Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Mystery of Norbreck Mill

It’s reasonably safe to assume that our reader (singular) never realised that Norbreck had a windmill.
Well it did. After all, Norbreck is a part of the Fylde and therefore, it stands to reason, that it has its own mill.
Or rather, ‘had’ its own mill -- past tense.
It doesn’t nowadays, of course, but reference to it can be found in Alan Stott’s excellent ‘History of Norbreck and Little Bispham’, which informs us that: “John Allen in 1538 took a seventy year lease on more abbey lands, which included the windmill at Norbreck.”
Unfortunately that’s the mill’s only mention in legal documents for more than a century afterwards.
When it finally does reappear in an exchequer deposition of 1657 relating to the Fleetwood family, it was claimed to have been built only sixteen years previously, which raises the question as to whether or not it was the same mill. Let’s assume that it was for now, and that Edmund Fleetwood (mentioned as the previous owner in the deposition) ‘rebuilt’ it circa 1641.
By the time of the deposition itself (1657 in case you’d forgotten) Edmund Fleetwood was long since dead and the mill had passed into the ownership of his widow, Everill Heber.
Why do we mention all this when we’re usually the sort of people to steer as clear of genealogical lists as we would of Channel Five American made-for-television-movies? Because we’re trying to work out where the mill was located, that’s why, and, unfortunately, we’ll need this sort of information to accomplish the task.
Bear with us.
Suggestion has been made that the mill originally stood at the southern end of Norbreck Road, which back in those days probably ran a few hundreds yards further to the west than it does today (i.e. out over the beach where, four hundred years ago, the cliff tops would have reached.)
Let’s have a photograph of said location (albeit off the edge of the cliffs in the foreground, and suspended in mid-air as the temporal crow flies):


It’s a reasonable theory under the circumstances, but we’d like put forward an alternative. (Well, we have to be different just for the sake of it.)
Unfortunately Norbreck Mill wasn’t the only thing that passed into Everill Herber’s hands. Six hundred quid’s worth of debt was passed along with it, so, along with other sections of the Rossall Estate, the mill was sold off (in true Fylde coast nepotistic fashion) and ended up in the ownership of Reginald Heber.
None of which, worse luck, brings us any closer to discovering the mill’s whereabouts. However, one helpful clue appears in Norman Cunliffe’s ‘A journey through Bispham, Norbreck and Little Bispham’: “The Norbreck Mill has been described as being situated on a mound whilst elsewhere there is another reference to Norbreck Mill Hill.”
'Situated on a mound’ suggests a peg mill.
For those not fully conversant with ancient windmills, peg mills were generally wooden affairs based on an early mediaeval Dutch design, the entire building being pivoted on a central post, or ‘peg’, around which it could revolve in order to face the wind. These mounds, circular embankments around the base of the mill, generally housed the mill’s machinery.
Norbreck Mill Hill, of course, suggests a hilltop.
Right, back to our history lesson.
Reginald Heber, as mentioned above, put his manservant (watch it), Robert Gaulter (a sixty year old Norbreckonian husbandman) in charge of said mill. Robert Gaulter died in 1672, leaving the mill in the capable hands of his son Richard who, unfortunately, also shuffled off this mortal coil one year later in 1673. Another year later still and Norbreck Mill found its way into the possession of Robert Brodbelt, or rather was in the process of finding its way out of Robert Brodbelt’s possession, because that was the year he kicked the bucket. The mill now, along with ‘Haybers Tenements’, was bequeathed to Robert Brodbelt’s son-in-law Richard Smithson.
Pay close attention to the ‘Haybers Tenements’ bit. Haybers Tenements were obviously named after the previously mentioned Everill Herber/Reginald Heber etc. In the Victorian period, the area of the cliffs between Bispham tram station and Norbreck Castle was known as ‘Eagburg’ (as mentioned by William Thornber, the Victorian antiquarian). The same stretch was also mentioned in the Blackburn Mail of 1795 as ‘the cliffs of Egbert’.
Was this a corruption of the Haybers Tenements?
It might have been.
It’s a bit tenuous, perhaps, but who can say?
Regardless of this, somewhere around the same time the mill finally seems to have run out of wind and given up the ghost. Of the two known millers in the Norbreck area in the 17th century (John Anyon of Great Bispham who died in 1681 and William Brodbelt) neither appeared to be connected to Norbreck Mill (or were even working as millers) in 1676, the time of the census, suggesting that the mill was well and truly out of business by this point.
By the middle of the eighteenth century, Alexander Singleton (somewhat confusingly of Poulton) inherited most of the former Brodbelt estate, which included the windmill site, from his brother Edmund Singleton. Haybers Fields were described in deeds pertaining to the Brodbelt estate as being situated in the southwest of Norbreck.
Right, that’s the important bit. You almost missed it, didn’t you? (I can’t say as I blame you. Even I’m having difficulty staying awake.)
The southwest of Norbreck! That’s the end of Norbreck Road, next to the castle, right?
Well, no…that’s wrong actually. That’s the extent of Norbreck nowadays, but originally the southwest corner of Norbreck was designated as Hesketh Avenue, a boundary that, despite being well and truly planted in Bispham today, was agreed upon by the Ordnance Survey back in Victorian times.
Let’s have a Victorian photograph of Hesketh Avenue then, just to get our bearings. (I know Hesketh Avenue well, having lived there many years ago, although I probably knew the Highlands pub better.)

