Just thought I'd put up a piece I've published on the mill at Bromley which highlights the problems that past researchers have had.
"The history of Bromley Mill has become desperately muddled over the years. The resulting account is perhaps a lesson to us all in the need to use original sources of information, and a plea to future historians to be far more careful with the re-use of older historical accounts.
I think it’s best to start by re-quoting the widely accepted ‘version of events’ from William Coles-Finch ‘Watermills and Windmills’, published in 1933, which in turn, borrowed from ELS Horsburgh’s well known work, ‘A History of Bromley’, published in 1930. Both of these volumes are or were the accepted ‘bibles’ in their respected fields, but much maligned under recent historical scrutiny:
'By kind permission of R.F. Brain, I am able to give a picture, dated 1785, of two post mills in Bromley. Strangely enough I have no confirmation of the existence of two mills in Bromley, one only being shown on all the maps I have examined.
By the courtesy of Herbert Alderton, the Librarian of the Bromley Public Library, I am able to give the following extract from the recently published History of Bromley (E.L.S. Horsburgh):
This windmill came into existence about 1600 by the act of Edmund Style, who, in his will, dated 1614, speaks of 'a mill I have erected in the parish of Bromleighe.' The particular windmill in question stood about a quarter of a mile north-west of the college - its position is marked on Rocques map of 1763. The mill not only survived but continued in active use until the 19th century was well advanced. Sometime between 1835 and 1840 it was demolished.'
Mr Alderton adds:
The Annual Register for September, 1768 (Vol XI, p.164), records:
'There is a windmill near Sir Charles Peer's seat at Bromley in Kent which, being in a disagreeable situation, Sir Charles is now removing the whole building together by means of capsterns; it is to be removed 400 yards and proceeds at the rate of four yards a day.'
The old registers at Bromley Parish Church give the following entries of deaths at Bromley post mill:
August 22, 1665 A strange woman at the windmill of ye plague
August 26, 1665 A daughter of the strange woman
December 3, 1669 A man child that the windmiller nursed
April 23, 1676 Matthew Janwood of the Windmill
1704 William Lets from the Windmill
1726 Sarah, daughter of William Bar from the Windmill'
The above account has been widely accepted as an accurate account of the history of Bromley’s windmill. An article in the hallowed pages of Bygone Kent, Vol 6, No 2, February 1985, entitled 'Bromley's Windmill', by Stanley Hallworth, regurgitates all the information from Coles Finch and ELS Horsburgh's history, and even confidently places the mill (prior to alleged move) as being 'at a spot nearly opposite the Beech Tree public house, roughly where Park End now joins London Road.'. The only useful information it provides is reproducing copies of the three known pictures of the mill. These are:
i) the painting reproduced in Coles-Finch, called 'Metcalfe's Mill, 1785’, showing a tall post mill with another one on the horizon, and a waterway with a moored boat in front of it.
ii) 'On Bromley Hill, Kent' by David Cox, c.1813, showing a post mill with over-proportioned anti-clockwise cloth sails, brick roundhouse, and tailpole.
And iii) T. Crofton Croker, c.1825, showing a black post mill, with clockwise cloth sails, roundhouse, lean-to and tailpole, and a weathervane.
All of these pictures differ significantly, but the first one must be ruled out because of the waterway, and is almost certainly the windmill near Three Mills at Bromley by Bow in Essex, which was at one time in the late eighteenth century owned by a Mr Metcalf. The second picture is seen as authentic in location, because David Cox was living nearby in Dulwich at the time. It is quite crudely drawn and so a certain amount of artistic license may have taken place. The third picture, which was commissioned for an early history of Bromley, must be regarded as the most accurate.
As for the alleged move, re-examination of original sources has confirmed that this simply did not happen. I first became suspicious of this account after examining maps. Clearly, all maps from 1675 right through to 1819 and 1843 show the mill in the same position on Bromley Hill. One can dispute the reliability of map evidence, but in this case Bromley Mill appears at the same place on no less than seven maps, after the alleged move date.
Secondly, after conducting a long search for original sources, the following account appears in the Worcester Journal:
Worcester Journal, September 8, 1768:
'There is a very large windmill near Sir Charles Peer's at Bromley-by-Bow which, being in a disagreeable situation, Sir Charles is now moving the whole building together by means of Capsterns; it is to be moved four hundred yards and proceeds at the Rate of Forty yards a Day.'
This reference predates the Annual Register, which was a collation of reports from around the country. It appears that the Annual Register misquotes the Worcester Journal by failing to distinguish Bromley-by-Bow in Essex, from Bromley in Kent. Secondly it misquotes on the rate of movement, which was almost certainly forty yards a day, as opposed to ‘four’ in the Annual Register account. Surely, a hundred days to move the mill would have been excessive in time and cost, if not cumbersome and disruptive to traffic, and besides, forty yards per day would be far more in tune with other contemporary accounts of windmills being moved, the practice of which was a surprisingly common occurrence. A check on Sir Charles Peers at Bromley Public Library has revealed not the slightest reference to a gentleman of that name owning 'a seat' in the parish. A quick search of the internet reveals a succession of ‘Sir Charles Peers’ from the late seventeenth century, some becoming Lord Mayor of London, and one or two living in Bromley-by-Bow, Essex. Kenneth Farries, in his monumental work, ‘Essex, Windmills, Millers, and Millwrights, Vol III’ refers in an entry under West Ham, to a windmill at Bromley by Bow, leased to the Metcalf family in the 1760’s and 1780’s, thus giving us a link from the title of Coles-Finch’s picture to a windmill at Bromley-by-Bow, Essex .
