling house.

The destruction of the mill is a great loss to the artistic community. It was one of the most painted and photographed features of the ancient town. Mr. David Baron, a well-known local artist, described the catastrophe as "an absolute tragedy".

Ruins of Tillingham Mill, Rye

RUINS OF TILLINGHAM MILL, RYE
 

The Mill has been credited with a greater age than it is entitled to boast. From a date carved on one of its beams it is believed to have been built in 1820, though Councillor L. A. Vidler, one of Rye's foremost antiquarians, told me that there had probably been a mill on the same site for many centuries. It was a particularly graceful example of the "smock": type of mill, standing 140 feet high to the tip of the sweeps, which were 40 feet long. It ceased to be used for corn-grinding in 1912, and had since been dismantled. - F. W. GOODSELL.

   
   
   

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