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Sussex Mills Group

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THE DECLINE AND FALL OF THE WINDMILL

By ARTHUR BECKETT

"The Times" and other newspapers have recently drawn attention to the fact that the windmill is fast disappearing, especially in Sussex. This was pointed out in an article entitled " The Vanishing Windmill" which appeared in the SUSSEX COUNTY MAGAZINE of September 1927. The following contribution deals with Sussex windmills at greater length, and is written largely from notes I have made at intervals during the last 25 years or so. The two modern writers who have been concerned most with the Sussex windmill are Mr. William Law and Mr. R. Thurston Hopkins, the former in an article in the "Brighton and Hove Archaeologist," and the latter in his two books, " English Mills and Inns " and " Lure of Sussex." I have taken the liberty of supplementing my own notes with others extracted from these works.

The Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings is appealing for funds to be applied to the preservation of certain selected windmills, and will shortly publish a series of booklets on windmills, by counties. The Sussex number will be one of the first issued. The Sussex Archaeological Trust has taken over the guardianship of Oldland Mill, on Ditchling Common, and asks for subscriptions for repairs to the mill.-A.B.

IT was the 14th day of May, 1264. Since early morning the Battle of Lewes had raged fiercely across the wide slopes of the Downs beyond the Priory, so much in favour of the Royalists that their victory seemed certain. At the beginning of the conflict, Richard, Earl of Cornwall, younger brother of King Henry, had, with his youthful son, Edward, taken up his position to the south as commander of the left wing. He had, not long before, been made King of the Alamanni (a German tribe), and styled himself "King of the Romans and always August "-an affix to his German dignity. Only a few days before he had defied the Barons to fight. Now he awaited the opportunity to distinguish himself and vent his wrath on these traitors to their king and country, as he had declared them to be.

Soon after the opening of the battle Prince Edward, who had chosen his position to the north, or right, where he faced his hated enemies, the Londoners, had furiously charged them with a following of young cavalrymen, thus leaving the centre-behind which the King had placed himself in reserve-in the air. The Londoners, although in their zeal they had sought the foremost position of the left in the dispositions made by De Montfort, lacked sufficient discipline to withstand the impetuosity of the Prince's headlong charge. They broke and ran. In a few minutes they were scattered in a widely spread stream of fleeing men, which flowed down the hill towards the Ouse, Edward's cavalry striking the footmen to earth, and pursuing those who still fled until they were lost to the view of the army on the summit of the hill.

 

 

Thus early in the battle the two wings of the opposing forces-the King's right and the Barons' left-were cleared off the field of the main conflict. Edward's apparent success animated the King of the Romans to even greater prowess than this, for he had observed in the distance the litter in which De Montfort, who was suffering from a fall from his horse, had travelled to the field of battle. At once he set himself to capture it; but though Richard strove to reach that object his men were attacked with such a heavy storm of stones and arrows, flung from the higher ground above, that his ranks were presently a confused mass of struggling, shrieking men. Indeed, so fierce was the attack of De Montfort's troops that the panic in the division led by the King of the Romans became a wild flight.

Among those who fled for their lives were Richard and his son. Their intention was to reach the shelter of the Priory, within whose walls they had passed the previous night. While Henry, deprived of his supports on right and left, found himself facing the advance of the Barons' centre, and the imminent reversal of the fortunes of the fight, the King of the Romans, hard pressed by his enemies, presently espied a windmill and determined to seek refuge within. He and his son entered precipitately, and almost as soon as the door was secured the mill was surrounded by his pursuers.

For a time, at least, all was well. The Royalists, finding that they could not immediately break into Richard's strange refuge, began to taunt him. "Come down, come down, thou wicked miller ! " some cried, and others, "Come forth, thou unlucky master of the mill. Thou, who lately defied us poor barons to fight, and whilst thou gayest us defiance would'st have thyself called King of the Romans and always August. Come forth ! "

For some time this badinage continued without gain. The day wore on and no hello came-for now the King's army was in full retreat. Growing impatient at length, the men surrounding the mill cried that unless Richard came out they would burn it down. He therefore decided to give himself up, only stipulating that his surrender should be received by one worthy to take it. He yielded himself to Gilbert de Clare, chief in command, and presently afterwards was led away in chains.

The incident was too good a one to be ignored by the King's political enemies, and presently it gave birth to a political song which later is believed to have led to the passing of a law " against slanderous reports and tales to cause discord betwixt King and people." To make the ballad clear it must be understood that just before the Battle of Lewes, the Barons had offered to Richard, King of the Romans. thirty thousand pounds to procure a peace upon such terms as would have deprived Henry of his regal power. The offer proved abortive. In the song the writer declares (with malicious intention) that 30,000 was the exorbitant demand of the King's brother. After the battle the Earl of Warren fled overseas, as the ballad tells.

Sitteth alle stille, ant herkneth to me; 
The Kyng of Alemaigne, 1 bi mi leaute, 
Thritti thousent pound askede he 
For to make the pees in the countre,

Ant so he dude more,
Richard, thath thou be ever trichard,2
Tricthen shalt thou never more.

Richard of Alemaigne, whil that he wes

Kying,

He spende al is tresour opon swyvyng,3 
Haveth he nout of Walingford oferlyng,4 
Let him habbe, ase he brew, bale.-, to dryng.

Maugre6 Wyndesore.

Richard, thath thou be ever, etc.

The Kyng of Alemaigne wende7 do ful wel, 
He saisede8 the mulne9 for a castel,

With hare10 sharpe swerdes he grounde the

stel, I I

He wende that the sayles were mangonel1
To helpe Wyndesore, Richard, thath thou be ever, etc.

The Kyng of Alemaigne gederede13 ys host, 
Makede him a castel of a mulne post, 
Wende with is prude, ant is muchele bost, 14 
Brohte15 from Alemayne mony sori gost

To store Wyndesore.

Richard, thath thou be ever, etc.

By God, that is aboven ous, he dude much

synne,16

That lette passen over see the Erl of

Warynne,17

He hath robbed Engelond, the mores, ant th

fenne,

The gold, ant the selver, ant y-boren

henne,18

For love of Wyndesore. 
Richard, thath thou be ever, etc.

