Industry => Windmills => Topic started by: smiffy on May 12, 2013, 18:13:17

Title: Feather Mill, Chatham
Post by: smiffy on May 12, 2013, 18:13:17
I've been trying to find out something about the Feather, or New Road Mill in Chatham. It is easily visible on some prints showing views of Chatham from the early 19th century, but the only records that I can find simply state that it was built before 1851 and demolished around 1890. That being the case, it should be clearly marked on the OS maps covering this period. As it stands I can find no trace of it on any map, even the highly detailed town maps from the mid 1860's which I have used here. The map reference given is the general area shown, the actual location I believe was to the rear of 46 High Street which I have marked in blue. As can be seen there seems to be no evidence that it was here at this time, and there is also a panoramic photograph from about 1860 covering this area that also shows no sign of it. I can only conclude that it was demolished sometime before c.1860 and not 1890 as listed.
Title: Re: Feather Mill, Chatham
Post by: Leofwine on May 12, 2013, 18:43:44
Does it show up in any of the censuses?
Title: Re: Feather Mill, Chatham
Post by: smiffy on May 12, 2013, 22:47:20
Found this:

GATES  Samuel  1839  Chatham  Feather Mill, New Road

FIELD John        1845  Chatham  Feather Mill, New Road

FIELD John S     1839  Chatham  Field's Mill

DANIELS  E. F.    ?        Chatham  Field's Mill,  assistant to John Field

Was John S Field the same person as John Field? I thought Field's Mill was in Strood, or was this another Field's Mill,
possibly the one located at Chalk Pit Hill?
Title: Re: Feather Mill, Chatham
Post by: linyarin on May 12, 2013, 23:06:28
Extract taken from 'Watermills & Windmills' by William Coles Finch.

New Road, Feather Mill* 1 furlong W. of St. Bartholomew Church. Base shown on 1898 Ordnance Map.

In Irelandís History of Kent, Vol. IV, page 439, there is a print of Chatham Dockyard from Fort Pitt and in it, as in other prints of the period, a windmill is shown, in the direction of New Road, poised high upon a substantial brick base.

I learn from John J. Freeman that his parents frequently spoke of the mill in New Road, and he knew the site, fixing its position by the fact that it stood in line with the Chest Arms Hotel, now the site of the Empire Theatre. The present garage of the Empire is the site of the Chest Arms Tap at Chest Arms Hard, where the boats from the shipping in the Medway ran ashore, The Tap was the rendezvous of the common seamen, and the Hotel for those 'superior' persons who joined the townsfolk in their carousal.

From all I could gather, it was indeed a rough spot, but it is well to leave what that meant to the fertile brain of those versed in the history of such ports, say, a century ago. The point of interest here is that, in coming ashore and traversing the road that still leads to the High Street, at the side of the Empire Theatre, one could not have failed to see the old mill, perched high up on the bank in New Road.

Pursuing my enquiries further, I found a lady who, when a girl, some seventy years ago, daily went past this mill on the way to school, and she referred to it as being a ĎFeather Mill/ I then recalled that, many years ago, I casually learned that the mill was used for preparing feathers for domestic useóbeds, pillow-cases, etc.óbut I cannot remember the authority, and my friend Freeman had never heard of the suggestion.

On tracing the actual site of the mill with the help of the 1898 Ordnance Map, on which the remaining brick base was noted, I find the mill stood at the back of No. 46 High Street, mid-way between the High Street and the New Road, exactly as described by my friend Freeman. These premises are in the occupation of Mr. Horace H. Joyce, who not only assured me of the correctness of the discovery but also called my attention to the remains of the large, high, brick structure, with the decayed timber plates which had carried the floor stages of the basement of the mill.

I understand that the mill had stood for many years without its sweeps before being pulled down about 1890 and a roof put on the base.

Title: Re: Feather Mill, Chatham
Post by: smiffy on May 13, 2013, 00:36:02
Thank you linyarin, this means it should be clearly marked and visible on the 1865/66 OS, but I can't see it. I've had a look at the 1898 OS but still can't precisely determine where it was.

