Saturday, February 28, 2009

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

We’re archaeologists – no, more than that, we’re Wyre Archaeologists (Wyre Archaeologists are more distinguished and better looking than your average Joe Antiquarian), which means that we have unlimited access to those small, otherwise undisturbed nooks and crannies of the Fylde and Wyre that lesser mortals never get to see.
We’re also excellent friends now with Shirley Matthews (she’s Allen Clarke’s granddaughter, incidentally…tell you what, go and read the first part of this article if you haven’t already, it’ll save a lot of wear and tear on my wrists with needlessly repetitive explanations), so naturally we were invited into the inner sanctum of Little Marton Mill, beyond the heavy chain with the ‘No Entry’ sign attached to it, up the dangerous, rickety staircase leading ultimately to the rotating cap. (The cap runs round on a great big cogwheel attached to the top of the wall. It’s rather nifty.)

How’s that for impressive? (I’m impressed that my camera managed to capture the image at all, because usually it’s completely rubbish.)
Those are the inner organs of the mill, the complicated digestive system responsible for converting the corn into flour and evacuating its bowels into sacks for the baker’s cart. (I probably could have phrased that better. The metaphor started off well enough, but degenerated quickly, and I was obligated to go along with it. Apologies to anybody reading this who might have just finished their tea.)

We could talk about the age of the bricks in the wall, but, at the time of writing, Michelle’s still investigating them. So we won’t bother.

We could talk about the huge display that Shirley had set up on the first floor detailing the mill’s known history and stuff (bah gum, she knows her stuff does Shirley).

But we won’t, because a picture is worth a thousand words, and the way I rabbit on that could only be a good thing:

No, instead we want to talk about an old chap we met (a thoroughbred Windmill Land character in the truest Allen Clarkeian sense) called Bill Nixon.
Owd Bill worked in the Malt House when he was young (adding testimony to Mr Clarke’s assertion that ‘they live long round in Windmill Land’), shortly after the mill itself had finished digesting its corn and evacuating…shortly after the mill had closed.

In those days Cornelius Bagot owned the mill. Mr Bagot was a close friend and cycling companion of Allen Clarke. When Mr Nixon started working in the Malt House sheaths of corn and mill sacks were, apparently, still scattered round the floor. That must have been somewhere around 1928 perhaps – over eighty years ago – so goodness knows how old Bill is.

Owd Bill told us about the day of the Queen’s Coronation, when he’d climbed the mill sails and erected a union jack on the top. He even showed us a photograph. I wish I had a copy of it to share with the rest of you, but unfortunately I don’t.

Instead we’ll have a photograph of Mr Nixon as he is nowadays, or at least as he was on Valentine’s Day 2009, standing outside Little Marton Mill with Michelle, on the very spot where the mysterious tunnel running from the Malt House to the mill’s cellar originally ran. (Owd Bill remembers using the tunnel, although for what purposes he didn’t elaborate.)

In case you’re wondering, those rows of holes in the side of the mill are where the sill was originally attached. (I’m still not sure when and why it was removed. To be honest, I’m not even sure what it did in the first place. Note to self – must make enquiries.)
Back in Owd Bill’s prime the Malt House manufactured portacabins.

At least I think that’s what he said. He might have Poultry Bins or something. Michelle’s handwriting is bit on the dodgy side at the best of times.

Anyhow, in 1937 (to return to our general history lesson) Cornelius Bagot donated the mill to the Allen Clarke Memorial Trust. (Obviously Allen Clarke had passed on by this time, otherwise it would have been a terrible faux pas on Mr Bagot’s part.) It was to be left as a ‘Perpetual Monument’ to our scribbling, cycling, dialectical mill enthusiast. A plaque commemorating the event was erected on the outside of the mill by Blackpool Corporation. (See…we got there in the end. I said we would.)

The exterior plaque nowadays is a replica of the original. The original is inside, where it’s safer.

So there we have it, a potted history of our visit to Little Marton Mill.

A great big thanks to Shirley for showing us around (especially the bit inside the rotating cap, that was fun). We have every intention of returning at some point for further investigations (and, with a bit of luck, some excavation work in search of that missing tunnel). If anybody wants to know more about the mill’s history (or Allen Clarke’s come to that), don’t forget to visit any one of Shirley’s websites (see the links in the right hand column).

We’ll leave you for now with one last photograph (once again illustrating the limitations of my camera) of some old machine or other on the first floor used for weighing something obviously heavy by the look of it:


shirley said...

