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Holman Bros., Millwrights of Canterbury: A history

Glover’s Mills (old and new), Blean

New Mill, Blean
New Mill, Blean. Photo: J. Charlton

Old Mill was supposedly built by John James and Thomas Richard Holman, but more likely their father John. Geoff Holman has narrowed this down to it being built some time before 1819. As J.J. was born 1824 and T.R. in 1831 it was most probably their father John, who founded the company in 1816, who built the mill. Very little has been recorded on the life of this mill, even the exact date of its construction. It is registered as being owned by Thomas Glover, who was also the miller there. William K Glover (b.1856) succeeded his father at both mills. Later owners were C.T. Stanley, Wallis & Field and Charles Phillips. Trade was obviously very good as Thomas Glover commissioned Holman to build another one alongside in 1868. The Old Mill was demolished down to first floor level in 1840, leaving the brick base. This was refurbished with several courses of bricks added and a new roof. This still stands today. There is a French burr millstone let into the ground nearby.

Old Mill, Blean
Old Mill, Blean. Original pen and ink drawing by Karl Wood


Old Mill is built before 1819 by John Holman.

Old Mill is noted on the 1819-43 Ordnance Map.


Only the base remained of the old mill and was being used as a shed.


New Mill was erected by J.J. and T.R. Holman.

Estimate for building a corn windmill in the Parish of Blean for Mr Thomas Glover:

The body. The body of the mill to be 201/2 feet diameter at bottom & 111/2 ft diameter curb, & of sufficient height to carry the 4 Patent sails now on the Black Mill at St Martin’s Hill.

(Black Mill on St. Martin’s Hill Canterbury was pulled down in 1868; the sweeps, windshaft and some other machinery were used in the building of the New Mill)

The whole of the timbers & framing of mill to be of  good & sound Memel, red pine or Dantzic timber, oak cills to ditto 9″ X 4″, corner posts to be 9″ X  9″ outside, braces, door posts & prick posts 5″ X 5″, quartering 31/2″ X 3″ to be boarded with good sound well-seasoned yellow weather batten to 31/8″ gauge, to have a porch with loading doors level with bottom floor, the bottom floor to be about 2 ft 6in from ground to body of mill to stand on brick work about 10 ft high from ground, brick work to be 18″ thick, to have a stage with oak joists & posts & fir lathing & hand rail. Bottom floor girders to be 12″ X 6″, grinding floor girders 12″ X 12″. Stone floor 12″ X 12″ Wheat bin girders 12″ X 10″. Floors 11/4 inch thick grooved and tongued.

The following tackle to be used from the Black Mill, St Martins Hill. 4 sweeps with lever/striking tackle (2 midlings if good & sound) fan tackle, wind shaft & carriages, providing new neck and tail brasses if required, brake wheel, brake, wallower gearing, spur wheel, new gearing the same, stone pinions, pinion for driving flour machine tackle, quants, stone spindles, driving irons, stone boxes (putting the same in good working order) Flour machine cylinder wire & brushes, & 1pair of wheat stones.

The whole of the cap of mill to be new, fitted with iron worm & curb with iron segments, new iron upright shaft with joint in ditto, brake wheel iron & wallower, 2 pairs regulators, iron bridge trees & poppets for stones, new bevel wheel pinion for driving flour machine, new flour machine case & spouts. New feed roll to ditto, jumper, spouts, meal bins, sack tackle, tuns, horsings, hoppers & scrys.

Mr. Glover to provide 1 pair of stones, to fetch the materials to the mill (excepting bricks) and to provide such articles as are considered tenants’ property.

Should any dispute arise respecting the work, it shall be referred to two competent judges, one to be chosen on either side, & their decision to be final.

The sweeps, midlings, windows, fan & stage to have 2 coats of white paint, & the body & cap of mill to have 2 coats of tar.

The whole of the aforesaid work to be completed in a substantial & workmanlike manner by the first day of July next ensuing, for the sum of five hundred & fifteen pounds.

The aforesaid contract was agreed to this sixteenth day of December one thousand eight hundred & sixty seven. £515. 0. 0.

Signed by Thomas Richard Holman and Thomas Glover

Half of the money to be paid immediately the body of the mill is raised & the weather boarding begun & the remaining half within one month after the mill is complete.

After 5 years running, there are records of Thomas Glover asking for new cogs to be fitted on the majority of the gearing. During 1876 Holman were asked to supply a new midling, 2 cheek pieces, 9 sweep bars, 2 uplongs and various shutter repairs. It needed new brass bearings 3 years later.

Thomas Glover sold the mill in 1892, but the firm still continued with its maintenance which, in 1892 included gearing and sweeps and in 1894 fitting a new outer sweep and fan, and the repair of various parts of the structural woodwork.

The mill was used as an observation post during the 1914/18 war but by 1924 it was getting in a derelict state and was demolished leaving just the base.

Coles Finch, Watermills and Windmills, 1933 states:

Both old and new mill were the usual weather-boarded smock, with brick base and stage, tarred caps and bodies but white fantail and sweeps. Neither used any auxiliary power of any kind working entirely by wind.

The Old Mill was the first to be pulled down, but demolition was gradual. Both retained their sweeps to the last, although somewhat dilapidated. It was known definitely that the New Mill was standing in more or less complete order in 1922, when it is believed it last worked. It was sold and pulled down in 1924 in order to make use of the iron and brass from it. Sadly the mill was not in a bad condition.

‘Trade was gone’ – this sealed the fate of the mill as of many others.