“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):
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.
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.