Sire Simond de Mountfort hath suore bi ys

chyn,19

Havede20 he nou here the Erl of Waryn, 
Shuld he never more come to is yn,21

Ne with sheld, ne with spere, ne with other

gyn22

To help of Wyndesore, Richard, thath thou be ever, etc.

mon de Montfort hath suore bi ys 23

Heyede he nou here Sir Hue de Bigot,

Al he shulde grante here24 twelftmoneth scot 
Shulde he never more with his sot pct

To helpe Wyndesore,

Richard, thath thou be ever, etc.

Be the luef. be the loth, Sire Edward,.

Thou shalt ride sporteles o thy lyard

Al the ryhte way to 'Dovere-ward,

Shalt thou never more breke foreward;

Ant that reweth sore

Edward, thou dudest as a shreward,

Forsoke thyn emes lore,

Richard, thath thou be ever, etc.25

Thus, a Sussex windmill26 came for the first time into the history books. Years later-in August, 1297-when Edward I reigned. a mill at Winchelsea received a similar distinction" When the King was dwelling at Winchelsea," says Thomas of Walsingham, " he proposed to go one day to the port to take a view of his fleet, and having entered the town, when he had just ridden over against the bulwarks, and. was about to survey the fleet at the lowest station, it happened that he approached a certain windmill, of which there were several in the town; and his horse being frightened with the noise of the mill and with the quickly revolving sails, refused to proceed; and as the horse was vigorously urged on by the King by whip and spur, he leapt over the bulwarks; upon which out of the multitude of horse and foot who followed the King, or had collected to have a look at him, no one thought but that the King had perished, or at least had been stunned by the leap. But divine providence so disposing, the horse fell upon his feet, even from such a height, into a road, which, from recent rains, was so softened with mud, into which the horse was able to slip for twelve feet. and yet did not fall; and being turned round with another bridle by the King, he ascended directly to the gate, through which he entered unhurt, and the people who were waiting for him were filled with wonder and delight at his miraculous escape."

I Richard, King of the Romans; 2 tricked, deceived; 3 addicted to the opposite sex; 4 superior, paramount,., evil; 6 spite of; 7 imagined; R seized; 9 mill; 10 their; 11 post; 12 an engine for throwing stones in warfare, in old English called a " sweep." which was also another term for the sail of a windmill; 13 gathered; 11 went with his pride and his great boast; 15 brought; 16 did much sin; 1 7 that let pass over sea the Earl of Warren; 1 8 and borne it hence; 19 chin : i.e., swore by his beard; 20 had; 21 house, home: 22 weapon: 23 head, 21 grant their; 25 from the Harl. Collection.

26 The mill in which the King of the Romans took refuge is believed to have stood on the site of the Black Horse Inn. On the strength of a survey made in 1618,. which shows a windmill on this site, it was said to have been standing at that date. This is difficult to believe, for the extreme life of a wooden mill is about 200 years. The windmill of 1618 was probably a successor to " King Harry's Mill," as the historical mill came to be called.

 

 

From this description it is probable that the incident took place at the Strand Gate, for on that side, overlooking the harbour, the town wall was not continued but was defended by a bank of earth.

You cannot write a hail and farewell to Sussex windmills without referring to these two incidents; they have given the race a greater historical significance than has any windmill of any other county, and are but another proof that Sussex is the greatest county of them all. " The windmill is a couris thing, Compleatly built by art of man," wrote a simple Sussex miller when he pinned his poem to the post of his mill. That is perfectly true. It is true also that man never built anything more beautiful than a windmill, unless it is a sailing ship. Are not, indeed, the two closely related? One can hardly watch the sails of a windmill in motion without thinking of a sailing ship scudding before the wind. Both are animated figures in wide spaces; both suggest freedom; both, alas! have come to the time of their extinction, killed by the march of progress. A few years more and both will exist only as specimens of bygone species, kept as curiosities of a past age, when many of the needy things of man were not only utilitarian, but beautiful as well.

 

The perfect English panorama must include both a windmill and a sailing ship. A generation ago it was a common one in our countv. If the lover of rural Sussex has any regret on account of changes in the face of the beloved landscapes with which he is familiar, it is surely due chiefly to the passing of the windmill. In no county of England has that race of peaceful, picturesque giants flourished so profusely. Sussex has undoubtedly long been the land of the windmill. For years uncounted it had an aesthetic value in the landscape; it has made for itself a name in English history; and, moreover, this typical emblem of peace and plenty has even entered into the tactical considerations of those concerned in the art of war. In the survey of the coast of Sussex made by Sir Thomas Palmer and Sir William Covert, two deputy lieutenants of the county, in 1587, for the purpose of discovering what parts of the county required additional defences, in view of the expected attack by Spain, many of the contemporary mills are indicated. The map was published by Lower in 1870.27 and I have a copy before me. From this we find that at that date there were mills at Heene, Highdown Hill, Sidlesham, West Wittering, Brighton, Beddingham, Firle Beacon, Willingdon, Bourne (Eastbourne), Barnham, Fairlight, and two or three at Rye. It is possible that two or three of these (e.g., that at Sidlesham) were tide-mills. At the time of the threatened French invasions of 1778 and 1779 the windmills of Beeding, Bramber and Pevensey were ordered to be held as fortified posts.

27 For a section of this map, see the Sussex COUNTY MAGAZINE for April, 1928 (p. 142).

 

And now the race of Sussex windmills is fast dying out. Old " Six Sweeps " that aforetime stood on Kingston Hill, waving his Briareuslike arms in every favouring gale, is no more. He fell to the bower of the great March blizzard of 1916. I felt his downfall as one feels the death of a distant relative for whom one has respect and almost affection, for he had been my familiar at intervals for thirty years or more. " Six Sweeps " was a mill of distinction. He was the only solitary sentinel within five miles of Lewes; alone in Sussex he carried six sails; he was one of not more than half a dozen windmills so equipped in the whole of England.

And so, too, other giant sentinels of the countryside have, in the last few years, gone the way of Quixote's windmill. They have had their day; they have served an artistic purpose in the landscape, and an utilitarian use in the economy of mankind. The best of them stand derelict; or the spots on which they stood are marked merely by the masonry of their foundations. The post-mill at Sandy Crossknown to me from my boyhood-was pulled to earth because someone wanted its old oak timber to use in the building of a modern mansion. Its externals were removed, its timbers were sawn through, ropes and chains were attached, " and," said the local newspaper, ` with the assistance of many willing helpers from among the large crowd of onlookers, the mill was pulled over with a great crash." Sandy Cross Mill had stood for a hundred years, the friend of many of the " willing helpers " who brought him low.

