The James Venn Collection is in fact two collections, one built on top of the other. The story starts with Stanley Freese, who in the 1920s and 1930s cycled across the country with his brother Cyril, sketching, photographing and gathering information on rural England, particularly mills.
Freese published several books on mills and millwrighting, but his intended volume on Buckinghamshire wind and watermills never appeared. After Freese’s death in 1972, many of his notes, sketches and photographs, together with the manuscript of his Buckinghamshire book, were left to his friend James Venn.
Venn was himself a keen photographer and artist, and added a large amount of his own material to the Freese collection. The watermill section of Freese’s Buckinghamshire book was published in 2007, and Venn continued to work on editing the windmill section, but never completed this.
The collection now at the Mills Archive contains Stanley Freese’s drafts for his Buckinghamshire book along with James Venn’s later revisions, as well as correspondence, notes, sketches and photographs from both men.