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Mills go mystical

As the end of my internship nears, I feel as though I have spent a lot more than three months at the Archive, but also that my time here is passing far too quickly for my liking.

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I apologise for my absence from the blog for the past few weeks, but I was beginning to think that the stories I came across about restoration and conversion might begin to sound monotonous, since I have talked about them so often before. As though they were sensing this, the press cuttings stepped up their game and revealed stories to me not only about the charming community efforts I have become used to, but about mills that contained elements of the supernatural and divine!

I came across my first story about a haunted mill when I read John Fisher’s account of a ghost that followed miller Charles Lailey about his business at Sherfield Mill in Hampshire. According to the ‘Post’ article, Mr. Lailey no longer entered the mill at night, because he believed the man who taught him the trade was now following him about, and gives details about Mr. Lailey’s feelings of being watched whenever he was dressing the millstones. He is not the only one who acknowledges the presence of this being. In fact, the Paranormal Database has an entry on this phenomenon, and identifies it as a ‘Long Faced Man’, which you can read more about here. The mill has now been converted into a lovely pub and inn, and you can see what it looks like today.

 The mills’ mystical turn did not stop there. I soon came across another fascinating article in the ‘Isle of Man Examiner’ which took me deep into the occult with Witches’ Mill in Castletown. The article is actually a property listing for the mill after its conversion into housing units, but it mentioned that one of the previous occupants of the mill was Gerald Brousseau Gardner, “the founder of modern white witchcraft in Britain.” That was enough to get me digging into the history of the mill, and I found out it was actually a famous witchcraft museum for many years. In fact, a transcription of the guidebook can be read here (along with the many hilarious witticisms of the transcriber, who makes it clear he has no patience for the subject).

To round out our stories for the week, I also discovered that mills around the country had been involved with a higher power. I came across several articles about the restoration and conversion of the windmill at Reigate Heath into a chapel, and it is apparently the only windmill in the world which is a consecrated church. In addition, I read a rather impressive account of a vicar’s use of Marsh Mill in Thornton to gather the locals into involvement in church activities. I was already aware of a mill’s ability to bring together members of a local community, but this ‘Friends Round the Windmill’ initiative revealed that the uniting power of a windmill can stretch to divine proportions.

I hope you have all enjoyed this week’s rather magical angle on mills as much as I did when I stumbled across these stories. I hope to find much more like them, and pass them on to all of you. If you know of any other fascinating mill-related occurrences, please share them in the comments below!