Fifteen years ago, and even less, I stood many a time on the top of one of the summits of the South Downs and counted beneath me in the Wealden plain as many as thirty windmills. Recently, I stood upon that selfsame hill to note with regret that this number had diminished to nearly half. Not only has the Weald itself so suffered, but the Downs are scored from end to end with circles which mark the sites of mills that have been rased to the ground. Towns in which the windmill was a picturesque feature less than a quarter of a century ago, can no longer boast of this harmonious attraction. Brighton, Hastings, and many a Sussex village as well have been dispossessed of these signs of a profitable old English industry.

 

 

 

A severe gale in 1837 levelled many Sussex windmills. The mill on Chailey Common, which with the neighbouring shaped yew, marked the centre of Sussex, was blown down in January, 1928. Ringmer Mill, which was wrecked during the war, has since been levelled by the gale. By means of a specially constructed lever both its tail beam and steps could be raised from the ground, thus making it easy for the miller to turn the mill. In 1906, Billingshurst Mill shared the fate of Ringmer Mill. Friston Mill, on the top of the down, fell in a storm in 1926. In this mill as a boy I once spent a night with Miller Morris (a genial fellow, now dead-peace to his manes), for my object was to see for myself how a mill operated. While the miller worked I, overcome by fatigue following a long walk over the Downs, slept on a pile of sacks, and when at length I awoke it was to find that the miller had finished his task. Halnaker Mill, near Chichester, is now a ruin. Henfield Mill has lost one of its sweeps; those of West Blatchington were blown off in 1897. Coolham Mill has also vanished, and so has that of Rusper. Southover Mill, Lewes, was overthrown by the wind in 1888; the windmill which formerly stood at Upper Beeding has vanished. Three fine windmills which dominated the West Hill, Hastings, about seventy years ago, are no more. Such is part of the record during one man's life. What a slaughter!

The mill on Highdown was demolished in 1826. It was associated with the immortal John Oliver who, like old Parson Whistler of Hastings, was ever reminded of his mortality by the coffin he kept under his bed. Those who know of the old folk of Sussex know that Miller Oliver built his own tomb, which he decorated with figures of Time and Death. It stands nearby the site of his mill for all to see. A " stout, active, cheerful man " was Oliver (as Pennant said), who, I doubt not, knew as much of smuggling as he knew of milling. I like to hear that over 2,000 persons attended him when his coffin was drawn from beneath his bed for the last time, and that his blameless life was marked by the attendance at his funeral of a bevy of maidens robed in white, to whom a little girl of twelve (also dressed in white) read the funeral sermon which Oliver had composed himself. John Oliver was a worthy fellow, you see, who made his mark in death as he had made it in his lifetime.

Though men have said that John Oliver, despite his great reading of the Bible, was but another proof of the truth of Chaucer's character of the English miller, Sussex which shows more better things than any other county-once produced, in defiance of the poet, an honest miller. He was of Chalvington. Truth to tell, honesty paid so badly that the Chalvington miller throve but ill, and at last in a fit of despair hanged himself on his own mill-post. He was buried at the cross-roads with an oak stake driven through his body. In good time the oakstake grew into a lusty tree, which the honest miller's ghost haunted on dark nights. In 1829 some rustics digging for sand beneath the Miller's Oak came upon his bones, and since then nothing more has been seen of the miller's ghost.

All down the centuries the miller has been accused of taking toll from the flour of his customers in addition to payment for the work he had done. The honest miller had a tuft of hair in the palm of his hand. Sussex millers had no such tufts, but whether or not they took tribute I am unable to say, though I can repeat a story of an exception. Mr. Thurston Hopkins -who, by the way, was born romantically, for he declares that he first saw the light of day in a house at Bury St. Edmunds which stood between the sites of a windmill and a gallows tree-

 

 

says the story was related by Mr. Gordon Volk, of Brighton. " One of the artful dodgers of the village, Henry by name, met the miller in the street, and asked permission to take his gleanings up to the mill to be ground.

" ` Why, certainly ! ' says the miller, `but be sure and tell Tom to hang the old black cat up! '

"Henry didn't know what to make of this at all, but promised to do as he was told. So he borrows a wheelbarrow and off he goes to the mill, and says to Tom : `Tom,' he says, `the guv'nor says as how he'll be obliged if you'll run this little bit through for me, and don't forget for to hang the old black cat up, the guv'nor says.'

" Old Tom said that he'd see that that was all right, and before long the stones were busy on Henry's corn, but Henry stayed below, waiting for his flour to come down the shoot, and while he waited he looked about him and noticed an extra sack hung up, in addition to his own sack and the sack for the offal.

" `Ah ! ' he thought to himself, 'so that's the black cat, is it? That's where some of my flour is going!' And quick as lightning he picked up a great big scoop and took a couple of scoopfuls of flour from a bin just beside him, and put them into his own bag.

" When he got back to the village he met the miller, who smiled artful at him and said he hoped Henry hadn't forgotten to tell Tom about the black cat.

" 'No,' says Henry, ' I didn't forget. In fact I had a couple of her kittens ! ' "

A windmill once stood on Firle Beacon. The only traces of it to be found now are certain concavities and convexities which give the ground the appearance of an ancient earthwork. Indeed, so it was considered to be by certain archaeologists who examined the site some twenty years ago. and who afterwards published to the

 

 

 

world that they had discovered the remains of a prehistoric sidereal clock ! The mills of Guestling, Hooe and Brede are no more. On Paradise Hill are the foundation stones of a mill which, in its day, commanded the town of Eastbourne. In fact, hereabouts is a graveyard of these Sussex giants, for Ocklynge Mill on the rising ground below is now rotting, and almost half a mile further to the west Hurst's Mill, at Ocklynge, which only a few years ago merrily clacked in every fresh breeze, deprived of its sweeps, is silent in death.

