National Mills Weekend 2012 – visiting The Great Mill at Haddenham, Cambridgeshire.
This weekend has been National Mills Weekend in the UK.
I only realised that this was the weekend – but I was able to make the journey to The Great Mill at Haddenham, just 5 miles from me. The weekend also coincided with Haddenham’s ‘Blossoms and Bygones’ event, so the village was decked in bunting, musicians, fair rides and vintage vehicles.
I’d been to the Mill a couple of years previously and the current owners were very kind to show me around this 5-storey mill both then and now.
The reason I first went along originally was because of the unfortunate and violent death of my Gt x 5 Grandfather, Philip Newman, a miller and baker, died when he was caught in the workings of a mill.
The mill (seemingly known most recently as ‘Neville’s Mill’) where he met his gruesome end no longer stands, but The Great Mill was standing opposite ‘killer mill’ back in 1809 when the accident happened. I wanted to find out what it would have been like to be inside a windmill similar to the one that my ancestor would have worked.
The Great Mill was built in 1803 by Daniel Cockle, and it’s still clear today as to what an engineering feat it was, with cogs, wheels, bells, sails all over the place – each with their own specific purpose in cleaning grain, moving it around, grinding it, sifting it etc.
The Mill was handed down through the Cockle family for almost 100 years until 1901 when it passed to the Peters family. It then moved on to the Lawrance family in 1906 until becoming unloved in 1980.
It stood derelict until 1992 when it was restored. 20 years on, and the Mill is undergoing a new restoration with the kerb (the part up in the top that allows the entire cap and sails to change direction) needing some attention.
The current owners are busily restoring it, and hope to one day have it working again like the one a few miles away in Wicken (which i visited on National Mills Weekend in 2010).
If you’ve never been inside a windmill, i recommend it. It is cramped, there are lots of awkward stairs/ladders to navigate, but it’s a wonderful experience. I imagine that millers like my ancestor Philip, would have been able to quickly ascend and descend those ladders, fueled by necessity.
If you’re lucky to go into a windmill with its sails working, then you will soon realise the sheer power and complexity of them. And you’ll realise too that they aren’t noisy.
Where once every village had a windmill, there are just a scattered few. The cheaper costs of importing grain from the likes of Australia in bulk and then milling it at the UK ports rather than sending vast amount of grain inland, quickly terminated the nation’s windmills and made our millers jobless. By the end of the 1940s/50s, working windmills were all but a thing of the past.
The Newman family of Cambridgeshire are this week’s Geneabloggers topic for ‘Surname Saturday’ – a story of illegitimacy, windmills and dinosaur poop.
A killer windmill, illegitimacy and dinosaur poop all play a part in shaping my paternal Newman family of Cambridgeshire.
My earliest known ancestor (so far) was John Newman, the husband of Hannah (née Squire). They lived in and were married in Fenstanton, Huntingdonshire (as it was then in 1750). There’s no record of any earlier Newmans before this date and after parenting my ancestor Philip in 1760, there doesn’t seem to be another mention of them again.
When Philip reached 19yrs old he marries Lydia Ingle in Haddenham, Cambridgeshire in 1779 and they begin a family together. However, after their sons Thomas and Philip are born, baby Philip and Lydia die – both being buried on the same day in Somersham. This appears to leave Philip (senior) with his young son Thomas.
In September 1785, Philip re-marries, to Elizabeth Whitehead of Haddenham. The couple soon grow their family – having six children, although sadly their first (William) and fourth and fifth (Robert and James) children do not survive infancy. This leaves two daughters (Ann and Rebecca) and William.
In 1809 tragedy struck as Philip, working as a Miller at the mill of William and Robert Pate of Haddenham on 20th July 1809 “was caught in the works of his mill, and unfortunately killed” – as reported by the Cambridge Chronicle, dated 22nd July 1809. Philip was promptly buried the following day at Haddenham parish church where the register notes him as being both a miller and a baker. He was 49 years old.
The mill (known most recently as ‘Neville’s Mill’) no longer stands, although the windmill (The Great Mill) opposite the site is still standing and is being lovingly restored – well worth a visit to see what working in a mill may have been like.
