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IL 1831

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Study of the Census Returns from 1841 to 1901 has helped us to know of those who lived and worked at Clayton Mills.

What of the Millwrights who built and maintained them ?

Old Photo

In 1841, Henry Chapman and his son Henry were living in Hassocks. Both were Millwrights. William Hudson aged thirty-five lived at the same address. Is it possible that they would have worked on Duncton Mill, which pre-dated Jack and Jill ? Having stood on Duncton Down since the 1760s she must have required maintenance from time to time.

In his book 'The Windmills Of Sussex', the late Martin Brunnarius, a leading figure in the restoration of Jill, reminds us of the Sussex Millwrights of the 19th Century. Neal and Cooper of Henfield who worked on many wind and water mills in Mid Sussex were, it would appear, responsible for work on Jack in 1866.

Work on Jill in 1953 and in 1978 was carried out by the old family firm of E. Hole and Son of Burgess Hill and, no doubt, they were previously involved with the Clayton Windmills. Tony Hole, the third generation of the family, maintains the Millwright's tradition.

Millwrights were masters of their trade. They built, they restored, they dressed stones, they developed means to make mills more effective.

Cubitt's Patent Gear meant that shutters could be opened and closed on sweeps so that wind could be taken up or spilled according to wind force. The development of the fan and fan carriage meant that mills could constantly keep 'face in the wind' without effort by the miller.

Clever and skilled men, they learned their trade and developed efficient mills. Jill was such a mill and Jesse Pumphery was such a Millwright.

Jesse, a distant relative of former Society Member, the late Greville Pumphrey, was a working Millwright.

Greville's widow, Ann, has the working Day Book of Jesse Pumphery and has made it available for this study.

This ancient book is leather bound, not in finely tooled leather, but in what appears to be cow hide, polished by use. Inside, written in the looped script of the day we can trace the working life of an early nineteenth century Millwright.

Born in Barcombe in 1783 of farming stock, Jesse was apprenticed at 14 for seven years to Henry Stevens, Millwright of Southover, Lewes.

His apprentice conditions were set out as :- "Meat, drink and Lodging Found"

For the first five years he was to be paid two shillings and sixpence weekly then four shillings weekly for the sixth year and five shillings weekly for the seventh year.

from an original charcoal portrait by Ann Pumphrey  : Jesse Pumphrey - Millwright

This is a copy of an original charcoal portrait by Ann Pumphrey (widow of Greville Pumphrey, great great grandson of Jesse) donated to Jack And Jill Windmills Society in June 2008.

In the 1820s we find Jesse a Journeyman in Barcombe. Self-employed as a miller he was grinding and selling corn and flour. There were opportunities to supplement his income for, as well as selling "five sacks of wheat at 6" in 1824 we read of "One day haymaking at two shillings and fourpence"

During this period there is little reference to Millwrighting, but an interesting item in 1822 refers to Lewes Prison and the treadmill, trod by prisoners to drive milling machinery. "CONTTEY Of SUSSEX" "By the request of Mr. Langridge, Jan 19 Journey to Lewes 0-7-0 to in spack the tred mill".

It would appear that the journey was made about nine times in the year. A further insight into the social conditions of the time.

This period seems to be a profitable one for Jesse for he buys and lets property. His former 'master's yard' was auctioned in July 1824 and rent is received by Jesse in 1825 and 1826 from Sameuel Medhurst (sic). It is possible that Jesse had taken over his apprentice master's yard and was letting it to Sam Medhurst.

From late 1825 there appears to be a move away from milling for Jesse, now 42, and his family leave Barcombe to live in Lewes. Then a return to Millwrighting, working as a self-employed journeyman Millwright. In December 1825 he was working with Sam Medhurst, receiving a rate of four shillings a day.

During this period he worked with a number of Millwrights, no doubt travelling considerable distances. We find Jesse working with James Neal of Henfield at a time when Mr. Mitchell of Duncton Mill had a major overhaul to his mill costing 19.6.1d plus materials. Would he have met the Chapmans and William Hudson, Millwrights of Hassocks ?

At the age of seventy Jesse appears still to be involved in "light work". His son Stephen has followed his father's trade.

His daughter, Martha, who kept the book in 1836, writes :-

Jan 1st - Dec 31st

Father earned

53.19. 1
31 weeks bord from home 12. 8 .0

Stephens bord out from home:

22 weeks & 3 days @ 3/- week 3. 7. 6
15 days at 6 per day 7. 9
Total 70. 2. 4

Incidental expenses are also carefully recorded by Martha.

Stephen

1 pair of half boots 0. 9. 6
Trowsers 2. 3
Father's round frock 5. 4
Father's pocket money 3 months 17. 4
Housekeeping per month 2. 7. 0
Doctors bill 1. 6. 0
Nurse 15. 0
Grandfather's funeral 6. 6
Money lost 2. 0. 0

An extract of his activities shows his versatility:-

1825 3 days grinding at the mill 9/-
1826 day to stocks and swips 1/-
  3 days to sack tackel at home 14.0
1827 1 day to swips putting up 4.0
  4 days to swips in shop 16.0
  2 days to painting new mill 8.0
1836 Lost six days with pain in back  
1849 1 day dressing stones 3.6

This is a fascinating story of a man who turned his hand to such a variety of crafts from building and equipping mills to overseeing a prison treadmill and who kept his records in a leather book some 7 inches wide and 16 inches long.

Jesse Pumphery died in 1866 aged 83.

Jill

We have now traced not only those who lived and worked at the Clayton Mills, but also some of those who built and maintained them.

Today Jill is cared for and maintained in working order by a small team of volunteers, some of whom are "apprenticed" by the experience of a quarter of a century. How Jesse Pumphery would have enjoyed seeing her. Yet there is no leather bound Day Book at Clayton.

Martin Brunnarius was also offered the opportunity to research 'the book' and his comprehensive account was published in Issue No.17 of "Sussex Industrial History" in February 1986.

This article was researched and written by Roy Vass

www.jillwindmill.org.uk