" Hurst's Mill-properly St. John's Mill "-is the last of the Eastbourne windmills (I quote from " Old Eastbourne," by the Rev. W. Budgen, F.S.A.)-"four of which formerly stood on this ridge of high ground (i.e., Ocklynge). The Rectory Manor Mill at the top of Watts Lane has gone, with its near neighbour on the millfield; another mill on Pashley Down was burnt and never rebuilt; that belonging to Radmill-Beverington still remains, but shorn of its glory. St. John's Mill alone continues as a working mill." This statement was published by Mr. Budgen in 1913; since then, as I have already said, the last of Eastbourne's mills has also become derelict. An interesting water-colour drawing of the four mills referred to by Mr. Budgen above, painted by Hine about 1878, is reproduced in his book.

Here again I digress-and ask no pardon-to tell of Tom Hurst, the miller of the Black Mill, which was the popular name of the Rectory Manor Mill at Eastbourne, to distinguish it from its neighbour, known as the White Mill. An old Eastbournian recently told me that Tom Hurst was a giant of a man, and immensely strong. One day he wagered that he and his horse between them would carry a cartload of corn round his mill. Now a cartload of corn consists of ten sacks, each sack weighing about two and a half hundredweight. Tom loaded his horse with five sacks and himself with five. The wager was won, but the horse's back was broken. As he looked woefully at the poor beast Tom exclaimed, "If I'd thought I would have done for her I'd have carried another sack myself ! "

Another tale about Miller Tom, before I return to my main subject. One evening Tom entered the "Crown" inn, which he found filled with "chair-bottomers," for so itinerant gipsies were often called. Some of these had been drinking and were quarrelsome. One of them wished to fight Tom Hurst. " I never fight a man unless I know his weight," said Tom; " stand on my hand so that I can see how heavy you be." He stooped down and extended his great palm. When the gipsy stood upon it Tom quickly raised him and crashed his head through the ceiling. There was no further talk of a fight.

Wooden windmills-most of the old mills were built of wood-were always subject to destruction by fire, and many a Sussex windmill has been thus destroyed. If the miller were careless and allowed the flow of grain to stop the friction of the stones would generate sparks, and unless discovered in time, would probably start a fire. When fire got a hold on such a mill it was invariably doomedespecially if the wind was blowing -for all parts of the internal machinery, except the stones, were of wood. About 50 years ago. Fairlight Mill was destroyed by fire.

 

 

High Salvington Mill, near Worthing. now used as a tea house, is said to have been the first windmill in England insured against fire, for a policy was taken out in 1774 with the Sun Insurance Company. Of this mill a correspondent informs me that it is 150 years old, and is believed to be the oldest Sussex mill extant. It is of the post type, the long wooden strut by which it was moved being fixed to the back of the building in the middle of the steps leading to the top door. Everything about the mill, I understand, is in such good order that there would be little difficulty in setting it to work again. The great wheel is made of oak and beech with cogs of hornbeam to compensate and balance each other by their varying contractions. The grindstones are of hard French flint bound with iron. There are also preserved the great wooden wedges which the stone-dressers used to raise the mill-stones when they made their periodical visits to " dress " or re-cut the grooves in the stones to correct any damage or uneven wear.

A story is told concerning an older mill of High Salvington which was offered for sale. A difficulty arose as to the conditions of sale, as it was stipulated that the purchaser should not only buy the mill, but the miller, his wife and six children as well!

Some of the old Sussex wind mills now serve other uses than their builders intended. Clymping's tower mill has been converted into a residence, and the mill on the hill above Alfriston has been similarly degraded. So has Kingston Mill. The "Round House " in Pipe's Passage, Lewes, is in reality the octagonal base of a windmill. It bears a tablet which declares that it was " Erected as a windmill, 1802. Removed to Race Hill about 1835."

No one can say with certainty when windmills first came into Sussex-or, indeed, into any other part of England, but it is believed that they followed the return of the Crusaders who saw them in the Near East. Before the windmill was known in England, corn was ground by the quern, or hand-mill. The upper stone of a hand-quern was found. some time ago, in the grounds of Lewes Castle. and was transferred to the Sussex Archaeological Society's Museum there. The windmill was the inevitable development of the hand-quern; it applies the same principle of one stone rotating upon another.

The numerous Sussex mills mentioned in Domesday are probably all water-mills. About 150 are recorded. The use of windmills had greatly increased by the fourteenth century, and is said to have been due largely to a series of severe winters during its early years, when a succession of hard frosts had bound the wheels of the water-mills. It is more likely, however, that the increase of windmills in Sussex was due largely to the small number of running streams in the county. Those first built were owned by the lords of the manor who were paid by the villeins in kind for the work which the mills did on their behalf. Later, when the villein's position had improved, he became the owner of the mill and ground the corn for his overlord. The first existing record of a Sussex windmill was at Rodmell, which was presented to the Church by Bishop Seffrid II of Chichester in 1199. There is no windmill at Rodmell to-day.

 

 

 

Windmills are of three types the Post and Socket, the Smock and the Tower. The first of these is the simplest form. The whole structure was made to revolve on a central pivot-often a large tree-affixed to the centre of two crossed timbers in the ground. The sails were moved into the wind, at first by means of ropes, or, at a later date, by means of a pole affixed to the bodv of the mill. " King Harry's Mill," in which Henry's brother took refuge at the Battle of Lewes, was a post-mill, as the ballad tells us. The central post of this type of mill, which acted as a pivot. was supported by trestles. The tottering mill of Ashurst is the earliest existing example of a post-mill in this county. At a later date the supporting tripod or trestle was enclosed, and thus the mill round-house was formed, as at Mailing and Icklesham. The latter mill has also a fan-tail or vane. This serves the purpose of bringing the mill into the wind automatically. The windmill at Rye has such a "tail-wheel," placed behind the sweeps. Rye Mill is declared to be " one of the earliest instances of the use of automatic gear." The " Smock " mill-a Flemish invention of the 16th century-owes its name to its fancied resemblance to a man clad in a smock or round-frock. It is the commonest type to be found in the South Downs. It was not introduced into England until the 18th century, when the advantage of its "versatile roof "-an invention of the Dutch-was recognised, and henceforward most English windmills were built after this pattern. The sails, affixed to a cupola, were turned by means of a vane. Chailey and Rottingdean mills were of this type. So is Shiremark Mill. At Rottingdean the cupola of the mill was turned by chains. The mill itself is said to have been used as a storage place by smugglers.