It should be somewhere near the centre of this cropped photo, taken probably late 1860's.
Title: Re: Feather Mill, Chatham
Post by: Leofwine on May 13, 2013, 00:39:18
Looking at the cluster of tall chimneys in the middle of the picture I'm wondering if it might have been replaced with a steam mill, perhaps with just the remains of the base of the old windmill nearby?  And is the roof immediately to the right of the chimneys the (presumably) circular "roof put on the base" of the old windmill. If this is the case it proves the mill was demolished much earlier than the 1890 date given.
Title: Re: Feather Mill, Chatham
Post by: smiffy on May 13, 2013, 01:05:07
I think the cluster of chimneys is part of Bests Brewery, leofwine. I can't determine if the windmill had a circular or square base - if it was circular I would think it would show up even easier on the map. "The case of the disappearing windmill"  :)
Title: Re: Feather Mill, Chatham
Post by: Leofwine on May 13, 2013, 01:08:52
Looking at this picture smiffy posted in another thread, showing a similar view to the photo c.1830, the windmill is clearly visible. It certainly seems to be in the same position as the roof I mentioned in my previous post (hard to tell if it is round, oval square or rectangular for sure, but it looks to have a slight curve to me).

(http://i1177.photobucket.com/albums/x345/smudge1954/Pics/GibTower2.jpg)

This would seem to confirm the mill was demolished sometime in the period 1830-1860, rather than 1890 as mentioned in Finch's book.

This slightly expanded version of the photo includes Fort Pitt and Gibraltar Tower to help compare the positions:
(http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7281/8733830934_0505899a7b_o.jpg)

P.S. I think smiffy is absolutely right and the chimneys are actually part of the Best Brewery located where Manor Road is now.
Title: Re: Feather Mill, Chatham
Post by: Leofwine on May 13, 2013, 01:34:25
Found a larger version of the image in engraving form:

"Chatham, open etching by William Miller after J. M. W. Turner, published in Picturesque Views in England and Wales. From Drawings by J. M. W. Turner, engraved under the superintendence of Mr. Charles Heath with descriptive and historic illustrations by H. E. Lloyd. London: Longman, Orme, Brown, Green, and Longmans, 1838".

Overall view and closer crop of the area in question showing the mill, with a second mill further along (bottom of Star Hill?).  The engraving seems to suggest the mill had a circular base, though I do not know how accurate the engraved copy is.

(http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7322/8732777823_cf70d061e2_b.jpg)

(http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7322/8732777897_2f93ba0a6a_o.jpg)

I believe Turner did his sketching for these images in the 1820s and then published the finished paintings c.1830, and that he used a certain amount of artistic licence.
Title: Re: Feather Mill, Chatham
Post by: smiffy on May 13, 2013, 13:21:45
Turner is sometimes known as "the first impressionist" and that is what is seen in his view of Chatham - it's not accurate, more of an impression of what you would see, like it was painted from memory and modified to give a more pleasing composition. One of the oddest things is the soldiers near Fort Pitt - they must be about twenty feet tall!

Like you, I'm pretty convinced that this Windmill had gone by about 1860. Do we know when Finch's book was published?
Title: Re: Feather Mill, Chatham
Post by: kms on May 14, 2013, 01:41:19
I believe I've seen a photo of this mill some years ago without sweeps, c.1890, although I cannot guarantee it, nor find it. 

I did go to the site in the 80s behind some shops, and the footings of the base were clearly visible back then.

More research needed.....
Title: Re: Feather Mill, Chatham
Post by: linyarin on May 14, 2013, 10:45:06

Like you, I'm pretty convinced that this Windmill had gone by about 1860. Do we know when Finch's book was published?
First published in 1933.
Title: Re: Feather Mill, Chatham
Post by: smiffy on May 14, 2013, 15:35:48

First published in 1933.

