Mildred Cookson: A Biography and Interview

Image taken by Owen Bushell, an SPAB Millwright Fellow, on a visit to Mapledurham Watermill in 2023. The day was spent separating, cleaning, levelling and balancing millstones, as well as working on some other machinery.

N.B. At the Mills Archive, Mildred has a very special place in our heart. She is one of our founding members, one of our trustees, and the owner of one of our biggest collections.

Mildred Cookson, a pioneer in the milling community, was born in 1944 in Blackpool. Her passion for mills began as a hobby and blossomed into a lifelong career. She joined the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings (SPAB) in the late 1960s, playing a pivotal role in mill restoration and conservation. Her first major project was the restoration of Lacey Green Windmill in Buckinghamshire.

As the miller at Mapledurham, Mildred embraced hands-on responsibilities, from grain preparation to machinery maintenance. She faced challenges like machinery breakdowns and flooding, which necessitated adaptive measures. Her tenure saw significant changes, such as the replacement of an old turbine with an Archimedean screw, and adapting to new environmental and trading regulations.

Weather, especially rain and snow, significantly impacted mill operations. Mildred developed strategies to cope with these challenges, like pre-emptive milling and managing flood aftermaths. She emphasized the importance of specific materials like elm for the mill’s paddles and the need for continuous maintenance and good housekeeping practices.

A notable figure as one of the few female millers, Mildred’s role transcended milling. She was deeply involved in community engagement, hosting educational visits, and participating in local events. She also played a key role in establishing various groups within the milling community, including the Northwest Mills Group and the Traditional Corn Millers Guild, contributing to the recognition of millwrighting as an endangered craft. As much of her expertise was gained through hands-on experience, she underscored the importance of a deep, personal connection with the craft of milling. 

Her commitment also led to the establishment of the Mills Archive, where she now serves as a trustee, playing an integral role in safeguarding the history and artifacts of milling. Her extensive personal collection reflects her commitment to milling heritage.

According to Mildred, her husband Ron’s support is crucial, both in her personal milling journey and in their contributions to the Mills Archive. Together, they significantly impact the preservation and continuation of milling traditions and practices. Mildred’s story is a testament to the importance of tradition, maintenance, and a personal connection to the craft of milling.

Below is the transcript of Part One of a three-part interview with Mildred. You can download it using the link provided. For Parts Two and Three, or to obtain the complete audio recording, please contact