Just to add to the confirmation of Norbreck’s extent back in those days, Alexander’s son Edmund inherited the estate in 1768 and bought up the rest of the Brodbelt lands, including Cradley Slack Farm (now opposite Sainsbury’s on the other side of Red Bank Road) and a field called Whinny at the end of Beaufort Avenue, all described as being at the southern end of Norbreck.

A quick photograph of Beaufort Avenue for you, and then we’ll move on:


So, now that we’ve established that the southern extremity of the Brodbelt Estate was Redbank Road, this suggests that Norbreck Mill originally stood on the cliffs, where the Haybers Tenements had originally stood, somewhere close to where the Bispham Tram shelter now stands. As far as we know Bispham never actually had its own mill, probably because this particular location was ideally situated to serve both communities.
Mystery solved (in our opinion at least).
Of course, if anybody out there believes they know different...


26 comments:

BwcaBrownie said...

'Trouble ut mill' indeed. Rebuilt in 1641 eh? I am in a place which had no white occupant till 1835, and I am 500 yards from the oldest building in the region, an 1840 cottage.
and it's 100F degrees and the wind is roaring fit to break any mill* old or rebuilt. *The mills I can see are all wind-driven, and pump up bore water for livestock in paddocks.
Thanks Squire - for another historic blogpost

Andrew said...

Fleetwood family? Have you written about them and I have missed it? Btw, have much of the cliffs fallen into the sea?

Brian Hughes said...

Annie,

It's not exactly 100F here at the moment. Minus 100F perhaps. In fact it's only just stopped snowing, although Fleetwood does look very Dickensian and what-have-you under the snow.

Here's a couple of photos for you, taken yesterday morning...if you want to cut and past the address into your top bar, that is, because I can't remember the html code to create a direct link just at the moment:

http://fyldeantiquarian.freeforums.org
/merry-christmas-t373.html

Andrew,

The Fleetwoods are an old family round these parts (where Fleetwood itself got its name, of course)and I'm sure I must have mentioned them somewhere in the past, although don't ask me where.

As for how much of the cliffs have fallen into the sea, rather a lot I suspect. Let's put it this way, before they fell into the sea they weren't actually cliffs.

Fyldecoaster said...

Brian,

It’s nice to hear of the books of Norman Cunliffe and the late Alan Stott being studied so assiduously.

Being intrigued by your theory about the derivation of “Eagberg,” as mentioned by Thornber, I decided to ask Norman Cunliffe what he thought about it.

Perhaps surprisingly, he was dismissive of a connection between Reginald Heber and “Haybers Tenements,” as you name them. And, incidentally, you’ve weakened your argument slightly, as Norman himself refers to “Brodbelt’s Haighbers fields” and “one of the fields being in the Haighber area.” Norman’s spelling, which, knowing of something of the way he works, will have been taken from original deeds, is even closer to Thornber’s “Eagberg.”

Norman thinks that “Brodbelt’s Heighber” derives from “Brodbelt’s hey by ray” meaning “Brodbelt’s field in a corner” and he says that a field near Blackpool Road, Bispham, was similarly named in a deed.

I don’t know if he is right, but to my mind that doesn’t preclude the field name having lead to the cliffs in the area being called “Eagberg.” Thornber mentions that Charles Leigh referred to them as “Hagy-bar hills,” which is even closer to the field name. This would seem to be the earliest reference to them, if it does in fact appear in his Natural History of Lancashire (1700).

How were you able to consult the Blackburn Mail for 1795?

Brian Hughes said...

Fyldecoaster,

I must admit when I was writing this up I thought the Eagburg/Heyber connection was rather tenuous, but worth a bit of speculation on the side perhaps, because it's not actually pivotal to the location of the mill. The name 'Eagburg' has always intrigued me. Perhaps one day we'll uncover something more definite about its origins.

As for the 1795 Blackburn Mail...now you're asking difficult questions. We have notes for everything we write, mostly scrawled by Michelle on bits of paper such as the backs of shopping receipts, because she does all the research. She usually tells me the information's source, but if I don't write it down immediately then I forget, which is what I've done here. I really ought to be more thorough. If memory serves the name 'Egbert' was mentioned in an advert for some coach trip or other, but I can't remember exactly where we found the copy of the newspaper now. I'll ask Michelle at some point and see if her memory's better than mine.

Brian Hughes said...

Addendum: It seems that Kathleen Eyre's 'Seven Golden Miles' was the source for the Blackburn Mail quote. Not an original, direct quote, it must be said, but Kathleen Eyre's stuff is usually reliable.

John said...