 

The " Tower " mill is built of brick or masonry, and so stands solid on the earth. It has a veering cupola; and is, indeed, the final evolution of the windmill. "Jack," on Clayton Hill, is a tower mill, so are the mills at Nutbourne and Patcham, the latter probably the last mill (says Mr. William Law) to be built in Sussex. This was in 1885. West Chiltington Mill is a hybrid, for it is half smock and half tower.

The black mill of Barnham is a tower mill with a white cupola, and is filled with modern machinery. One wonders why more windmills are not kept going by the introduction of internal power as at Barnham. Mills fitted with gas- or

 

oil-engines are independent of capricious winds, and the sweep., may be thrown out of gear and the superstructure thus preserved to the landscape. Other milk still working in the county are the Downs Mill, Bexhill, the mill at Polegate and Stone Cross Mill Pevensey.

There are no better known windmills in the South Downs than " Jack and Jill," which stand side by side-not affectionately so -on Clayton Hill, near Brighton. "Jack" is a big black fellow; "Jill," after spending her early days in the town of Brighton, was, in 1821, dragged to Clayton to keep "Jack" company. She caused a great deal of trouble in her progress, for the ropes by which the horses attempted to drag her kept breaking. Then someone suggested that oxen should take the places of the horse team, for oxen exert a steady, even pull and horses jerk. Thus, in triumph, was "Jill" brought at length to her present resting place. "Jill" of Clayton was not the first mill to be thus transported. On March 28, 1797, a miller of Brighton, in the presence of thousands of spectators, removed his mill over the Downs, as the records say, " whole and literally as he worked her," with the help of thirty-six yoke of oxen (86 beasts), a distance of more than a mile. The mill stood in Belle Vue field, near the present Bedford Hotel, and was dragged to a new position in Dyke Road. In 1896 an old postmill, which had stood for many years at Littlehampton, was moved by trolley to Fishbourne. There were formerly two mills at Fishbourne. One of them bore the verse

This mill, your father old

Hath builded and left you to possess, 
You must dearly hold

To show your worthiness.

(1780).

Finch, one time guard of the old " Vigilant " coach, running between Eastbourne and Brighton, was accustomed to tell a story concerning two windmills situated on adjacent hills near Lewes Prison. "Once," said Finch, "those two mills used to be on the same hill. but the people about here finding that there was not enough wind on the same hill to drive two mills removed one of them to the hill on the other side."

Mr. Thurston Hopkins believes that Shipley Mill an example of the galleried mill-by Mr. Belloc's house, near Horsham, is the largest in Sussex. I know the mill only from the outside, and it did not give me this impression; but Mr. Hopkins, who has examined it carefully, says that it has five enormous floors (most mills have only three) and an eyrie under the cupola. The huge wheel is made of oak with hollywood teeth. Mr. Hopkins praises the view of thirty miles of Sussex country to Chanctonbury Ring.

 

 

 

The old post-mill at Icklesham is working vigorously in its old age. In a recent letter to the Press Mr. M. Du-Plat-Taylor drew attention to several distinctive features of this particular mill. It has four arms with wooden louvres or vanes which are held to any desired angle by springs, so that in the event of excessive wind pressure they turn into the neutral position, and the mill stops working. There is an auxiliary vane for rotating the mill, which actuates a pair of large wheels fixed at the outer end of an inclined framework (which also forms a staircase leading into the mill), these wheels travelling on a circular path. An interesting feature is that the mill-house, a brick cottage, is built behind the mill in a curved form, the back wall of the cottage being close to the wheel-track and of slightly larger radius than it. Birdham Mill, also, is still working. Its sails are covered with canvas which takes the place of wooden shutters.

A Littlehampton correspondent informs me that he recently had a most interesting chat on old-time milling in East and West Sussex with Mr. Charles Albert Bailey, a nonagenarian now living in retirement. " A native of Lewes, in his infancy his family removed to Brighton, where, as a boy, he made the acquaintance of eight windmills. Mr. Bailey served his apprenticeship at Copperas Gap, and afterwards for seventy-one years he was associated with milling interests in and around Littlehampton. His brother, too, was engaged in the milling industry, and owned windmills at Lindfield, Twineham, and Henfield, in East Sussex.

" For years, Mr. Bailey carried on business at Sea Mill, Rustington, formerly in the possession of two brothers named Graves. This mill has now been demolished, the site having been acquired by the Metropolitan Asylums Board, for a children's convalescent home. There was at one time a second windmill in an adjoining field, and a third further inland in Rustington, opposite the present Windmill Inn. This was removed from Angmering, and was worked by members of the Humphrey family.

" Among other disappearing mills are two at East Worthing, belonging to the Newland family, and one at West Worthing, worked by the Botting family. Two at Southwick were built by members of the Hicks family, and were in existence seventy years ago. Mr. John Boorer, the banker, had a mill at Portslade; and one at Hangleton was in the hands of the Hardwick family for years. An existing mill at Angmering (owned by Mr. Fred Luck) owes its origin to the Smith family.

" Gone is the old mill from Toddington Mill Lane (which Mr. Peter West used to own), its site being occupied by the Littlehampton Isolation Hospital.

 

 

 

 

 

"And what would the Messrs. Barnard thinkthere were three brothers engaged in the milling industry-if they could return to earth and see their old mill, once derelict, now greatly transmogrified for residential purposes?

" What a dilapidated and forlorn appearance the old mill in Pier Road, Littlehampton, presents. Charted on ancient maps as Cudlow Mill (latterly Arun Mill), for some two hundred years it has been a landmark to mariners making for the port. It now belongs to the Norfolk estate, and what its final destiny will be, who shall say? It is nothing but a skeleton of its former self, a tower mill, formerly working with three pairs of stones. Its first proprietor was a Mr. Carter. In connection with it Mr. John Woodhams carried on a very successful milling and corn merchant's business. He was succeeded by his two sons (Messrs. Rasen and Albert Woodhams), the last-named of whom survives and is still locally engaged in the corn trade, as well as being consul for the port. When Mr. John Woodhams was engaged in trading. Lyminster was the nearest railway station (there was no Littlehampton Station at the period), and this made the task of cartage somewhat of a handicap.

