A windmill stands for the 'old times'; it is a monument to many things which have vanished from country life for ever. The windmill was picturesque; a perfect combination of sweeping line and austere simplicity. The windmill was suggestive of peaceful activity; the rumble of its stones was soothingly agreeable and the twirling of its sweeps gave a jolly touch to the landscape for ten miles around. The windmill was slow but sure; it did its work with thoroughness but without the mad frenzy of the modern steam mills which decimates the essential of the wheat.
So Thurston Hopkins, an avid windmill enthusiast put it in ‘The Lure of Sussex’.
Records of windmills in Sussex go right back to the Domesday Book and earlier. While they are a scenic attraction today they were vital for grinding the flour to feed the local population for previous generations. So it may come as no surprise, in windy locations on hills like those in Cuckfield or Haywards Heath, that there would have been more than one windmill.
In 1920 a Mr Stoner, born and lived 87 years in Cuckfield recalled, ‘When at work on the south of Cuckfield in olden times I could see seven windmills working at once.’ And as a boy he often played on the high flight of steps at the old post mill at Whiteman's Green.
Recent researches, with the help of the Sussex Mills Group, the West Sussex County Archive and early newspaper resources suggest that there have been at least five windmills in the Cuckfield area over the last 400 years, with one still standing until just before the First World War.
Whiteman’s Cross Mill
Older Cuckfield residents may be aware that there was a Whiteman’s Green Mill, or Whiteman’s Cross Mill and also known as Strood’s Mill. The earliest date for this is 1801 and it was demolished around 1877.
This was opposite Mill Hall and stood half way between the brick sports pavilion in the recreation ground and the southern boundary of the playing fields. Mill Hall was built in the 1850s and had no connection to milling other than though its name.
Whiteman’s Green Mill was a post mill with a tail pole used to turn the mill into the wind. The tower or 'smock' mill was more efficient as the windmill did not have to be turned and latterly became the preferred technology.
When Gideon Mantell was identifying and interpreting Iguanadon (and other) fossils on the site, c1823, these were temporarily stored in the base of the mill. According to the Mid Sussex Times, Gideon would be encouraging the nearby quarry men:
‘… to preserve what they happened to discover until his next visit, and he would remunerate them for doing so. In consequence they were careful in boarding up in the roundhouse of the windmill, that stood in the grounds, whatever fossils they came across, for which he handsomely paid them.’
The first written record of Whiteman’s Green Windmill can be found in the 1801 Defence Schedules which was created to find what food and other resources were available locally to feed an army waiting for Napoleon’s invasion. It recorded:
‘Henry Jeffery at the Mill, a windmill at Whiteman’s Green, near Cuckfield. Mr Jeffery has agreed to grind 2 sacks of flour of 280 lbs every 24 hours during the time of Invasion - if necessary providing wheat was supplied for the purpose.’
The Sussex Advertiser reported a storm in its 17 December 1804 issue: ‘On Tuesday night the high winds blew the sweeps off Mr Picknal’s corn mill, at Cuckfield, and otherwise so damaged the same, that work to the amount of £150 will be required to repair her.’
The Sergison Estate map of 1809 which was most of Cuckfield - shows just one windmill on the whole of its land located at Whiteman's Green.
Mill historian Gurney Wilson wrote that Mr Haylor, a local thatcher, as a boy in 1865, delivered letters left by a coach at the Ship Inn, and that he received a halfpenny from Mr Woods the miller for delivering them. He also recalled: ‘An old sow one day went too near the mill when a strong wind prevailed with the result that she was struck by one of the sweeps and cut clean in half.’
This mill was advertised for sale by auctioneers T Bannister, in 1867: ’with good roundhouse, two patent sails driving two pairs of stones and the necessary running gear’.
The Sussex Advertiser 16 February 1869 notes: 'On Friday afternoon (12th), a violent storm passed over Cuckfield. The old windmill at Whiteman’s Green had her fan tail blown away'.
The etching shown here records the visit to the Whiteman's Green ‘dinosaur quarry’ by the British Association on 20 August 1872 - the repaired post mill appears in the background.
R Thurston Hopkins quotes a letter from Hubert Bates, the clockmaker of Cuckfield, who recalls: ' … as a boy I recollect her as a foresaken and derelict old mill. I think she was pulled down some time in the seventies, perhaps about 1874 to 1877.’
In 1916 a Mr Penfold of Whiteman's Green recalled ‘that the old mill had a long flight of steps and ceased working many more than 20 years ago … it was subsequently demolished by Major Sergison who gave the miller, as recompense, a plot of ground in Oathall Road, Haywards Heath.’