Brian Part two excellent carry on from previous one. reason platform put on was to keep the large beasties that were lurking around Little Marton at that time safely away from the mill's activities. Cows were always banging into the long, long sails which whizzed past the lower door (think windy miller ducking and diving as he entered his mill in Trumpton yes I do have a life as well Brian) These mock sails on LMW are only 35 ft from the iron cross so double it! One little girl got caught by one of the sails of Great Marton Mill in the 1800s and was hoisted up and thrown high in the air into a field opposite, luckily she was wearing a crinoline so descended in elegant Mary Poppins mode and just a little bruised and embarrased. I have that pic (not the crinoline) for you Brian under a mountain of paperwork with flag on top will find it and post it you. Next Opening is in May so two days of attending to lintel infested tall men and women's heads. I think a larger sign would be better. Anyway do you and your site want to see a cheeky photo of the entrance (a rude message put on by the workmen when it was repainted last year) or should I spare you genteel law abiding antiquarin's (sounds like a type of dynasor? blushes.) Let me know and will whizz it over (personally the workmen's sign would be more appropriate.) Shirley

Brian Hughes said...


I always thought Windy Miller dodging his sails was just something that happened in the programme. I used to be glued to the set during Camberwick Green, waiting for Windy to get clobbered...especially after he'd been drinking his cider and had become 'a bit tired' as the narrator described it.

Best send me that photograph by e-mail first. If needs be I can replace certain letters with asterixes in Photoshop to save having to upgrade the site to a PG rating.

Incidentally, check out the forum. I've posted something for you there that you might find interesting.

Jayne said...

Was going to ask about the sill but Shirley did the job proper ;)

Brian Hughes said...


Aye...Our Shirley knows her windmills.

RVB said...

The inside images, despite the dodgy lighting, looks very welcoming - though a bit too reminiscent of a certain steampunk Cybership featured in the latest Who.

Brian Hughes said...


I think this is where the Cybermen nicked all their technology from.

John said...

Another excellent post, and fine tribute to Allen Clarke.

I do have a thing for underground passages, since my childhood attempts to excavate a secret passage under an old Pub and Inn where G, Washington and staff would make their escapes from the bad guys. So... looking forward to future posts, and watching the video as you swing the sledge into the Mill wall, revealing at last the missing tunnel and cellar. You'll probably find Kimmy Hoffa there, since we can't seem to find him over here.

Cheers, JOHN :0)

Brian Hughes said...


Our strategy will be to knock down the mill first, so that we can get a good clear area to work at without any cumbersome walls and stuff getting in the way. Then a few sticks of dynamite might come in handy for loosening the floor itself.

With a bit of luck we should make the international headlines with this one.

Jayne said...

Happy to send Feral Beast over to help dig.
He's rather handy with a mattock and shovel, deepening holes is his speciality.

Brian Hughes said...


I can't help thinking that, if we're excavating for a secret tunnel, we'll be happily digging away when one of us'll suddenly diappeared with a long, descending scream. I'll be supervising rather than actively participating in this one, I think.

John said...


I think that knocking down the Mill would be a bit drastic, wouldn't it? I mean, what's a cellar without the building on top?

Just tap on the walls until you hear a hollow spot, and then ask Shirley if you can'open it up a bit' to see what's there.

Otherwise you'll definitely make the news when Shirley catches up with you.

Can you imagine what you'll find in that cellar? Maybe one of those hidey-hole priests you told us about in your book, who got sealed away in the walls? Or maybe some vintage flour bags for the museum?

Either way, I'm looking forward to it. The suspense is kind of like when Geraldo opened up Al Capone's vault.

Cheers, JOHN :0)

Jayne said...

Maybe it'll be antiquated priests garbed in flowing flour bags, having survived on just the ancient (and expensive) scotch whisky stored in the cellar?!

Brian Hughes said...


"I mean, what's a cellar without the building on top?"


"Maybe one of those hidey-hole priests you told us about in your book..."

It'd be a murder scene if that was the case John. The Catholic persecution ended several centuries before the current mill was contructed.

"The suspense is kind of like when Geraldo opened up Al Capone's vault."

There's no answer to that.


"...having survived on just the ancient (and expensive) scotch whisky stored in the cellar?!"

Father Jack springs to mind.

Ozfemme said...

Where did the mysterious tunnel lead, I wonder?

Smugglers? Priests? Smuggling Priests?

Loved the picture of the big wheel. It looks like modern art with weird faces in.

word verification : evock. (ative)

Brian Hughes said...


It ran from the cellar of the mill to the malt house...about fifty feet as far as I can work out. Can't help wondering if it just contained the loo to be honest.

shirley said...

it was an undergroud tunnel to the kiln house where they dried the shafts of wheat/con over tiles and there will be kiln tiles down there now as ir has never been taken beyond ground level also cellar beneath the concrete bed stone was placed into said concrete. Just writing the history of milling at LMW Shirley

Brian Hughes said...


"Just writing the history of milling at LMW."

I can tell.