So if we assume that the "lady who, when a girl, some seventy years ago, daily went past this mill on the way to school" said this in about 1930, that would mean it was still standing in 1860 or thereabouts, giving us the earliest date for demolition.
Title: Re: Feather Mill, Chatham
Post by: kms on May 14, 2013, 20:57:25
Well it seems more than likely that it went in the 1860s, having had a good look at maps today.  Quite possibly burned down, as it's demise seems a bit quick.

If anyone is local to the site, it might be worthwhile having a look around the back of 46 High Street, as I did find what looked like the remains of an industrial building with the odd charred timber as well.  It looked like one retaining wall, possibly one wall of a four storey square base which would have been quite tall, and loads of unidentifiable junk, including bits of iron and shafting.  Ken Kirsopp took photos in the 1990s, and this one of them, from the Mills Archive.   
Title: Re: Feather Mill, Chatham
Post by: smiffy on May 14, 2013, 22:37:18
Looking again at the 1865 OS map I posted, there is an outline of some walls that may have been connected in some way. It looks like it would be about the right size to form part of the square base for a large windmill, and seems to be in the right place. It would be extraordinary if there is still something remaining after all this time.
Title: Re: Feather Mill, Chatham
Post by: kms on May 15, 2013, 13:05:59
Smiffy, I suspect these are the walls that are still there, or at least were in the 80s/90s.  Whether they are the remains of the windmill is open to question, but they certainly looked late Victorian, with bits of iron around suggesting they are the remains of an industrial building.
Title: Re: Feather Mill, Chatham
Post by: smiffy on May 15, 2013, 15:35:53
Where's Time Team when you need them?  :)
Title: Re: Feather Mill, Chatham
Post by: kms on May 15, 2013, 16:54:58
There was enough to see above ground...  I think it was effectively someone's back garden, so didn't hang around too long to try and figure exactly what was or had been happening here.  There are loads of 'bits' of windmills around.  Someone has just told me that the levelled out brick piers of a post mill still exist at the site of Upper Norwood windmill at Crystal Palace, which is remarkable considering the area is so built up and the mill went in 1853.

There are parts of machinery in a garden of a mill at Hythe, demolished in 1825.....!
Title: Re: Feather Mill, Chatham
Post by: kms on May 29, 2017, 21:09:01
Just in case anyone had any doubts that this was used for processing feathers (and don't ask me how that works!) I've found an advert for it, for 1830.  Feather 'production' seems to be one of a few tasks.
Title: Re: Feather Mill, Chatham
Post by: smiffy on May 29, 2017, 23:58:10
I believe there is a way of pressing and/or drying feathers which reduces their weight and makes for easier transportation. Perhaps the Feather Mill had some connection with this process? I'm not sure why a cabinet maker would be involved in this industry though.
Title: Re: Feather Mill, Chatham
Post by: kms on May 30, 2017, 00:18:15
I really haven't got the foggiest idea.  Feather Mill seems unique in the UK for a windmill being applied to this process (whatever the process might be!)

As for cabinet making, I guess using the mill as a saw mill might cover that, but its a strange concoction of Heath Robinson style processes going on in there which I doubt will ever be explained fully...
Title: Re: Feather Mill, Chatham
Post by: Longpockets on May 30, 2017, 07:49:28
An explanation of a feather dressing process is here - (starts at page 183)

https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=xCRAAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA185&lpg=PA185&dq=dressing+feathers&source=bl&ots=b7scpCRwdr&sig=zFOE9jEjQT5n-_38a0yVZ0KpKH8&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwj9iqDKgJfUAhVHLsAKHZahBOo4ChDoAQhGMAk#v=onepage&q=dressing%20feathers&f=false

And here -

https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=7IFo0NXRDpsC&pg=PA412&lpg=PA412&dq=dressing+feathers&source=bl&ots=Xb1smHkC1Q&sig=_K7qr7mlgNqIIjm_d5A2s9onNSY&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwj9iqDKgJfUAhVHLsAKHZahBOo4ChDoAQg7MAU#v=onepage&q=dressing%20feathers&f=false

A drawing of another process is here -

https://www.google.com/patents/US31993