This document, newly donated to the Archive from the Owen Ward Collection, gives a glimpse of the role mills would have played in the event of an invasion of Britain by Napoleon.
The document is a ‘Form of an appointment of an agent of millers’. In accordance with the Defence of the Realm Act of 1803, the form appoints an ‘agent’ who, ‘in case of actual invasion or appearance of invasion’ was to call on all millers in the area to put their mills under his authority, ‘for the purpose of conveying, by the Waggon Conductors, such quantities of dry, sweet, and clean flour, made of good marketable English Wheat, out of which the Bran shall have been taken by Means of a Twelve Shilling seamed Cloth, wherever they shall be required so to do’.
This was just one of the many precautions taken at the time to prepare the country for what must have felt like the very real possibility of soon being overrun by the French. The Defence of the Realm Acts of 1798 and 1803 created a national voluntary militia, into which about one in five able-bodied men were enrolled, as well as providing for supply of waggons, boats, horses and food.
This particular document was issued, signed and sealed by John Poulett, fourth Earl Poullett, who was Lord Lieutenant of Somerset at the time. Clearly it was his responsibility to appoint agents in each parish in the county. This form is for the parish of Berkeley and Sandwich, although oddly the space for entering the name of the individual to be appointed has been left blank.
The item is listed on our catalogue here: https://catalogue.millsarchive.org/form-of-an-appointment-of-an-agent-of-millers.
You can find out more about the historical context by following these links: