Three articles on the mill at Furners Green. The first from Jill Rolfe concentrates on the more recent history and the colourful characters who milled the corn. The second from Hylda Rawlings gives us some idea of the earlier history when the mill was a blast furnace, part of a major industrial landscape producing iron. The third is a reprint from a 1930 Sussex County Magazine article by R Thurston Hopkins with some fine illustrations. Click here for the second and third article. Return to Home
DOWN MEMORY LANE, Jill Rolfe During Lockdown the Danehill Parish Historical Society has been looking through its archives and activities over the years. In 2011 the Society had a visit to Sheffield Mill, Furners Green, which is a very old water mill. Our visit principally was to see the restored working water mill, which the owners demonstrated for us. We had a brief resumé about its history, but as the earliest date is 1197 this article would never be completed if we gave you the full history. This photo is of the approach from the top of Mill Lane down to the Mill itself. One of the earliest photos we have relates to William Rayward in 1881 when he moved from Hartfield to become the Miller at Mill House. He had five children, aged 9, 8, 6, 4, and 1 and employed a domestic servant and a Journeyman Miller who was aged 22. Mr Rayward and his wife, Elizabeth went on to have a further three children and the eldest son George, who was aged 19 in 1891 became a Miller’s assistant. This photo is of Mr Rayward, his wife and two of his daughters, but the date is unknown. By the time of the 1911 census William had died and his son George, by now a fully fledged miller takes over and continues at the Mill until about 1928 when Mr Mepham takes over. This photo is believed to date from around 1910 and shows a fully laden hay/straw wagon led by just one horse approaching the Mill and the photo of the weir which is adjacent to the Mill also dates from around 1910. (photo 3 and photo 4) As you approach the Mill, on the left hand side, half-way down is an old barn where Mr Hunt (who at one time owned the Mill) milked his cows. Whilst he was always known as Mr Hunt, his title was believed to be Captain William (Bill) Hunt. During WWII Government Inspectors went round farms checking that farmers were doing the right thing in improving standards so they could claim a government subsidy. When they visited Mr Hunt, he was hand-milking a cow and rather than stop he told them to inspect the the young stock on their own, which involved clipping the ears of the cows and doing their paperwork. They returned some time later to find Mr Hunt still sitting down hand-milking the same cow in the barn as when they had left him, and he seemed to be getting no-where, which didn’t go down with the Government Inspectors. The Sheffield Park estate was the only place to have electricity which the Army put in. Everyone else had paraffin lamps. Old Mr Hunt subsequently bought a milking machine and started it up and milked his cows. Then he couldn’t stop it. Nothing worked. So he got his shotgun and blew the engine up to stop the machine, Other local farmers teased Mr Hunt and had a joke at his expense, but he didn’t seem to mind. Captain Hunt had bought the Mill when the Sheffield Park estate sold up; He was a bit eccentric and was probably shell-shocked from his earlier war experience. In August 1958 there was a massive storm with about 3” of rain in half an hour; the mill pond, bridge etc, couldn’t cope with the excessive flow of water as it came up and over the top and burst, flooding the mill on both sides. The whole lake drained right the way down even to the extent that they later found a pre-war car which had been taken along with the flood waters and was found a couple of fields away. Mr Hunt at this time was in the Mill House and thought his life was in danger due to flooding, so he went up to his bedroom, and fired his gun, several times, as an alarm, and waited to be rescued. No help came but he was safe. When Mr Hunt started farming at the Mill he had a few Guernsey cows and with his brother in- law they got some white pigs together with some poultry. Mr Hunt paid local people about 4d an hour to pick up the eggs. Once a year Mr Hunt would get a dividend from Ireland and he and his wife lived like Lords, then for the rest of the year he told everyone he was a poor man. At one time Bill liked showing his pigs at different shows and when there was a show near Hastings, Roy Lingham took him there with a Boar and 3 Gilts and then left him. When he went back for him in the evening Bill was nowhere to be seen. Roy asked if anyone had seen Captain Hunt and they replied that he was in the beer tent as he had won several prizes. Roy eventually found him and Bill Hunt said to Roy “can you take all these gilts home? I’ll get a car and trailer and bring the boar back .” Roy went back to the Mill and saw Mrs Hunt and said Bill would be along later. Eventually at about 11 pm, Roy said the phone went and Mrs Hunt said ‘what’s happened to Bill?” He was no-where to be found. Mrs Hunt rang the Police who searched and later found Bill at 1 a.m. at a country pub having had rather too many drinks. What happened then was not disclosed to me. In about the 1960’s a Mr Ingram kept the Mill for several years and he used to tell people he could hear ‘voices’. This happened if he went across Banky Field by the Mill - he could hear some voices, children’s voices, and screams, but he never knew of the screams were of play or panic. But there were never any children around. In the 1990’s the well-known Sussex author, Peter James, wrote a best-selling thriller called Sweet Heart and it was said to be based on Sheffield Mill. If you are of a nervous disposition, this is not the book to take to bed to help you sleep. But, I just wonder if Mr Ingram’s “voices” might have played a part in the story? Back to the Society’s visit. These photos by Pam Hart (a Society member) shows the members on their summer visit to The Mill. The Mill Wheel is to the right of the building where all the people are gathering.
Click on photos to enlarge
These are photos taken inside the barn, and one photo of the water wheel. (photos above)
Jenny Virtue and Hazel Bailey very gamely posed for Pam to take this photo (below) of them sitting in the double-outside privy (very cosy). ( The next photos were taken by Peter Richardson and show the Mill Pond, weir etc. In the photo where water is gushing through a wall, I am told that school-boys would jump off the top into the water. I don’t think that is really recommended but when those photos were taken, health and safety didn’t really count for very much. (photos below) The current owners undertook very considerable restoration works, to enable the water wheel to eventually be restored to working order and the Society was very fortunate to have been able to make this visit. From the archives of the Danehill Parish Historical Society and my thanks to Hazel Bailey, John Butler, Mrs C Dyball, Pam Hart, Roy Lingham, Peter Richardson Peter Savage and Jenny Virtue. Jill Rolfe 740446