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A mill at this site is first mentioned on Budgen's map of 1724.

The mill was partially rebuilt in 1869, which gave the opportunity for much of the early machinery to be upgraded. The mill ceased work in 1966, but recent work by Les Thorpe and his son Lee has resulted in a full restoration with plans to have the mill fully operational.

A picture-postcard view of Cobb's Mill dating from c. 1900

A picture-postcard view dating from c. 1900

 
The iron overshot wheel measuring 11ft diameter by 6ft 10in wide, is fed by the waters of both the Danworth and Langton Brooks. The water is channelled along a cast iron pentrough (inscribed 'H. Cooper 1868') from where it is fed by twin iron pipes onto the wheel. The mill operated with four pairs of stones (one pair French Burr and three pairs of Composition) driven from a layshaft. However it is the 50HP Tangye four-stroke, single cylinder suction gas engine, which was installed in 1906, that is the great attraction here. This ran in conjunction with the waterwheel and at one time there was a gas producing plant in an adjacent brick building. Modern Health and Safety legislation and exorbitant insurance costs have meant that this is no longer permissible or viable and so Propane is used as the fuel. A group of dedicated enthusiasts are restoring the old gas engine.

The following is extracted from "Cobb's Mill - A short history"
produced by Les Thorpe

Cobb's mill is the most westerly of three watermills that stood on Danworth Brook, first Ruckford Mill - known on many pre-1850 maps as Avery's Mill after the original owner - in Hurstpierpoint and then Hammond's Mill in Clayton working upstream. These are all said to have medieval origins. The Domesday Book, compiled in the summer of 1086, provides documentary evidence that three mills (which could then only have been driven by water or animal power) stood at the time of the survey within the boundaries of the Manor of Herst, held by Robert de Pierpont as a vassal of William de Warenne. These have yet to be conclusively identified, but may well have been the Danworth Brook sites.

Cobb's Mill is an impressive watermill complex standing near the junction of Mill, Langton and Pookbourne Lanes at Sayers Common, Hurstpierpoint, Sussex. Waters diverted from nearby Danworth Brook (a headwater of the River Adur) supplemented by Langton Book, drove a mid-Victorian overshot waterwheel until work ceased in 1966.

Comparatively little is known about the history of the site prior to the nineteenth century however, Thomas Cobbe of Hurstpierpoint is listed in 1524 in the Subsidy Roll for the Hundred of Buntinghill and records of the Archdeaconry of Lewes, held in the East Sussex County Record Office (ACL vol. A3.fo.83) note the probate of his 1552 dated will on 29th May 1553. Cobbe, 'of the Paryshe of Hyrstpierpoynt' requested that his body was to be 'buryed in the churche earthe of Hyrst'.

The Hickstead estate records for 1605 refer to 'a Moiety [a division into two parts] of Berryland abutting on the Brook which runs from Cobb's Mill to Herrings Bridge on the North East on the lands of Thomas Avery', and court records of the Manor of Hurstpierpoint, noting that Henry Pickett owned Cobb's Mill on his death in 1845, note the ownership as 'Late Lindfields, before Ellins, before Weeks'.

Land Tax records indicate that John Lindfield owned Cobb's Mill in 1780, though the premises were occupied by a 'William Lindfield' who is assumed to have been his son. The leasehold passed to Nathaniel Avery (by 1785) and then Thomas Avery (1786) before reverting to William Lindfield by 1808, though Lindfield may have operated the mill throughout this period. However, Henry Pickett is named as the leaseholder in 1809.

When the Napoleonic Wars ended in 1815, Cobb's Mill was owned by Anthony Ede of Shermanbury, but had passed into the hands of his son, Thomas Ede, when the leasehold property was offered for sale in 1834. The Sussex Weekly Advertiser of 19th May 1834 records that the lease had been sold to Henry Pickett of Hurstpierpoint (son of the 1809 leaseholder ?) and, very soon afterward, the previous tenant, James Mitchell, had departed for Duncton post mill at Clayton.

A map of Sussex published by Richard Budgen in 1724 clearly shows 'Cabs Mill', and the perpetuation of the variant spelling 'Cabbs' on early Ordnance Survey maps has been linked with the inability of Budgen and his successors to transcribe a Sussex dialect in which 'o' was customarily pronounced much as 'a'. However, the name was often used correctly in local newspapers.

The Sussex Advertiser of 7th November 1865 notes that the leasehold of the property was being offered for sale at auction by the trustees of the 'Late Mr Edward Pickett', Henry Pickett's son. This notice of sale, which was to take place on 24th November in the New Inn, Hurstpierpoint, records the mill to have been a brick-and-timber structure driving four pairs of stones and also that it stood 'upon a Stream with a fine supply of Water and close to the Highroad, with Residence and Farm Buildings and large Gardens'. The tenant was still Charles Packham, probably the son of the 'Charles Packham' who had been active in 1834.

There is little doubt that the Packham family acquired the leasehold at this time, and had soon begun to improve the facilities, However, the descent of Cobb's Mill still remains questionable. An article in the March 1947 issue of Sussex County Life Magazine claims that the brothers Charles & Benjamin Packham (possibly sons of the 1834 tenant) were working in 1850, and that Benjamin and his nephew Charles Packham then worked from 1875 until 1881, when Benjamin left for Leigh Mill in Cuckfield. Charles Packham thereafter ran Cobb's Mill alone from 1881 until his death in 1912, being succeeded first by his widow (until 1922) and then by Charles Packham Ltd. It is interesting that marks made by William Packham survive within the mill, including one scratched into a window pane and another cut into a window sill that is additionally dated '1869'.


PLANT AND MACHINERY
Though much of the surviving machinery is Cobb's Mill is Victorian, there is no doubt that this was substituted for earlier gear. Budgen's map shows a much smaller mill / mill house complex on the same site, and part of the east wall of the tile-hung cottage appears to have late medieval origins. The cottage now links the Victorian mansion to the north with the mill building on the south, and clearly has late seventeenth-century origins. It is assumed that the pre-Victorian mill took a similar architectural form.

THE BUILDINGS
Cobb's Mill is now a mixture of dates and styles ranging from traces of medieval stonework (in the cottage and possibly also in the foundations of the mill) to the seventeenth-century tile-hung framing of the miller's cottage, the nineteenth-century elevations of the mill itself, and the imposing brickwork of the mansion added to the north in 1877.

THE FUTURE
Following the full restoration of the buildings, the waterwheel, the pentrough, gas engine house and running gear, it is intended to dedicate virtually the entire extensive ground floor to a museological development. Art work and graphics will demonstrate the life of Cobb's Mill from yesteryear, today and onwards along with displays of equipment and artifacts originally here at the mill.

Cobb's Mill machinery

Open Day at Cobb's Mill :  Photo by Nick Linazasoro Open Day at Cobb's Mill :  Photo by Nick Linazasoro

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Open Day at Cobb's Mill : Photographs by Nick Linazasoro