A week before the tour all was not well as two private mill owners said that we could not now inspect their mill and another owner could not be contacted. With much rearranging of maps and route papers, and fingers crossed, I handed out the revised sheets to members and guests assembled at Jill Post Mill on a bright, beautiful morning.
The Tunnel from the Granary to Jack Windmill
After tea, coffee, cakes and biscuits we went first to Jill's neighbours, Duncton and Jack Tower Mill. The owner was there to greet us and took us to the granary, then through the famous tunnel under Jack then on under Duncton's roundhouse. The tunnel was used to transport the grain and meal between the granary and the mills.
Before going into Jack, Duncton's roundhouse was inspected although nothing original remains inside. Simon Potter was at Jack to point out salient features; a fan blade used as a hatch cover, World War II window black-outs, the windows glazed on the outside, guttering at the base of the tower under the metal sheeting, the worn and twisted steps and the chapel. Very interesting as expected.
The roundhouse of Duncton Windmill
Jill was then visited; unfortunately although looking wonderful with the shutters closed, there was no wind to turn the sweeps.
After a photograph of the members who joined the tour was taken it was onto Woods Watermill.
Inside, Woods Watermill has been beautifully restored as a meeting/training facility for the Sussex Wildlife Trust. Where possible the original structure and machinery parts have been retained to show that the building was once a very fine mill. She worked until 1927, latterly by steam. Last autumn renovation work was carried out to the penstock and waterwheel but further work is needed to bring sufficient water to the mill for the wheel to turn.
Lunch was in keeping with tradition with everyone on the tour taking refreshments together at the Frankland Arms at Washington before going onto Rock Smock Mill remains.
The mill dates from around 1826/7 and when working was fitted with one-and-a-half sets of shuttered sweeps driving two pairs of French burrs and one pair of peaks. Winding was by an eight-blade fan. Conversion to a residential property was carried out just after the First World War. Between 1954 and 1962 the mill was the home of the composer John Ireland. Until last year she served as offices for BIFFA, owners of the sand/waste pits that now surround her. Although no machinery remains, members were interested in how the smock was constructed. It was also a mill that many had not visited or been in. A BIFFA representative answered members' questions on the history of the site and future developments. It was pleasing to see how large landfill sites can be successfully turned back into green fields.
The tower of Rock Smock Mill
Rackham Watermill was the next mill visited, which still contains much of its machinery. She was built in the 18th century on probably a very old site and closed in 1925. Unfortunately, access was denied and we had to be content with taking photographs through an open window. The owner's insurance company advised against us entering the mill. Sadly the 4.42 m. diameter, 1.22 m. wide iron overshot waterwheel, cast by the Hardham Foundry, has deteriorated. The penstock and sections of the cast iron box channel aqueduct are broken. Once there was a small millpond fed from Parham Lake, but it has long gone.
Better fortune awaited us at Aldingbourne Water Mill as we were able to fully explore the site. The watermill worked for many years in the 1800s, together with Aldingbourne windmill. It was built in the 19th century on the site of previous watermills going back to the 16th century. In the final working years a steam engine was used. This and its boiler were housed in a lean-to added to the side of the mill. The mill closed in 1914. Much of the internal machinery, including the millstones survives, but, like Rackham Water Mill, its 2.74 m. diameter, 2.13 m. wide overshot waterwheel, manufactured by J. Chorley of Midhurst, is in a very sorry state.
Prior to Christmas the owner was going to open Barnham Tower Mill for us, subject to him still owning the site. Unfortunately he could not be contacted and so the brief visit was for taking photographs of the outside. The future of the mill looks rather bleak despite having had much well executed restoration work completed over recent years, contrary to a report in the SPAB Newsletter. The problem is, seemingly, a greedy owner of the adjacent car park area making it unviable for the mill owners to continue. Currently there is a planning application for four residential houses. The date when the mill was built is difficult to assess. It could be 1790, as a previous owner maintains, or in the late 1820s according to a contemporary news item. She worked until 1890 with two spring and two common sweeps. The tower was heightened by 45mm. and a new cap and larger patent sweeps fitted.
At the end of the day the wind had just got up to stir the trees and as we arrived at High Salvington Post Mill the sweeps were just rotating. Members had time to investigate this very interesting mill with her unique features and look at the restoration work being carried out on the recently acquired Glynde Wind Pump.
Finally, we sat outside in the still warm sunlight taking refreshments looking at a Sussex post mill work. Can you think of a better way to end the day?
Glynde Wind Pump
Again, as always, it was a pleasure to arrange the tour for such knowledgeable mill enthusiasts.
Special thanks go to Dr. Deering at Jack, Simon Potter at Jill, Sussex Wildlife Trust at Woods Mill, BIFFA Waste Services Ltd. at Rock Mill, Mr. Farrow at Rackham Mill, Mr. & Mrs. Mackay at Aldingbourne Mill, Bob Potts and Peter Casebow at High Salvington Mill and all the very many volunteers that helped at the mills and made the day so pleasurable.
Text by Bob Bonnett
Photographs by Robin Jones, Peter Hill and Joan Hill