Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Valentine’s Day at t’ Leetle Mill int’ Marton: Part One

“We pass the cross-roads where the signpost points to Weeton, and following the road to Kirkham, are soon at Little Marton Mill – three miles from Blackpool Town Hall.”
Allen Clarke ‘Windmill Land’

Yes, I know we’re keeping company with that famous Lancashire scribe Allen Clarke again (who regular readers – surely we’ve got at least one regular reader to this board somewhere – will already be aware was one of my all time favourite authors ever, although, in this instance that’s probably just a coincidence -- or possibly serendipity -- or whatever the correct phraseology is), but how could we possibly write an article about Little Marton Windmill (which, in case you hadn’t already realised, is what this article’s about) – an article set on Valentine’s Day, no less, and what with Allen Clarke himself being an old time romantic -- without including mention/a quotation from/a passing nod to the great man himself. (I’m completely knackered after that sentence. I could do with a lie down now.)
You see Little Marton Mill is actually dedicated to Allen Clarke (it sports two plaques testifying to this fact, one on the inside of the mill and the other on the out). How excellent is that, having a windmill dedicated to you?
“Why is it dedicated to him?” you ask. Well, we’ll get to that in a minute – if I don’t wander too far from the point and forget about returning to the subject that is.
Before we proceed, however, let’s have a photograph, courtesy of Allen Clarke himself (although his original version, I suspect, was a lot clearer than this one – this one’s turned out a bit speckled and blobby because photographs from old books seldom reproduce well on modern scanners):

We’ve nicked borrowed this particular picture from our copy of Windmill Land, so if we start receiving letters from Shirley’s lawyer we’ll know what’s in ’em before we open ’em.
Shirley is Allen Clarke’s granddaughter, by the way, in case you really haven’t read this board before. It was ’er what invited ust down t’ mill fert Valentine’s Day int’ first place. (Damn it! I’m slipping into Lancashire dialect again. This always happens when Allen Clarke’s got anything to do with these postings. He’s a bad influence on mon, am tellin’ thee!)
Want to see how the Edwardian version of the mill compares with our modern day version? Fair enough, here’s our own photograph, taken on a thoroughly modern digital camera on a typically old fashioned, thoroughly grismal February the fourteenth:

Notice anything different? (There are no prizes for spotting, just give yourself a pat on the head…unless you’re reading this in a public library, of course, in which case just smile pleasantly to yourself otherwise the librarians might boot you into the street under the impression that you’re drunk.)
There are four major differences in all (at least, there are four major differences as far as this article’s concerned – there are probably others, but bear with us on this).
Firstly, the mill’s only wearing three sails nowadays. (Apparently the fourth is in the process of being rebuilt.)
Secondly, the lower part of the mill is decorated with a number of cheerful pink hearts. These were added especially for Valentine’s Day (how romantic is that?) -- not something the miller back in Edwardian times would have bothered with much, I suspect – along with the inflatable bottle of champagne that you can’t really make out in the photograph, but was hovering (slightly menacingly perhaps) in an almost Pink Floyd Porcine-like manner above the door.
Thirdly, the old Malt House has long since been demolished, along with its mysterious, spooky tunnel that, back in olden times, connected the Malt House to the mill’s now missing cellar. (How can you lose a cellar? I’m not sure about that one…I need to ask Shirley about it, I reckon.)
Fourthly, there’s no sill any more. (Just hearts!) I’m not sure when the sill was removed (or even why it was removed) but it does explain why the front door is only about five foot tall and anybody exceeding this height requires a crash helmet to successfully navigate the entrance. We were handed one on arrival. I accepted mine with my usual grumpy reticence regarding clothing that doesn’t meet with my fashion requirements, muttering, “I’m an archaeologist. I’m used to handling inaccessible locations. I don’t need th…”
The final word was curtailed by the deafening smack of my head on the lintel. Fortunately for my frontal lobes, despite my protestations, I’d actually half-donned said crash helmet just in the nick of time.
But we’re outpacing ourselves here, as always. Let’s have some history before we get carried away.
We’re plagiarising stealing half-inching lifting borrowing this information from the ‘Mill Guide’ that Shirley handed us once we managed to stumble inside the building.
Little Marton Mill was first recorded on Yates’s map of 1786.
Actually that might not be correct. Michelle discovered a document when she should have been working, relating to the miller in Little Marton in 1780, and, because it’s unlikely there was another mill in Little Marton around that time, as far as we know that might have been the first time the mill was ever recorded.
This is what Michelle does at work all day. She considers it more productive than filing bureaucratic forms into bottomless drawers, which are then left to moulder for forty-odd years before being tipped into some landfill site somewhere for the rest of eternity.
On the other hand, Shirley's also informed us that there might be reference dating back to 1610 regarding the mill.
Whtever the case, we haven’t had a photograph for a while. Let’s remedy that:

That’s the old millstone, that is, set into the floor just inside the entrance. (We are slowly making our way into the building, see?)
Back to our history. A document dating to February the nineteenth 1831 offered the widow, Nancy Whalley, and her son, John, an opportunity to rebuild their windmill (standing on two perches of land at Little Marton). Any bricks were to be locally made. That’d be because of the brick tax, probably. They’d tax anything back in those days.
Presumably it took Nancy and John some considerable willpower to gather the energy for the job, because it wasn’t until 1838 that the account books of Richard Blezard & Sons, Millwrights, Preston, recorded the rebuilding of Little Marton Mill at a cost of eight hundred and nine pounds, eleven shillings, one and half pennies.
We’re running out of space here.
My apologies to Phil (or as Allen Clarke would have it, the Master Butcher) but this is going to be a two-parter by the looks of things. (The Master Butcher doesn’t approve of two-parters. He prefers to live in the perpetual hope that the next article along will be better than the previous one because it’s covering a different subject. It hasn’t happened yet, but he’s ever optimistic.)
One last photograph for the road then, (this time of the exterior dedication plaque to Allen Clarke – see, we hadn’t forgotten about it…we just haven’t got the room to accommodate the explanation behind it yet – complete with part of the helium-filled champagne bottle) and (if you happen to be passing and fancy dropping round for the conclusion of this article) we’ll catch up with you lot again in a few days' time.


