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Page 6

Newsletter 120, Spring 2018    © Hampshire Mills Group



Mill news, updates and short reports



Fire at Bere Mill, Whitchurch


The 18th century Bere water mill has been gutted by a severe fire, which damaged the ground floor, first floor, and roof of the farmhouse and mill.  Happily no one was hurt in the fire which broke out on the evening of February 7 2018.   Hampshire Fire and Rescue said crews had fought to save parts of the historic building and would remain at the scene damping down.

Bere Mill is now a family home that opens its gardens to the public.  It was the original paper mill for Portals, the company which first supplied notes to the Bank of England in 1718.


Hampshire Fire & Rescue Service


HMG has written to the owner conveying our sadness at this devastating event.  In reply, the owner reports that the mill mechanism has largely survived the fire, and is now fully exposed, although the cast iron ratchet mechanism has been cracked and the wooden base burnt through.  He hopes to be able to restore this and get back to a working turbine.


Whitchurch Silk Mill News


Here is some ongoing news from Whitchurch Silk Mill about what the builders, Mountjoys, have been doing.  Permission to work on the Mill was granted with an Environment Agency condition that none of the scaffolding poles nor any builder could enter the water.

The shop’s conversion into a new Welcome Building, housing a café and brand-new shop, has begun with the opening up of the back wall to create a wide doorway which will take visitors out on to a new boardwalk leading to the Mill building.  A special type of scaffolding has been erected which takes into account the proximity of builders to fast-moving water and also the protection of the river and its banks.


Footings have been put in place, ready for the base of a crane that will lift scaffolding beams to create a platform across the roof, to support the bell tower while it is being restored.  The old river bridges have been removed, some replaced with temporary bridges, which will stay until ready for installation of brand new ones.


A new exhibitions and events store cupboard has been constructed above the waterwheel, in the space formerly occupied by the carpenter’s workshop display.  A new doorway to the Tackler's Workshop from the Weaving Shed is being constructed (right) and the old stairlift and staircase into the carpenter’s workshop have gone.  Electrical work has begun, with the old fuse boards being updated to meet modern specifications.



St Monans Windmill


Alan Cullen


On a recent visit to Scotland in December I paid a visit to St Monans Windmill. It lies just a few hundred yards east of the beautiful village of St Monans, which overlooks the Firth of Forth.  There has been a windmill on this site since the 1550s as it was used in the production of salt.  The purpose of the mill was to pump sea water up wooden pipes into the panhouses.  Using locally mined coal each panhouse would have a furnace lit so the water would evaporate and leave the salt.  Wagon lines took the salt to the local docks at Pittenweem and returned with coal.


The salt industry was dogged by many problems of fires in the coal mines, loss of the wagon lines, and latterly the tax system which was altered so that production was cheaper in England.  Salt was a highly sought-after commodity and was stored in bonded buildings very much like whisky is today.


The life of the windmill pumping sea water lasted till the salt pans ended in 1823.  This left the stump of the mill which was restored and reroofed in the 1980’s.  Its main use now is as a coastguard look-out hence the replacement of sails by an aerial to assist in radio contact.

St Monans Windmill with aerial mounted as if on the windshaft.  Note the windows all around top for a better view over the Forth.


The salt pans were housed in 9 buildings on the raised beach below the windmill.  These are the remains of the mounds that the panhouses were built on


Editor’s note:  The Forth Basin, with its abundant coal supplies to fire saltpan furnaces and its direct shipping routes to Northern Europe, was Scotland’s main area of salt production for some 800 years.  The St Monans works became the third largest salt producer in Fife.  The legacy of salt extraction remains mostly in a series of place names alongside the River Forth involving "pan" or "pans".  The most well-known of these is Prestonpans, where industrial salt extraction continued until as recently as 1959.


Reigate Heath Windmill


Andy Fish

Reigate Heath Windmill is a grade 2* listed post mill situated on a golf course in Flanchford Road, just off the A25 between Dorking and Reigate.  It has been restored and is used as a chapel and is thought to be the only windmill in the world which is a consecrated church.

The present windmill was built about 1753 and was marked on maps dated 1753 and 1762.  It was last worked by wind in April 1862 and in 1880, the roundhouse was converted into a chapel known as ‘St Cross’ to cope with an influx of parishioners to St Mary's Parish Church Reigate.  The first service took place on 14 September 1880.

In 1891 the mill was offered for sale, and in 1900 was bought by Reigate Golf Club, who then leased the mill back to the church.  In 1926 a sail broke.  New sails were fitted in 1927 by Mr Morley, a millwright from Crawley, at a cost of £360, and a dummy fantail was fitted, a feature the mill never had during it working life!

In 1943 the sails blew off again and were not replaced, although repairs were made to the mill in 1949.


A survey of the mill carried out in 1952 revealed that although the roundhouse was in a good condition, the mill was not.  Recommendations made included the replacement of the weather beam which had been penetrated by rot to a depth of at least 3 inches.

A survey of the mill carried out in 1952 revealed that although the roundhouse was in a good condition, the mill was not.  Recommendations made included the replacement of the weather beam which had been penetrated by rot to a depth of at least 3 inches.

Further restoration took place in 2002, including another set of new sails and repairs and strengthening of the mill.  The mill was awarded third place in the 2003 Green Apple Awards and on 22 September 1984 the first wedding to be performed at the church was by Rev Thompson.  The newly-weds were Diana L Chiles and Andrew C Bartlett.

Photos by Andy Fish, December 2017.




Replica Mill Wheel at Havant


Andy Fish


Further to the article in the Winter 2017 newsletter here is an update on the works to the ‘Replica Mill Wheel at Havant’.

After 30 years parts of the wheel became rotten and it was in danger of collapsing.  Following an initiative by Postcode Publications Ltd, PMC Construction & Development Ltd generously agreed to sponsor the removal and restoration of the wheel by their apprentices Joe Clapp and Billy Stillwell.  The new wheel was unveiled on 12 December 2017.


Ralph Cousins

For more information see http://thespring.co.uk/media/3245/81-havant-mills-final.pdf

Editor’s note:  Sadly the wooden axle is resting directly on the brickwork and if the water normally flows at the level shown in the photo then the wheel makes no contact with the water at all.

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