You sure have a lot of information about a Mill you're not sure even exhisted, which is why I like this blog so much.... it actually seems like you're out in the field searching for clues, and finding them. Very exciting, and interesting!

In closing, let me just say that "Cradley Slack Farm" is a funny name for a farm, and I would love to hear mroe about where that name came from.

Nice photos, but where are the illustrations? Are you getting lazy, or just busy?

Merry Christmas, and welcome back!

Anonymous

Brian Hughes said...

John,

There'll be a few illustrations coming up in the next couple of weeks or so, I'm sure. As for Cradley Slack Farm, Cradley (presumably) was the owner's name, a slack is Olde English (I think) for a shallow depression or valley, and a farm is...well...a farm.

Happy Christmas John...and let's hope that 2010 sees an end to all our current problems, seeing as both you and I and those closest to us have all been through the wringer a bit too much for one lifetime this year.

John said...

You said it, Brian! 2009 will be given a fond farewell with raspberries, far as I'm concerned.

All the best to you and yours, and have fun at the Hughes family Christmas Eve party tonight. :0)

Brian Hughes said...

John,

That'll be me, Michelle and the cats then, eating sausage rolls and drinking whiskey whilst hoping that it stops snowing long enough to walk some of it afterwards...

John said...

Cats? I thought there was one? Unless you hit the whisky already? :0)

Fyldecoaster said...

“Cradley Slack Farm”
Although the farm, which was on the site of Sainsbury’s, appears on the 1845 OS map as “Cradley Slack.” I think it must be a typo as, throughout his book, Norman Cunliffe calls it “Graddle Slack Farm,” and I think he will have seen it that way on early deeds.
On the 1891 OS map it has become “Gradwell Slack.” No one with a corresponding surname is mentioned in Norman’s book.

Brian Hughes said...

Fyldecoaster,

Sounds like another case of evolving names. It wouldn't be the first time that the Ordnance Survey had got things wrong, I must be honest. The combination of local dialects and inventive spellings can lead to all sorts of confusion, I suspect...not to mention intriguing possibilities. That's what makes history so fascinating to me. Just when I think I've got it nailed, another bit of information crops up to put a completely different spin on matters.

John,

I'm not on the whiskey tonight. We actually do own two cats now. One extremely ancient but still incredibly stupid one, and one rotund two year old who turned up on our doorstep looking very sorry for itself about four months ago. Being the mugs that we are, we couldn't just leave it there...although we'd have had a far more sumptuous Christmas if we had.

Jayne said...

A field called Whinny.
And that's where Santa wen wrong in naming his reindeer....
Merry Xmess, good riddance to 2009 and cheers to 2010 :)

Brian Hughes said...

Jayne,

I have a suspicion that at the end of 2010 I'll be saying good riddance to that as well...so to save time, here's to 2011.

Jayne said...

Did you check Wyre Farm, by any chance?

Brian Hughes said...

Jayne,

I've lost you now. and it's too early in the morning to pick up the thread again I think.

Jayne said...

If you'd checked at Wyre Farm you'd know what I'm waffling about, Brian LOL.
A card.
A Xmess card.
For Wyre Archaeology.
And the odd stray sheep.

John said...

There's the problem, Jayne...
Brian was distracted by the odd stray sheep... and vice versa, I'm sure. :0)

Brian Hughes said...

Wyre Farm?

Wyre Archaeology's HQ are at Wyrefield Farm.

Er...whatever the case, I haven't been down there since before Christmas, but I'll double-check next time I go...the Royal Mail might have figured it out.

On the other hand, there's a very good chance that Farmer Parr has left said card in his office, in which case the aforementioned odd stray sheep might well have eaten it by now.

Cheers anyway...in anticipation of the possibility of yet receiving it.

Jayne said...

Yes, typo sorry, t'was c/o Wyrefield Farm.
If the sheepies et it it had nothing to do with the eau de mint sauce cologne it was drenched in...

Brian Hughes said...

Jayne,

I will make enquiries at the next meeting...and then keep the envelope sealed so that I can open it next Christmas instead. Should save you a stamp next year. Unless, of course, there's money inside, in which case it'll help cover the cost of a bottle of Teachers, thus ensuring that at least one New Year's resolution has gone belly up within the first couple of weeks.

Ann ODyne said...

I sent you a card too. I assumed the postman is struggling through the snow. Tomorrow our forecast is 34Celsius and the next day 35C.
Weather is a drag.
I love those names above 'Graddle Slack' indeed.

Brian Hughes said...

Ah...it was you what sent that card, was it, Annie? I wondered who Bruce, Shirl, Kylie and Bruce were. Cheers for that. The last time I saw it one of the cats was using it as makeshift tent in the corner of the living room.

Ann ODyne said...

G'day digger. youse poms think we're all called Bruce, I know that much.
We think youse are all called Nigel.
ya boo sucks.
Happy New Year, from Number8 Trowel.

Brian Hughes said...

Bruce,

We are all called Nigel. Except for Nigella, of course.