Jayne said...

These are quite picturesque, this type of mill; were they as productive as the water-driven ones?

Anonymous said...

I agree with Jayne. Though it'd be awesome if it was located in the centre of a forest - not a paddock.

Brian Hughes said...


Tower mills (as they're called) were, presumably, a lot more productive than watermills because often they relaced them. Eventually a lot of the tower mills were replaced themselves by steam-driven mills. I'm not sure what came next...nuclear mills?


I'm sure it'd be more picturesque, but ultimately useless as the forest would act as a windbreak and then the mill wouldn't work. Best place for a windmill would be on the top of a barren hillside, I suspect.

John said...

What a lovely wee mill... Little is indeed an appropriate name.

As for the tunnel underneath, leading to the cellar, didn't I just say last post that you need to tell us more about these things? Thanks for obliging! They always had secret passages in them days, to avoid Bobby Law, or just to make things easier.

Anyways, looking forward to part II, and hoping you'll find that missing cellar. I suggest searching for depressions in the yard, and not driving over them like me and me friend Rob once did... we tried turning around in a churchyard, and the car suddenly started sinking into the ground, and stepping out of the car my leg went into the ground up to my thigh, and the towtruck squeeled and... oh, it's a long story, that one. Needless to say, there may have been a secret or missing cellar in that churchyard as well, so if you're looking for one, don't do it by car.

Cheers, JOHN :0)

Brian Hughes said...


"...stepping out of the car my leg went into the ground up to my thigh..."

Sounds like something off Polterguist.

The 'Little' in Little Marton Mill, incidentally (despite what I might have written in the title of this post when I was three or four sheets to the wind) actually refers to Little Marton as opposed to the size of the mill. It's about average for windmills round these parts, I reckon.

"They always had secret passages in them days, to avoid Bobby Law..."

Clandestine flour smuggling...not sure if it'd make a good subject for a thriller or not, that one.

Jayne said...

Miss Marple and the Self Raising Flour Gang...the mystery Agatha Christie never talked about....

John said...

Once upon a time, secret or not so secret passages existed in lots of places, for many reasons. Sometimes it was easy to use natural caves or tunnels to bring supplies in from the river, and sometimes people needed to bring in supplies or people in secret.

It's plausible, so there's no need to make fun of me with tales of flour smugglers.

Truth be told, though... if someone were smuggling flour through the Little Milton Windmill and Tea Spa, it probably would be an interesting story,

I'd like to hear it! JOHN :0)

Brian Hughes said...


I read that one. It was very corny.


Who's making fun of you? The flour smuggling industry was all the rage once. So much so in fact it almost put the potato cake mines out of business.

Jayne said...

Smuggled in Britain as recently as WW2

John said...

Thanks for verifying my words, Jayne!

Tea and Flour smuggling.... hah!

Put that in your sceptical pipe and smoke it, Brian. ;0)

Now, give us some dirt on Fleetwood smugglers, why dontcha?

JOHN :0)

Brian Hughes said...

Jayne & John,

"A small time flour smuggler, years later, at a Border Post, boasted of his clever escape."

There's many a true word spoken in jest, apparently...often without even realising it.

Nowadays the only stuff smuggled in Fleetwood appears to be drugs for skanky codheads to further destroy their meaningless lives. (As you might have gathered we're having trouble with one such moron at the moment across the road from us. I'll be hanging out the bunting as soon as the coppers cart him off a meat wagon for preference.)

shirley said...

Hi all and thanks Brian for giving feedback on your romantic interlude in the mill. Lots going on H & S being round the mill with Heritager Officer and Buildings Inspecter and little bunny girl Ann and yours pink furry truly. Yes we might get those stairs secured for a visit up top Hurrah!! A new disabled toilet is on the agenda (did you or Michelle sample the one already installed.) which is a shout after each ablution as the pipes are so old we are only allowed one flush then switch off and so on. good people leveller that one. The Mayor declined a royal flush!! Hey Brian she won the bottle of 10yr old malt on the raffle. The powers that be have agreed the cellar will still be down there and the secret (ooh I feel a famous five moment coming on ) passage should still be there.
last thing there was a lot of scullduggery Jayne and John with corn as Blezzard was owed a sack of corn from his job and never received it. could still be in the cellar with kiln tiles. Bye the way one bloke of considerable size was helping in the mill and had his hat on all day dipping and swooping at every stair well and waved goodbye took said hard hat off and Bang that lintel got him full on the forehead nobody has heard from him since we the pink angels administered first aid. He was last seen staggering up the rd in drunken mode. Shirley

Brian Hughes said...


"...did you or Michelle sample the one already installed."

I didn't realise there was one. If I'd have known that I wouldn't have startled that rabbit in the bushes outside.

"...she won the bottle of 10yr old malt on the raffle."

Political rigging, I reckon. I should have won that.

"He was last seen staggering up the rd in drunken mode."

Followed closely by the Lady Mayoress, no doubt.

Part Two just been posted above this you'll probably have gathered by now.