" If the old mill could speak, what tales it could tell, of its watch and ward, year in and year out, of the diversion of the river Arun from its previous course, of the coming and going of Littlehampton-built vessels of no mean tonnage (before the local shipping industry suffered its decline), of the expansion of Littlehampton into Big-hampton, of its gradual popularity as a health resort. This, and much more, could it tell us, if it was gifted with vocal powers. But wind and weather have hit it hard. When it was capable of receiving sightseers, an enterprising proprietress (its lessee) made the old mill a peepshow, at a very nominal charge per head! What would it say, one wonders, of the monstrosities by which it has been surrounded during the last few years, which are supposed to have added to the gaiety of the town as a pleasure resort! Quite a different method this of `bringing grist to the mill.'"!

In a leading article on the vanishing windmill, which appeared recently in "The Times," the writer suggested that "if they [the windmills] could be so preserved that their sails would go round and their tops, or bodies, turn into the wind, a prominent feature of the older England would be maintained. And Sussex, which had the first, and still has some of the best in the country, might well lead the way." Sussex has, in fact, already led the way. Both Oldland Mill, on Ditchling Common, and Blatchington Mill

 

 

have been secured by purchase, and the former, now in the guardianship of the Sussex Archaeological Trust, at present contains the nucleus of an agricultural museum, largely supplemented of late by generous gifts from Alderman Every, of Lewes, and others. It was one matter to raise money to buy Oldland Mill-and that was difficult enough; it is another matter to maintain it. Mr. Frederick Harrison, the hon. curator, informs me that he has had an article inserted in the "Daily Mail," the " Morning Post," and several other journals, including an American paper devoted to the corn trade, and in answer to his appeal for donations he received only an anonymous postal order for one shilling ! So much, apparently, does the public care for the preservation of Sussex windmills !

Wooden structures, such as Oldland Mill, require constant attention and repairs, and the few shillings taken from visitors only pay for the cutting of grass and hedges. Oldland Mill requires some slats restored, and it must be painted. This will require 50 at least.

Oldland Mill, Keymer, occupies the probable site of a much older mill, for there is evidence of one 250 years ago, and part at least of Oldland Mill is of that date. It has three floors, and the view from the too one includes the two mills on Clayton Hill across the valley. The internal machinery includes the wind-shaft, the round beam to which the great sweeps are attached. The lowest room contains the museum, which includes a pair of Sussex wooden ploughs, some sheep bells, ancient horse-shoes, an old ox yoke and other objects connected with old Sussex agriculture.

The old sailing shin evolved a special race possessing characteristics different from those of other men. So did the windmill. Simplicity, ingenuousness, and sometimes eccentricity came of a peculiar mode of life that was, in many ways, unlike the life of their fellows. Such a man was William Coombs, who lived at the end of the 18th century, of whom Lower tells. His mill was at East Blatchington, and it was his favourite boast that it had been in the possession of his ancestors "ever sen' the days of King Harry the Eighth." There may have been truth in this assertion, for a deed of Isabella, Countess of Warrene, granted a lease of a mill near Lewes, at a rent of twenty-two shillings, to Richard de Cumbes. William once swore that if a certain statement he had made was not true he would never enter his mill again. The statement was proved inaccurate, and he kept his oath. Never to the end of his life did he again enter his mill, but superintended the day's work from the top of the mill steps.

 

 

Master Coombs added to his reputation by painting his mill horse. One week he appeared in the village on a yellow horse; the week following he visited Lewes market on a green horse, and at a later date might be seen careering over the countryside on a horse of blue. Nearly fifty years ago there was a dyer of Eastbourne who dyed his dog a different colour every month. When, as a boy, I met the dyer's dog, he filled me with a sense of awe, for no one told me that the dog was dyed.

Master Coombs was as beautifully simple as a certain wise man of Gotham, of whom we have all read. Coombs carried the corn he had ground in sacks upon the back of his painted horse. Sometimes the miller's horse bore more sacks of flour superadded to the weight of the rider than it could carry in comfort. " A marsiful man is marsiful to his baste," quoted Master Coombs, and though he still kept his seat he threw one of the sacks over his own shoulders.

He deserved a wife who should treat him with all gentleness, but the one to whom he had bound himself ruled him with a harsh tongue. "'Tis my own fault," said Master Coombs, " fur I had a warnin'. As I was a-gooin' acrass Excete laine fur to be married at church, I heerd a voice from heaven a-sayin' unto me, 'Will-yam Coombs! Will-yam Coombs! if so be that you marry Mary you'll always be a miserable man.' An' so I've allus found it, an' I be a miserable man."

Though the miller survives, enough has been said to show that the windmill is vanishing rapidly from the English landscape. About half of those which formed part of the Sussex scene a quarter of a century ago have gone; in less than another ten years-with the exception of the mills at Rottingdean, Rye and Ditchling. which have

 

 

been purchased for posterity-nearly all that are left will only be seen in pictorial records unless some definite effort is made to preserve them as monuments of an age in which they have well served both the economic and artistic sides of rural Sussex. A rich man might do worse for himself and his county than provide a fund for the preservation of Sussex windmills.

It is perhaps too much to hope that such a man will be found. But in the county there are men and women whose love of Sussex of the past, and concern for the preservation of her rural amenities should provide sufficient means to purchase and preserve some of the best of the windmills figured in these pages.

From Sussex County Magazine 1929 Page 700

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QUEER THINGS ABOUT SUSSEX WINDMILLS

By R. THURSTON HOPKINS

THE old windfalls of England ! What dreams, what history, what romance do they not conjure up! We talk about Jam's Watt and the homely tea kettle, but who was the great genius who, as he sat on the floor grinding his corn by hand, between two stones, conceived the idea of water or wind-power? As we stand in one of the ancient windfalls which are still working in out-of-the-way corners of Sussex, and listen to the faint mealy rumble of the fall-stones, and the squeak and rattle of the whirling sails, we are listening to one of the oldest sounds in the world. Men must be fed, and without the miller and the falls there could have been little increase of population. We, perhaps, do not realise how great a part the old-fashioned miller played in the making of mankind in the building up of men's bodies; for the genuine stone-ground flour contained health-giving mineral salts and vitamin's which are almost entirely absent from white flour.