In an account by the son of a local schoolteacher dating from 1913, the writer refers to the Ship's landlord Jesse Attree and Harry Wood’s windmill being busy nearby - this would have been pre 1877.
See the Sussex Mills Group notes below for further details of the millers 1832- 1866 and some more detailed information on this mill.
Beech Farm Windmill
The second mill at Whiteman's Green was similar in appearance to West Blatchington mill (which was built 1820) and was less than 200 metres away from the older post mill (above) to the west.
The Beech Farm windmill was a smock mill built in 1873, which fell into disuse in 1910 and largely demolished in 1922 with the stub of the tower and barns surviving into the 1970s. According to a letter from Herbert Bates, the Cuckfield clockmaker, it was erected in the 1870s by Major Warden Sergison when he built the ‘model farm buildings’ which adjoin this 'small mill'.
This was severely damaged in a storm, according to the Mid Sussex Times of 6 April 1886:
‘Last Tuesday, about 1.30 p.m., during the violent gale, a man was engaged grinding some cake in Beech Windmill (the property of Major Sergison, and situate near Whiteman's Green), when one of the mill sweeps was carried away a distance of 20 yards by the wind. The other three sweeps followed suit, going through tho building, smashing a road through the granary, their further progress being arrested by the floor. The flying debris of the ruined mill also knocked a hole into the cart lodge adjoining, and although some of the stock narrowly escaped injury from some of the fragments of the mill, we are glad to state that neither quadruped nor biped sustained any harm.’
Martin Brunnarius in his 1979 book’ The Windmills of Sussex’ described a 1910 photograph of the mill:
‘… as a little white lady with four short single-shuttered sweeps (one of which is apparently missing) and a hooded cap which was winded by a five-blade fan. The narrow octagonal smock was held to the base by stout tie-rods which turn were anchored in large lug-irons on each side of the door.
‘The two-storey base survives today as an integral part of the adjacent barn. As may be seen the walls are slightly battered and still bear the marks left by the tie-bars. Inside the first floor there is still evidence of the machinery driven here. Line shafting that once passed into the barn, remains.
‘A winnowing cupboard also survives and gaps in the whitewashing of the wall space indicate various chutes. Like West Blatchington, this appears to have been a utility mill, perhaps used for driving farm machinery as well as stones, although there is no positive evidence of this today. There is, however, a modern oat-crusher powered by electricity in the ground floor.
‘During the First World War, the mill became idle and by 1918 had sustained considerable damage to her sweeps. The smock was probably dismantled in 1922 by a Mr Morley, whose grandfather had built her, and the base roofed in rather neatly.’
‘Warden Park’ Mill
If we go back to the seventeenth century there was another mill located in what is now the centre of the school buildings at Warden Park Academy, Cuckfield.
The 1638 Manorial map of Great Hayward Demesne shows 'The Virtuous Lady Dorothy Shirley [spelled on the map Shurley] her land and windmill 1631'. There is a genealogy record that shows there was a Lady Dorothy Shirley (Devereux) born c20 December 1600 and died in Leicestershire March 1636, but she hailed from the Midlands. The graphic drawn on the map shows a post mill, these date back as far as the 12th century.
Kennard’s Mill - as below
There are records of a windmill known as Kennard’s Mill attributed to Cuckfield in several windmill books and Wikipedia pages. But these relate to Haywards Heath which was administratively part of Cuckfield at the time. The Sussex Mills Group has established that Thomas Kennard ran both Bridger’s Watermill and Church Hill Windmill in Haywards Heath.
Research published in the Journal of the Sussex Industrial Archaeology Society shows that the Kennards are recorded as being registered for the East Sussex Land Tax:
Cuckfield Mill, owner Francis Sergison [two people of this name: died 1812 and 1846], run by owner, rental £30pa.
Two mills and a farm, owner Thomas Kennard, run by owner, rental £20pa
Kennard seems to have owned several mills and in the Worthing Herald, 5 December 1931, we learn that a Mr Kennard ‘had just left his mill in Lewes on 1 January 1798 when one of the stones violently broke apart inside the mill’.
Church Road, Haywards Heath
There was a windmill, with the miller’s house adjoining, in Haywards Heath dating back to 1682 ‘which stood in Church Road, opposite St Wilfrid's church’ on the corner of the current Highland Court. In the ‘Metropolis of Mid-Sussex’ Wyn Ford notes that the windmill was ‘built by Thomas Comber, a Lindfield miller’.
It was sold to a John Pace, after the death of Thomas Kennard, in July 1799. Six years later (February 1805) it was up for sale again. The Sussex Weekly Advertiser described ‘as the property of John Pace’ and that the mill had ‘to be removed from the premises at the expense of the purchaser’. But we have no confirmation that this happened.
