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Women in milling


North Mill, Easebourne, Midhurst, West Sussex.
North Mill, Easebourne, Midhurst, West Sussex. A postcard circa 1905. The Gwillim family moved into North Mill in 1910. The Miller’s horse and cart can be seen standing on the bridge. The Mill dates back to the 13th century, closed down in 1961 and was converted into a house in 1963.

Milling, especially when the miller and his family lived on site, was likely to be a family business, which would involve all members of the family.  It was not unusual for brothers, nephews and cousins to work together at a mill, with their sons becoming apprentice millers when they reached the appropriate age.  The 1881 census regarding members of the milling community also includes several examples of the daughters of millers who assisted their family in the milling business.  They are often listed as “Miller’s daughter” or “Miller’s assistant” on the census, such as Flora A. Wright aged 13, daughter of Thomas Wright, living at 4 Cliffe Cottages, Kent, and Jane Mills aged 14, living with her father at Pycroft Lane, Chertsey, Surrey, who is listed as a “Labourer (miller corn)”.  Some women born into milling families also became millers in their own right at a young age, such as Ann Baker, aged 23, living alone at 8 Back Lane, Durham St Nicholas, and listed as a “Corn miller”. 

North Mill, Easebourne, Midhurst, West Sussex.
North Mill, Easebourne, Midhurst, West Sussex. A postcard of 1912. The Mill is largely hidden by vegetation and an overflow can be seen pouring back into the main river.
Mr and Mrs S. C. Sullivan.
Mr and Mrs S. C. Sullivan, the owners of Saxtead Green Mill, Saxtead, taken in September 1971. Peter Dolman collection. Mrs Sullivan was the daughter of A. S. Aldred, who had milled at Saxted Green Mill in the late 19th century. The Mill had been owned by the family for one hundred years.

A Miller’s daughter by Phyllis Catt, for example, details her experience living with her milling father John Gwillim and family, in the early decades of the twentieth century.   In 1910 the family moved from Coultershaw Mill in Petworth, West Sussex, to North Mill in Midhurst, West Sussex.  At North Mill, Catt discusses her childhood, where she could always hear the “rumble of machinery and the rush of water”, and she learned about how the mill worked on visits inside the mill, which she saw as a “wonderful treat” [1].  John Gwillim milled at North Mill from 1903 to 1934.


[1] Catt, Phyllis, A Miller’s daughter (Midhurst and Petworth Printers), p.5