I cannot claim that the Queer Things treated of in this article are unknown. It would be more than queer if they were. But many quaint unconsidered trifles of windfall lore have been overlooked by my brother windmillians who have only considered the aesthetic value of these old landmarks. There is the curious custom strictly observed by the old-time millers of placing the sails as a St. Andrew's cross when the day's grist has passed between the stones, thus X. Just before the miller resumes work the sails are generally placed for a few minutes in the position of the well-known cross of St. George, thus +. This position is known as the " Millers' Pride," and is said to bring good luck to the falling. The "Millers' Pride" is also a conventional sign of mourning among wind-millers.

Possibly the earliest type of windfall was built on the trunk of a living tree. In demolishing a fall in Essex some years ago, the centre post was found to be a tremendous oak tree, cut and trimmed, and standing firmly rooted as it had grown.

 

Of the origin of the windfall little definite information is available. Waterfalls can be traced back to times of remote antiquity, but in Europe the windfall can only be traced back to the .twelfth century. It is a short step from using the power of wind on a ship's sails to its further application as Dower to turn the sweeps of a stationary land-ship. Perhaps this relation between the windfall and the sailing ship explains the fact that the earliest known representation of the former is to be found upon a grave-stone in St. Margaret's Church in the old seaport of King's Lynn.

 

 

The memorial commemorates a miller who died in 1349, and exhibits a post-mill of the most primitive form, but which, with some modifications, is still to be found in certain English districts. It shows a structure entirely built of wood, having a pyramidal roof, with a tillerbeam to move it on its axis, the whole supported on an open braced framework of wood. The miller, riding horseback, is also shown on the brass, and he carries a sack and his toll-dish, which, doubtless, is a sly allusion to the fact that he was particularly careful to exact his full toll for service rendered. Another picture shows him riding the tail-beam of his mill, the standers-by showing their mirth at the spectacle.

The miller's toll-dish was used to measure the corn taken as pay for grinding at a mill, and specimens of these ancient utensils are now exceedingly rare. The miller was compelled to issue and take toll with a toll-dish of lawful size which had been sealed by the mayor of the town. One specimen I recently inspected was made of black leather, and bore the cypher of Queen Anne. The portion of grain taken as compensation for grinding was called a "knaveship," a term which reminds us that the miller has been accused of roguery from time immemorial. When Chaucer wrote in the " Canterbury Tales" of the miller with a thumb of gold he hinted that the miller placed his thumb deep in the measure when he issued flour to his customers; so the larger the thumb the shorter was the quantity received from him.

In a publication of the Board of Agriculture, issued in 1808, under the title of " A general View of Agriculture," there are several references to the miller's toll-dish, and on page 337 the miller's " knaveship " is also mentioned : "According to the ancient mode of exacting multure within the bounds astricted to a mill, a certain part of all the grindable grain goes to the miller, besides one peck and a half of meal out of every sixteen pecks of shilling (the name for any grain after the husk or shells are taken off), which is emphatically called the miller's knaveship."

A windmill in early times must have been a very profitable concern, for in the fourteenth century we find that whilst pasture land was worth an annual rent of three pence per acre, and a dwelling-house and outbuildings was valued at five shillings, a windmill was rated at fifteen shillings. The fancy price attached to the early windmill is accounted for by the fact that vassals and tenants were obliged to grind their corn at the town or manorial mill, for which accommodation they paid a certain value in kind. These mills, which claimed the exclusive possession of the grinding of corn in a certain district, were called ban mills; in old documents molendina bannale. The origin of the custom was not altogether founded on oppression and injustice. The building of mills was at all times expensive, and could be undertaken only by the rich, who, to indemnify themselves for the outlay and the working expenses of the mills compelled the villagers to support them.

The old town of Rye possessed three toll-mills, and I was recently informed by Mr. Leopold A.

Vidler, the Mayor, that they are frequently mentioned in the town records, which date back to 1508.

Old engravings in the museum at Rye show the three mills standing on Playden Hill, but to-day only one of the three remains. The fine smock mill near the quay at Rye was purchased by the Corporation some years ago and has fortunately been scheduled for preservation. I made a thorough examination of this mill in August last, and found a fine pair of beam scales-possibly two hundred years old-still being used by a baker who now occupies the base of the building. On the centre post the builder of this mill has cut his initials and the date of erection-F.B. 1824. The earliest type of windmill, which was becoming common in Sussex in 1200, was the " post " mill, of which the battered old mill at Ashurst is a good example.

Here the whole upper part of the mill revolves to face the wind on a central post, which rests on, and is braced to, crossed beams of great strength, kept off the ground by low plinths of brick or stone. Post-mills were often jacked up and moved from one part of the country to another. Two of the most familiar windmills in Sussex stand on the Downs at Clayton Hill; but few people are aware that one of them once stood in the town of Brighton, and was hauled to its present position by teams of oxen.

Our Sussex mills have many associations with the smuggling period, and were often used as convenient depots for contraband. West Blatchington Mill, still used as a sea-mark by mariners, was worked a hundred years ago by a miller who, like his famous brother of the Dee, is said to have been sufficiently "jolly." and to have looked with no unfriendly eye on the doings of the smugglers who then infested the coast. Local tradition whispers that the miller of Blatchington acted as the smugglers' retailer. He concealed the brandy and tobacco under his sacks of flour, and so delivered the stuff to the houses of the people who ordered it. For in the palmy days of free-trade it was possible to order contraband goods exactly as we order our domestic stores from a shop at the present time. The brandy and tobacco were carried up to Blatchington mill with the fishermen's nets and tackle, which always included one or two " fenders "-those bulgy conglomerations of fibrous rope, which are placed between the boats and landing stage to ease the wear and tear on the woodwork. The innocent fender is filled with oakum and old ropes, but, sad to relate, these fenders were not innocent. They were deceitful enough to contain tobacco stuffing and demijohns of brandy.

 

THE PRESERVATION OF WINDMILLS

Until recently a windmill with sails revolving in the wind was a common sight in most parts of England. Now it is a rare experience to see one, and unless some action is soon taken, to come across even a deserted mill will be an event indeed. Windmills were certainly in existence in England in the 12th century, probably much earlier, and it seems a pit? that such picturesque and interesting landmarks should altogether disappear.