Having lost her father to the horrific sounding windmill accident at the age of about 5yrs, Rebecca Newman gave birth to a son Charles Newman in Somersham at only about 16 years of age. Whilst she was not married, parish records name an ‘Elias Dann’ as the father.
Rebecca does not go on to marry Elias, as it would seem that Elias may have already been living with his wife in nearby Wilburton. Being a fatherless teenage single mother must have been excruciatingly difficult for Rebecca in the 1820s. However, by 1826 she had married John Seymore of Haddenham and bore him two daughters.
It appears that illegitimate Charles Newman was fully aware of who his father was, as he names him when he marries Emma Levitt at Swaffham Bulbeck, Cambridgeshire in 1847. The couple also name their youngest son ‘Elias Newman’. The couple remain in the village, with Charles becoming a blacksmith, and have six children.
Coprolites (fossilised animal dung) were found to be excellent sources of fertilizer in the 1840s. Digging them soon became big business in the fens during the mid 19th century, although it began to decrease by the 1880s. Massive manual labour forces were needed to trace and dig out the seams of dung (you can even buy them today on ebay!) and my Newman relatives briefly became part of the workforce.
The 1871 census lists Alfred Newman (the son of blacksmith Charles Newman and Emma Levitt), along with his brother Charles as a ‘Coprolite Digger’. By the time of the next census though, the industry has downsized and neither are digging for dung.
In 1877, Alfred Newman marries Harriet Cooper in Ely, Cambridgeshire. It is here where the Newman family has reached today – with many descendants of their large family still in the city and surrounding villages.
The Newman family faced terrible tragedies, but they have survived.
An unusual surname lives on through large families and a drive for business.
My maternal great grandmother gives me my connection to this unusual surname of Yarrow. She, Maude Yarrow, was born just over 110 years ago, living to the ripe old age of 104 – an age that is not unlike those reached by her many siblings – some of whom are still alive today.
During the Victorian era, my Yarrow relations were concentrated in the villages of Little Thetford and Stretham, just a few miles outside of Ely, Cambridgeshire. Here they seemed to have dealings in practically every business going – pubs, shops, farms, church, school, dairy, brewing, charities for the poor, musicians, railways, parish council and even the parish’s census returns.
The Yarrow family owned and ran both The Wheat Sheaf and The Three Horseshoes pubs over the years, often alternating ownership between them and the Dewsbury family. Neither pub is operating now.
The Yarrow name, despite being unusual, was relatively common in these fenland parts due to large families. Despite riots in Little Thetford during 1833, then inclosures in 1844 benefited the family when they gained large areas of land – with William Yarrow receiving the second largest chunk of land (45 acres) after Mary Hammond (60.5 acres), and another Yarrow member receiving a smaller chunk. This event would inevitably set them up as major land owners and employers, as well as influential people in the parish.
A Victorian boy-band?
During the late 1800s my Gt Gt Gt Grandfather, James Yarrow, is well recorded as having performed and travelled with his “fine alto voice” accompanied by his equally able brothers, Owen, William and Albert. Newspaper reports praise their regular performances and fine singing voices. I can only assume that they were some kind of early boy-band! Whilst Albert is noted as being an organist at one point, William eventually moves north, where he is a key member of the choir – performing for Kings at Liverpool Cathedral.
Both myself and my mother both have musical skills and it’s a nice thought that perhaps this is where it comes from.
In my ancestry, it is the Yarrow family that appear to have had the largest families. My own Gt Grandmother was one of 15 live-born children – none of whom were twins, and most survived into adulthood. She claimed that there were 21 children, but church records don’t support this (although this might not cover still-born or miscarriages). Meanwhile, her aunt and uncle – John ‘Jack’ William Yarrow and his wife Amy Ann (née Howard) had a family of nine children too. Of those that did survive their first years, reaching the ages of 90 and 100 is very common, which suggests that perhaps the Yarrow genes have an air of longevity to them.
Looking at the Yarrow families of the late-Victorian era, there is a higher frequency of female births, which may suggest a reason why the surname has become uncommon/unusual, with daughters adopting married names.