With regards to its establishment in 1600 by Edmund Style, even these alleged facts are not set in stone. Style was involved in a dispute in 1605 with workers at the watermill at Southend, which was on the border of the Bromley parish with Catford; perhaps his new mill was this one.
What is more likely is that Edmund Style built a watermill in the parish of Bromley. The Style family seat used to be Simpsons Place, which stood very close to the Bromley watermill site at the end of Ringers Road. Simpson's was later leased to the Ringer family, and notably one Jeremiah Ringer, who was lately in the occupation of the watermill in Bromley, when the new paper mill was established there in 1765 by the extravagantly named Solomon de Meza. The mill referred to in Style's will is almost certainly this watermill. In any case, actual parish register references to the 'windmill' do not appear until half a century later. The first reference in parish registers dates from 1665, and the windmill first appears on Ogilvy's Map of 1675, so an establishment or building date of c.1650-65 is a far more likely scenario.
Occupiers are not particularly easy to discover. The structure was always part of the estate of Bromley Hill House, and generally leased to journeyman millers. The last owner of the mill prior to its demise was Sir Charles Long, who became Baron Farnborough in 1826. He purchased the property after protracted negotiations between 1796 and 1801, from the Knightly family, who are known to have been there since at least 1684. As an aside, Sir Charles' wife, Amelia, was regarded as a highly talented artist and her collection now resides in Bromley Museum archives. Her work includes a beautiful painting showing the mill in the distance through the summerhouse. It appears to show the structure painted white, although this may be a trick of the sunlight.
Bromley Library has two archives which relate to short term leases of the mill. The first is an agreement with George Woodroffe to lease the mill at £60 per annum, from Christmas, 1820. Clearly this agreement didn't last long, (George Woodroffe went bankrupt at Sydenham Mill, eight years later) as a second agreement is dated 23/5/1821, and this time is a rent agreement between John Humphrey & Sir Charles Long of £62 per annum, 'except the sum of five pounds which the said Sir Charles Long agrees to allow thereout to the said John Humphrey towards the repair now wanting to the said windmill'. This agreement was signed John Clark but crossed out and replaced with Humphrey. The mill is also described as 'lately in the occupation of John Paddy', who was presumably the same chap prominent at the windmill at nearby Cudham and other places. His relative, Thomas, was made bankrupt in 1831. Humphrey was probably the last to work the mill, and appears in Pigot's directory for 1832-4.
With regards to its disappearance, the main sources have got this almost correct. The 1843 Ordnance Survey Map marks it, even though it was no longer standing, but the 1845 revision correctly deletes it. Incidentally, the land was enclosed in 1845, so the mill had gone by this date. Bizarrely, as is often the case, there is a twist in the tail re: Bromley Mill. It seems that in the mid 1820s, with the (presumably substantial) repairs needed for the mill, Sir Charles was persuaded to have it completely rebuilt and refitted, as a commercial concern, to the point where it was advertised, probably optimistically, as a ‘new’ mill, to be broken into lots. This could explain the white painted appearance in the late painting by Amelia, mentioned above. One would surmise that a combination of bad tenants and a deep recession forced him to retract quickly on this, and in the South Eastern Gazette dated Tuesday 7 October, 1834 an advert was placed:
“POST WINDMILL IN LOTS. TO MILLERS, MILLWRIGHTS, BUILDERS & OTHERS. AT BROMLEY, KENT. To be sold by Auction, by ABRAHAM NETTLEFOLD, On the Premises, nearly opposite the Ninth Mile Stone, BROMLEY, on THURSDAY, the 9th Day of October, 1834, at Eleven for Twelve O'clock.
The whole of the valuable MACHINERY and other MATERIALS of a POST WINDMILL erected within a few years past, at a very considerable expense, comprising iron wind-shaft and sails, one pair of French, and one pair of peak stones, capital cleaning machine, with mahogany cylinder, good strap and tackle, weather boarding, quartering. &c. &c. Also all the utensils usually the property comprising stone staff, weights, measures, scales, &c. &c.”
The main responder to this advert was the indefatigable William Ashby, millwright of Westerham, who records it in his journal as three entries:
‘1834 6/9 'Self to Lord Farnborough, to consult as to measures for sale of a post windmill'
1834 1/10 'Self 1 day to take machinery'
1835 3/1 'Self to take the mill down. 3 days.'
It would appear that Sir Charles had reached the end of his tether regarding the windmill, after a series of rental disputes, and perhaps the need for repairs. Ashby took the mill down, in lieu of payment, for materials and machinery to be transferred to other mills; there is no evidence that the mill was re-erected elsewhere, although it is quite probable that parts and machinery made it to other local mills."