It is the intention of the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings to get a complete record with photographs of all the windmills still existing in Great Britain, and to raise a fund so that a few good examples may be repaired and kept in order. There are, of course, many mills still working and paying their way, but as many farms now have their own grinding machines the miller's work becomes less until he cannot earn enough money to repair his mill when anything serious becomes necessary.

One of the oldest mills in Sussex is the postmill at Ashurst, which is fast falling into decay. Another fine mill threatened with destruction is at Bodle Street Green, a fine post and roundhouse mill with four sails. The owner seems likely to pull it down and sell the timbers.

Although mills with their intricate and fine machinery, a triumph of early engineering, are far more interesting when they are in working order, yet there is always the possibility of maintaining them as landmarks though their use is changed. If care is taken so as not to spoil their outside features, mills can easily be transformed into pleasant dwelling houses, tea shops, or as in the case of the Oldland Mill at Keymer, which the Sussex Archaeological Trust has turned into a museum.

The collecting of correct information and funds is difficult, and it would greatly assist the Society in its work if anyone who can obtain this would write to The Windmill Secretary, The Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings, 20, Buckingham Street, Adelphi, London, W.C.2.

From Sussex County Magazine 1929 Page 722

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MORE ABOUT SUSSEX WINDMILLS

MARY CRANFIELD

Only the interest of the subject and the writer's possession of a number of photographs and notes concerning Sussex windmills can be the excuse for attempting to add anything to the two articles in the October number of the SUSSEX COUNTY MAGAZINE.

 

IT is strange that we should have no use for our windmills in peace, for during the war they came into their own again, and in those economical days we were glad enough to grind corn in the old way by the wind which charged nothing for its power. In that time of need the windmills, like other veterans, were hastily sought out and set to do their old work again as best they might, and very well they did it; but not all the wholesomeness of honest stone ground flour saved them from sharing the fate of their fellow " dug outs," and finding themselves unwanted in a world at peace !

There must have been some anxious moments all over the country when sails and wheels that everyone believed to be still for ever began with creaks and groans to turn once more! Even Ringmer, whose downfall is one of the tragedies pictured in the October magazine, worked gallantly during the war years, and occasioned by its unwonted energy an arduous spy hunt by night over the Downs in search of the mysterious and elusive light that flashed out and disappeared with such suspicious regularity. No one remembered the old mill, or thought of a lighted window darkened periodically as the sails passed across it! It is only a few years ago that Ringmer fell a victim to a winter gale, and happily someone had imagination enough to save the great post on which it hung to be a landmark for miles round. There is beauty as well as pathos in the way its gaunt blackness cuts sharply into the sky and across the flowing, gracious lines of the distant hills.

Billingshurst Mill, like Ringmer, has left remains behind it that frequently nuzzle passersby unversed in windmill lore. In this case it is no post that still stands-for Billingshurst was built after the days of "post and socket "-but the solid octagonal stone foundation, looking far more like a ruined bit of fortification than a windmill, with the date, 1825, carved over the doorway. Halnaker, dating, it is said, from the time of Queen Anne the only weather-tiled windmill in Sussex-is another well-known landmark that at first sight is often taken for a ruined tower.

 

It is pleasant to turn from these sad relics to what is perhaps the only one of our Sussex windmills whose financial problems have been satisfactorily solved. A mill that can earn its own living in these days is to be respected, even if it does not do it quite in the way intended by its builders ! High Salvington, about which Mr. Beckett writes, has fallen into enterprising hands. This is, by the way, one of those mills whose post is a rooted tree, and the round house through which the huge post runs has been converted into a tea room. A notice invites any visitors who are interested to pay a small fee to inspect the mill above under the guidance of the owner, who is an enthusiast on the subject of mill engineering. The idea of complicated and delicate machinery made of wood is a strange one to us of the steel age, but it must be remembered that those were the days when even clocks worked, and kept very fair time too, with wooden wheels and pinions !

It was at High Salvington that I first learnt who, or rather what, was the real " Miller's Damsel "-the " Miller's Daughter " of song and tale-the " Miller's troublesome child " of those who had the tending of her. Much romance has grown out of the misunderstanding in the first instance of a technical term. The real "damsel " of the mill is none other than a certain small, but vitally important lever tethered by a knotted string and bobbin. The trouble of the miller's life was always the wind's uncertainty; for though he might, and did, harness the power of the wind for his use, yet the freedom of the wind was past any man's control. It is perhaps. after all, little wonder that the more subservient and obedient steam is now preferred. The "damsel " was the lever that controlled the flow of grain down between the grinding stones, and according to the ever varying force of the wind and the pace at which sails and stones were driven, so must the damsel's freedom of movement be restricted by fixing the controlling string and bobbin in one of a series of notches. By the constant tap, tap of its working, heard always above all other sounds of the labouring mill, the trained ear of the miller knew if the pace was right for the speed of the sails.

 

 

Never once must the "troublesome child " be forgotten or neglected. The penalties were serious : if more corn came down than the stones could deal with, they would be forced out of line and seriously damaged, while if the mill " ran dry," the danger of fire was still more grave. It was no mere formality that stamped the seal of the Fire Insurance Company on the main beam of every insured mill, for all fire appliances - such as they were - were the property of the companies, and were only used for buildings bearing their owner's seal.

It is not only in the mills themselves that the lover of windmills may pick up odd scraps of information about stray parts of them. It is surprising how often the worn, but unmistakable grooves on a round stone worked into a pavement will show it to be an old millstone. Millstones have found strange uses, but none stranger than that of some of the upper stones of the ancient hand mills, or querns, which are sometimes seen, hung by a cord passed through the central hole, over the door of barn or stable "for luck"; a position also occasionally occupied for the same reason by a far older pierced " hammer stone." It is an odd superstition this of the luck of objects with a hole through them. Even in these days people hesitate to part with a "lucky" sixpence. Upper millstones and cotton reels have apparently little to do with each other, but by their holes they are linked together. It was as a bringer of luck that the homely reel was first threaded on the string that held the keys of the house together, though the reason for adding that singularly inconvenient object has been long forgotten.

From Sussex County Magazine 1929 Page 775

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