According to a Mid Sussex Times article of 27 August 1940 the windmill was pulled down in 1867.
According to recollections from a Mr AR Pannett: ‘In those early days, Haywards Heath was mostly common land, the population being only about 2,000 or 2,500. Church Road was a track across the common, and led to the old windmill which stood just behind what is now Highland House and which had disappeared when Mr Pannett’s father came to Haywards Heath. The mill, at which corn was ground, belonged to the Burrells, and the last miller was a Mr Anscombe. Mr Pannett, Snr., bought the mill house. According to the original lease, the tenant had to pay a rooster to the owners every September 29th as “duty rent.”’
At the start of the Industrial Era, in 1779 the first steam mill was built to grind flour in London. The second half of the 19th century saw a considerable development in flour milling. According to Flour.com 'Hundreds of patents were issued for mechanical purifiers, sifters, cleaners, dust collectors, grain washers and other milling equipment.' It marked the beginning of the end for wind and water powered flour grinding.
There are some references to a windmill at Warninglid. For example in the Sussex Weekly Advertiser 26 October 1789:
‘About five o'clock on Monday evening last, as Mr Parsons, of Cowfold, was returning home from Cuckold, he was stopped near Warninglid windmill, in the parish of Slaugham, by a single foot-pad, who knocked him down with a hedge-stake, and then robbed him of one guinea, a shilling and sixpence, and some halfpence, with which he got clear off.’
Slaugham Archives, with the help of Sussex Mill Group, believe that the mill was located at the top of the hill just 100 metres west of the Warninglid flyover and the present A23 at Southland Farm.
Brook Street - a sixth windmill?
Justin Brice adds another potential location 'on the road between Whiteman's Green and Balcombe. Windmill Field’ is marked on the 1843 tithe map located 1.5 furlongs (300 metres) SSW of the bridge by Pilstye Farm.
Simon Carey has a photo of the field on Geograph (www.geograph.org.uk/photo/4289181). Carey notes: “Windmill Field suggests a site of a windmill and this seems a good spot for one, on a ridge between the valley of the River Ouse to the north and another valley containing a tributary to the south”.
Almost certainly earlier windmills in past centuries have escaped written records. Windmills would also be sold and physically moved between sites by oxen.
In addition to the windmills listed above we must remember that there were also water mills in the area - Ansty, Cuckfield and Haywards Heath - which could grind flour even when there was no wind to turn the sails of a windmill. These represented direct competition to - and limited the numbers of - windmills. Hopefully In a future article we can explore these in some detail.
If you have any other information to add to our windmill records for Cuckfield and Haywards Heath please do get in touch.
To read additional notes from Justin Brice of the Sussex Mills Group ( www.sussexmillsgroup.org.uk) download this file.
Mr Stoner’s recollections from Sussex Mill Group.
Fossils in the base of mill: ‘The Saunterer’, Mid Sussex Times, 1 Nov 1887
1801 Defence Schedules, East Sussex Records Office
Storm: Sussex Advertiser, 17 December 1804
The Sergison Estate map of 1809, West Sussex Records Office
Sale of windmill: Sussex Agricultural Express on 18 May 1867
Mr Penfold’s recollections from Sussex Mills Group.
Etching showing visits to Whiteman's Green by British Association, 20 August 1872
Notes from mill historian Gurney Wilson
Frederick C Smale letter ’Windmills’ refers to Stroods Mill, Mid Sussex Times, 21 April 1931
Herbert Bates letter ‘Sussex Windmills’, Mid Sussex Times, 28 April 1931
1638 ‘Manorial map of Great Hayward Demesne’, West Sussex Records Office
The map can also be viewed on the cover of:
‘Metropolis of Mid-Sussex: History of Haywards Heath’ by Wyn Ford and Conway Gabe, 1981
Kennard name reference: Worthing Herald 5 December 1931
Journal of the Sussex Industrial Archaeology Society (2011, No 41)
Warninglid foot pad story from ‘Milling Mishaps - Part 1 Sussex’ by Daven Chamberlain 2016.
Location of Church Hill windmill: Columnist ‘Roamer’, Mid Sussex Times of 14 April 1931, and also confirmed in Mid Sussex Times 10 Feb 1943.
Mr AR Pannett recollections: in the Mid SussexTimes 2 October 1934 (and also featured on this website).
Warden Park Windmill on 1638 ‘Manorial map of Great Hayward Demesne’, by kin permission of the West Sussex Records Office
British Association visit to Whiteman's Green on 20 August 1872, from a meeting report.
Beech Farm Windmill, from a postcard
Information collated by Malcolm Davison.