West Blatchington Windmill
Reg. Charity No. 283815
~ 1820 ~ 2023 ~
By 1800 a small, but apparently thriving, farming community is recorded, and by about 1820 a windmill on the farm appears to have been needed and this is when the present structure seems to date. The interesting water-colour by John Constable RA, dated 1825, a photograph of which can be seen at the Mill, shows clearly the original adjoining barns.
Late Victorian Times
The farm by this time consisted of about 700 acres and was farmed by William Hodson who at the time employed a miller, a wheelwright and two shepherds, together with eleven farm labourers. This first known miller, Edward Ledgerton, was probably brought in by the farmer after having just completed his apprenticeship.
However, after about 1840, a drift of the population away from the area is recorded. The farm subsequently passed into the hands of John and George Hodson, sons of William Hodson. It seems to have remained in that family until about 1880 when John Brown appears to be the next tenant farmer.
There seems to be no further note of a separate miller being employed, but one of the farm labourers, William (Richard) Strudwick, seems to have taken on the necessary duties of miller as and when required. During the great snowstorm of 1881, snow accumulated in such quantity on the revolving cap that its rotation was impeded and Strudwick had to clear it from the fantail to save the Mill from being severely damaged.
Strudwick continued to work the Mill until reaching the age of 85 years when his master, who by this time was Richard Brown, considered it unsafe for him to be attending the sweeps on the outside staging. Consequently a man named Whittington (possibly a farm labourer) was appointed, who spent a short time with Strudwick in order to acquire the necessary knowledge which later enabled him to carry out the miller's work efficiently.
He soon became a competent miller and thereafter stayed for about 15 years until the Mill ceased working shortly before the turn of the century. Apparently Whittington was known to observe the Mill at Portslade and also the Black Mill at Dyke Road (by the Windmill Inn), and when both were working he then considered conditions favourable for starting his own Mill. When all three were seen to be busily working a delightful scene must have been portrayed.
End of an Era
In 1897 two of the sweeps were said to have blown down and the Mill remained in a state of disrepair for many years.
There are many tales about smuggling and Sussex Windmills, and West Blatchington is no exception. It is said that the miller of Blatchington allowed the Mill to be used for concealing brandy and tobacco under his sacks of meal. These were apparently carried up to the Mill in fisherman's nets and tackle, including several fibrous rope fenders which were not filled with oakum and old ropes, as might be expected, contained tobacco stuffing and demi-johns of brandy.
Fire, new owners & war
During December 1934 the fantail, which had been chained up, broke loose in a gale and set the cap rotating. A farm hand climbed up into the cap and arrested its movement with an iron bar. The fan was afterwards completely removed.
On Sunday 3rd May 1936, the barn on the south side of the Mill was destroyed by a fire, believed to have been started in two wagons of straw standing to the South-West of the barn.
The Mill was purchased from the Abergavenny Estate by the Hove Corporation in April 1937 on the understanding that it would be preserved. Subsequently the Mill was repaired and new sweeps erected. At this time the modern layout of streets was also emerging and the pond was filled in when Holmes Avenue was built.
During the Second World War the Mill was used as an A.R.P. post, and after war the last of the remaining cottages were demolished.
No further use was made of the Mill other than for storage purposes prior to an interest being shown by the Planning Department of Hove Borough Council in 1977. Following an article published in a local newspaper, a small group of volunteers proceeded to clean, restore and paint the interior whilst major external renovations were undertaken by the Council.
The Mill was opened to the public in July 1979 and since the the Mill has opened on a regular basis through the summer months. It has been run by the "Friends of the Mill" group which was formed in December 1980.
Restoration work by the Council has been considerable not least the replacement of the sail stocks, strengthening the major timbers and re-cladding the tower and cap. The "Friends" have been responsible for installing machinery and exhibits to form the nucleus of a fine museum of milling and agricultural history.