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 its...er…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: