SIAS Newsletter


Burton Mill
Burton Mill 1984

Journal of the Sussex Industrial Archaeology Society No. 10. 1980

By Dr. T. P. Hudson.

Burton Mill stands at the north end of a large artificial lake called Mill Pond,(2) at NGR SU 979180, 1 mile (1.6 km) east of the Chichester – Petworth road and 2 1/2 miles (4 km) south of Petworth. The building, illustrated on the cover, served first for milling grain and later for generating electricity, and was preceded on the same site by an iron forge. Burton House, to the estate of which the mill belonged until the mid 20th century, is 3/4 mile (1.2 km) to the south-west. A second lake above Mill Pond, called Chingford, Chilford, or Gilford Pond in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, (3) is also artificial, but seems to have been created as a landscape feature, perhaps c. 1740 when landscaping work was apparently being carried out in Burton Park. (4) The present mill building is of four storeys in brick and stone, and seems to date from the late 18th century. It is built into the dam of the lower lake in such a way that its third storey opens onto the road that runs along it; the ground floor is some 15 ft (4 m) below. The mill originally had two overshot wheels, one on each side.

A mill was recorded at Burton in ‘Domesday Book’ (1086), (5) but its site was probably much closer to Burton House and the ‘lost’ village of Burton nearby than that of the present mill, and doubtless lies Under the upper lake. The miller of Burton who was presented to the Rotherbridge hundred view of frankpledge in 1548 for making excessive profit (6) presumably had his mill on the same site, though it appears that the village had already declined considerably by then. (7)

Nothing is known for certain of a mill on the site of the present one before the early 17th century. There was possibly one there before the lower lake was created, for though much of Burton Park, including nearly all of the two lakes, lay in Barlavington parish, the oddly-shaped Burton parish curved round to the north-east in order in include Burton Mill and land immediately north and west of it; the implication is that when the parish boundary was made, perhaps long before the 17th century, the area already contained something important.(8) Possibly it was the site of the fulling mill mentioned at Burton manor in 1555 in an inquisition post mortem of the estates of Sir William Goring, lord of Burton (the corn mill
mentioned in the same document was probably identical with the one recorded seven years earlier). (9)

In 1653 a traveller passing through Burton described an hour spent at the ‘Iron Mills’ there which belonged to a later Sir William Goring, watching ‘those hot swarthy Vulcans, sweating, puffing, hammering and drawing out those rusty Sowes into Barrs, by rumbling, noysing, Bedlam-water-Mills’. (10) It is certain that this forge occupied the same site as the present Burton Mill1 since the mill pond was called Hammer Pond in 1819,(11) and an area to the north-east was called Hammer Moor until the 20th century. (12) Moreover iron cinder has been found below the mill.(15) The choice of the site, so far from any smelting furnace, must, as Straker pointed out, have been on account of the exceptionally abundant supply of water.(14) We do not know when the forge was established, though it was not mentioned in lists of Sussex ironworks made in 1548-9 and in the 1570s.(15) The late 16th and early 17th century, however, was a period of growth in the Wealden iron industry.(16) The forge was still in existence in 1664 ‘in hope of encouragement’,(17) but no later references have been found. It does not appear, for instance, in an admittedly incomplete list of ironworks in England and Wales which was drawn up in 1717.(18)

Budgen’s map of Sussex of 1724 shows a watermill at Burton captioned ‘Engine to Raise Water’, presumably for supplying Burton House.(19) It seems unlikely, however, that this occupied the site of Burton Mill, which is a long way from the house; in fact the map shows it south and slightly west of the house, perhaps on suggested site of the ‘Domesday Book’ mill. At the present day a ram pump on the north-east side of the upper lake still draws water from it.(20) It is not clear why the 1724 ‘engine’ was needed, for it would have been much easier to obtain a water supply by tapping the springs which feed the lakes; in the early 20th century, indeed, water was brought from springs c. 500 yards up the hill.(21)

Fig. 1 Burton Mill in the early 20th century, from Ordnance Survey Map 25″, Sussex XXXV.8(1912 ed.)
Burton Mill House lies north of the mill building. The dotted line represents the boundary between Burton and Barlavington parishes.

The present Burton Mill is first recorded in the Land Tax return of 1780, when it was occupied by Messrs. Linfield and Co., evidently a partnership between John Linfield and John Ibberson or Ibbetson.(22) In 1791 William Linfield, perhaps John’s son, made over his share to Ibbetson,(23) who continued as sole tenant until 1810. From 1785 the partners also held ‘part of Lodge farm’, and from 1792 Ibbetson had the whole farm.(24) In 1801, at the time when preparations were being made against Napoleon’s projected invasion, he claimed to be able to supply 14 sacks of flour daily if wheat were provided.(25) Thomas Dendy was tenant between 1811 and 1814.(26) Between 1816 (27) and some time in the 1870s the mill was held successively by Joseph and Richard Welch, possibly father and son. Joseph was aged 60 in 1841.(28) By 1851 Richard, then aged 30, had succeeded. In that year he also farmed 185 a., employing 10 men;(29) twenty years later the farm comprised 160 a. (30)

By c.1879 the mill was in the hands of a Mr. Harris, who also milled for a time at Gibbons Mill near Billingshurst. As a consumptive he had to quit milling on medical advice and died while still young.(31) In 1887 P. and H. Challen were recorded as millers, and in 1891 Henry Challen alone. (32) The next, (33) and apparently the last, miller was John Slade, who had previously milled at Benson and Ewelme in Oxfordshire, and who was at Burton by 1892.(34) In the following year, when the Burton House estate was offered for sale, he was farming 58 a. The sale particulars of that date describe the mill as having four pairs of stones; the farm buildings adjoined it on the north-east, and the miller’s house lay away to the north.(35) After Slade left the mill c. 1900 flour milling seems to have ceased. No millers are recorded in Kelly’s Directories after that date, and by 1905 Burton Mill Farm was being let separately.(36) Moreover, none of the people whose reminiscences of the mill were collected on tape by the West Sussex County Record Office in 1978 could recall flour-milling there in the inter-war period. About 1930, however, Messrs. Penfold of Arundel carried out major refitting work on the bin floor, installing new screw feed distributors and bins for several types of grain.(37) The explanation seems to be that Major J. S. Courtauld, the then owner, was intending to revive milling at Burton on a large scale but never did.

About 1900 Sir Douglas Hall, who had bought the Burton House estate in or soon after 1894, had replaced the east wheel of the mill by a turbine to supply electricity to the house, just as was to be done shortly afterwards at Rudyard Kipling’s house, Batemans, at Burwash in East Sussex. About 1929 Major Courtauld replaced the west wheel by another turbine, but the mill ceased to supply electricity after the house was connected to the National Grid in 1935 or 1936. During Major Courtauld’s time (1920-42) the mill was also used for crushing cattle-cake and for sawing timber for use on the estate, chiefly as firewood or for fencing, gateposts and the like. In the 1950s the last private owner, Mr. A. V. Kennedy, continued to use the 1929 turbine for sawing firewood in winter; the operation was carried out by his gardener and chauffeur, the third floor of the mill being then used as the garage.[Note: The chauffeur and gardener for about 3 years in the ‘mid-1960s’ was Mr Peter Pesterfield, who visited Burton Mill in September 2023. By his account the circular saw could only be run from the 1899 eastern turbine as the 1929 western turbine was not working. The car was a Rover 3.5 which was then changed to a Rover 2000. Mr Kennedy required a driver as, following an accident in Fittleworth, he had decided to stop driving himself.]

In 1962 or 1963 part of the mill dam collapsed, closing the road along it and allowing some water to escape. The County Council as highway authority repaired the road, but claimed that Mr. Kennedy was liable for the cost. After a court case which the Council won, the two parties came to an agreement in 1966 whereby Mr. Kennedy conveyed to the Council the mill, mill pond, and embankment, but retained the use of the mill for life.(38) In 1976 he vacated, and the County Council, which had been using the third floor for storing boats, approached the Sussex Industrial Archaeology Society to see if it was interested in restoring any part of the mill, which is a grade II listed building. The Society expressed interest, and in 1978 Mrs. Anne Mills, a, S.I.A.S. member, took a 40-year lease of the building with the intention of restarting milling. Restoration work has been going on ever since, and it is hoped that the mill will be grinding corn again by summer of 1980.

Fig. 2 Mr. Harris, miller (left), and an assistant, at Burton Mill 2. 1879. Both men wear the correct miller’s hat; and Harris holds the ‘mill bill’ for dressing stones, with its long handle or ‘thrift’. (Photograph in the possession
of Mr. Edward Ayling)

Technical Appendix A. G. Allnutt

The water turbine which replaced the east wheel around the turn of the century Was used to drive a dynamo which lit Burton House through a 220 volt overhead D.C. line carried on posts through the park. Turbine speed was intended to be kept constant by a governor manufactured in 1879 by W. F. Fruen of Minneapolis. The centrifugal governor, having insufficient power to open or close the turbine vanes, was used to engage gear wheels which enabled vane adjustment to be done by the turbine itself through the belt drive to the governor and shafting to the turbine vanes. This arrangement inevitably caused excessive hunting so that the house lights grew brighter and brighter and then dimmer and dimmer. nearly driving the inhabitants distracted according to a lady who experienced it.

After the First World War a bank of accumulators giving 220 volts was installed in Burton House and these were charged each day. In 1933 or 1934 the house was connected to the grid system and the plant gradually became derelict. The turbine casing is still to be seen, it was set vertically and of the reaction type. It drove the horizontal shafting in the mill through wooden toothed bevel wheels which are still visible, as is the speed control shafting and gearing.

In 1929 a horizontal-axis inward-flow reaction turbine by W. Dell was installed in the position of the west wheel. It was connected to the existing horizontal shafting which was extended to drive a circular saw and also a cattle-cake crusher. (The crusher has disappeared and the saw will be re-erected at the Chalk Pits Museum, Amberley. The turbine worked under a head of 20 ft with a drowned tail pipe and should theoretically deliver about 9-10 h.p. (It runs at about 650 rpm no load.) The bearings for the new shafting were elaborate, having screw adjustment for alignment both horizontally and vertically and being free to accommodate slight changes of slope of the shafting. (Wooden supports tend to move) This turbine has now been restored to working order by the Sussex Industrial Archaeology Society and Naval working parties from H.M.S. Daedalus. When the County Council was repairing the road along the dam in the mid 1960s clay was tipped in the lake against the dam which was sheet piled in the vicinity of the west turbine intake, thus preserving the use of the turbine.

The stones to be used for milling are a pair of 3 ft 6 in diameter French burr stones complete with free-standing cast iron hursting (cast at Leisten, Suffolk), which Mrs. Mills found near Cardiff. These are now set up and have been driven on trial by the turbine which will also be used to drive a smutter and possibly the grain elevator. Mrs. Mills will use part of the bin floor access to it being through the part of the mill within her lease. The wooden friction winches, screw feeds, etc. will be provided with descriptive notices so that their mode of working can be followed, the floor and trap doors having been made safe by Tom Evans and Timothy Muddle.

(1) This article owes much to the help of Mr. Alan Allnutt, and Mr. Alan Readman of the West Sussex Record Office. I am grateful to Lord Egremont for access to the Petworth House Archives.

(2) A. Young, General View of the Agriculture of Sussex, 181}, (Reprinted 1970), p.394; Ordnance Survey Map 6”, Sussex XXXV (1880 ed.).

(3) Young, loc. cit; J. Dallaway and E. Cartwright, History of Western Sussex, vol. 2, part 1 (1819) p.249; West Sussex Record Office, TD/W 9.

(4) Gentleman’s Magazine, vol. 27 (1757). PP. 198-9; cf. Sussex Archaeological Collections, vol. 52,p.44. The two lakes, which total c. 50 a. (20 ha), are fed by three streams. The two western ones descend through Duncton parish and join above the upper lake. At least three mill sites are known in Duncton, two of which in the early 19th century powered a fulling mill and a paper mill: 0.S. Map 6″, Sussex XXXV (1880 ed.); Lord Leconfield, Sutton and Duncton Manors (1956), map 2; W.S.R.O., PHA 3208; Young, op. cit., p.436; Sussex Notes and Queries, vol. 13, p. 172. The eastern stream rises on Barlavington Down and flows by way of Crouch Farm into the lower lake. It was presumably this stream which powered the mills in Barlavington mentioned in ‘Domesday Book’ and later, though their site or sites are unknown; Victoria County History, Sussex, vol.1 (1905), p. 424; W.S.R.0. Add. MS. 1928: f. 158; ibid. Ep- I/25/2 (Burton glebe terrier, 1635); ibid. Ep. I/29 Barlavington 10. 12(probate inventories of two millers, 1661 and 1676).

(5) V.C.H. Sussex, vol. 1, p. 425
(6) W.S.R.O., FHA 6677, rot.9 v.
(7) Only 11 inhabitants were assessed to the 1524 subsidy, at least 7 of whom lived at Burton House, and five years later the living of Burton church was united to that of Coates, presumably because of depopulation: The Lay Subsidy Rolls for Sussex 1524~5 (Sussex Record Society, vol. 56, p. 39; The White Act Book (S.R.S. vol. 52), p. 44.

(8) O. S. Map 6″, Sussex XXXV (1880 ed.).
(9) W.S.R.O., Add. MS. 1928, f. 124. The document actually describes two fulling and two corn mills, but the reference is presumably to two wheels or two pairs of stones in each case.

(10) Lieutenant Hammond, A Relation of a Short Survey of the Weetern Counties, Camden Society, 3rd series, vol. 52 (1936), p.38.

(11) Dallaway and Cartwright, History of Western Sussex, vol. 2, part 1(1819) p.249.

(12) O.S. Map 25″, Sussex XXXV. 8 (1912 ed.); cf. W.S.R.O. TD/W 24.
(13) E. Straker. Healden Iron (1931), p.130; wealden Iron (Bulletin of the Wealden Iron Research Group), vol. 7, p.16.

(14) Straker, loc. Cit.
(15) Historical Manuscripts Commission, Salisbury, vol. 13, pp. 19-24; Sussex Notes and Queries. vol. 7, pp. 97-103; English Historical Review, vol. 48 (1933). pp. 91-9.
(16) V.C.H. Sussex. vol. 2 (1907), p. 217.
(17) Suss. Arch. coll. vol. 32, p. 23.
(18) Transactions of the Newcomen Society, vol. 9 (1928-9). pp. 12-35.
(19) H. Margery, ed. 250 Years of Mapmaking in Sussex, (1970), pl.5; Straker, loc. Cit.

(20) Information from Mr. A. G. Allnutt.
(21) W.S.R.O., MP 77, f. 39 (Letter, 1931, from Capt. F. Holland to Lady Maxse). It is possible that the caption on Budgen’s map was misplaced, and that it refers to Coultershaw Mill some 1 mile (1.6 km) north-west. which supplied
water to Petworth House and town; but if so it predates the earliest record of that supply by 58 years: Sussex Industrial History, vol.9, pp. 16, 21.

(22) W.S.R.O., QDE/2/1. The name John Linfield occurs in the 1786 return. (23) Sussex Weekly Advertiser, 20 June 1791 (from H.E.S. Simmons’ notes on Sussex watermills, of which a copy is in Brighton Reference Library. I am very
grateful to the Brighton Area Librarian, Mr. E. Watkins, for supplying photocopies of Simmons’ notes.)

(24) W.S.R.O.,QDE/2/1.
(25) East Sussex Record Office, LCG/S/EW 1, f. 88 v.

(26) W.S.R.O., QDE/2/1; cf. Sussex Weekly Advertiser, 14 February 1814; Sussex Weekly Advertiser, 1 January 1816 (from Simmons’ notes).

(27) W.S.R.O., QDE/2/1.
(28) Ibid. MF 493, f. 2 (1841 census); cf. ibid. TD/W 24 (tithe map).
(29) Ibid. MF 53, f. 92 v. (1851 census). Kelly’s Directories of Sussex, however, (under Barlavington), continue to name Joseph Welsh as miller there until 1855, evidently in error.

(30) W.S.R.O., MF 411. f. 14 (1871 census).
(31) Information via Mr. Paul Adorian, of The Mill House, Gibbons Mill, from Mr. Edward Ayling, formerly of Terwick Mill near Midhurst. Mr. Harris was the first husband of Mr. Ayling’s grandmother. Kelly’s Directory of Sussex (1882 ed.) still however records Richard Welch as miller.

(32) Ibid. (1887, 1891 eds.)
(33) The details of the mill’s history since the 1890s derive unless otherwise stated from tape recordings of various people who remembered it, which were made by the West Sussex Record Office in the autumn of 1978. The work was done by Miss Alison Macaulay with the help of Mr. Alan Allnutt, and with a grant from the West Sussex County Council. The tapes, which are available for study at the Record Office, are as follows: OH 35 (Miss E. Slade, daughter of John Slade, miller c. 1892-c. 1900); OH 36 (Mr. Peter Upton, son of Mr. T. H. Upton, agent to Major J. S. Courtauld, owner of the Burton House estate); OH 38 (Mr. C. Russell. of Easebourne); OH 39 (Mr. P. R. Pesterfield, employed at Burton Mill, 1963-8); OH 40 (Mr. George Cargill, of Petworth); OH 46 (Mr. W. Ford, water-bailiff at Burton Mill from 1976); OH 52 (Miss J. Courtauld, daughter of Major Courtauld).

(34) Cf. The Miller, 4 December 1893 (from Simmons’ notes).

(35) W.S.R.O., SP 565.
(36) Kelly’s Directory of Sussex (1905, 1922 eds.). In the 1930s the head gamekeeper of the Burton House estate lived at Burton Mill House, ibid. (1930, 1938 eds.).

(37) Cf. inscription on roof beam, visible in 1977.
(38) West Sussex C. C. deeds of Burton Mill.