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Chislet Mill historical research: an update

Author: Virginia Silvester

I am pleased to say that my further research has provided some answers about the origins of Chislet mill. The following is a redraft of some of the paragraphs in the notes I sent earlier.The following is a redraft of some of the paragraphs in the notes I sent earlier. If anyone would like the complete revised version, or a spreadsheet listing the entries in the rate assessments, then please let me know. There will no doubt be more changes as my research continues, but I think the most important facts have been established. It is interesting that the mill turns out to be rather older than originally thought.

There had been an earlier mill or mills in Chislet, most recently a mill owned by Lawrence STODDARD which seems to have ceased functioning around 1744. It was probably the following year, 1745, when a consortium of 21 local men clubbed together to build a new windmill. It was erected on half an acre of land belonging to a 40 acre farm called Poor’s Farm. This farm had been left to the poor of Chislet in 1581 by the will of John TAYLOR. Administered by a group of trustees, the farm was rented out, and the proceeds – after costs – were distributed to needy poor people not otherwise in receipt of alms. When the new mill was built, the tenant of Poor’s Farm was paid compensation for damage to his land, and thereafter he received 10s a year rent for the land on which the mill stood. In November 1746, the trustees purchased the mill from the consortium for £23, using a surplus of funds arising from late payment of rent by the tenant farmer.

It is not clear who, initially, was the miller at the new mill. In “Chislet and Westbere: villages of the Stour Lathe”, it is stated that a Chislet mill and millhouse, which must the new mill, were advertised to let in the Kentish Post of 8 September 1750. It was not until June 1757 that the churchwardens’ rate books mention the new mill, when it was occupied by John HOLMAN. This could be the same John HOLMAN shown as the occupier of Lawrence STODDARD’s mill between 1729 and about 1736, and may be connected to the HOLMANs who in the 1780s established a firm of millwrights in Canterbury. In 1757, John HOLMAN also occupied a property which had been owned by Anthony MAY senior and rented out since at least 1742. Valued at an annual rent of only £1, this was probably just a small cottage. The rental value of the mill was £4.

The trustees’ accounts show that in March 1761, they were paying for legal advice in connection with the new mill, and later were having deeds drawn up. This was perhaps the prelude to selling the mill to Anthony MAY senior. The payment of £32 2s 8d was recorded in the accounts in April 1766, although both the churchwardens’ rate assessments and the trustees’ accounts suggest that the sale had actually taken place by the summer of 1765. This would be consistent with the inscription that was marked on the mill. Jenny West’s book “The Windmills of Kent” states that “On a beam near the ground floor entrance is a carved plaque bearing the inscriptions – ‘Anthony May1765. A May 1789. M May 1795.’”

John HOLMAN was shown again as occupier of the mill in June 1767, but from July 1770 the occupier was Anthony MAY junior. The rental value had risen to £5 in 1765 and then £10 by 1770; it was to remain at that value until at least 1836. The records show Anthony MAY senior as owner and Anthony MAY junior as occupier until 1775 or 1776, after which Anthony MAY junior is listed as owner as well. Meanwhile, Anthony junior’s father-in-law John JEZARD had been the tenant of Poor’s Farm since 1757, succeeded by his son George around 1770.

Virginia Silvester
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