Kent Millers’ Tales

The Canterbury Miller's Tale

January 01st 2007 by Luke Bonwick & Alan Stoyel

The City of Canterbury was developed on the South-East side of the River Stour, but, very early in its history, a branch of the river was diverted Eastwards to become a leat through the centre of the walled City. Both streams were of sufficient power to drive mills.

The Eastern branch supplied St. Mildred’s Mill, Mead Mill, King’s and Queen’s Mills and Abbot’s Mill, and the Western one fed Cock Mill and Dean’s Mill. Eventually, the mature regime of the river could not support so many relatively small-scale operations and all the available power was concentrated on a single large operation at the downstream end of each branch, Abbot’s Mill and Dean’s Mill. The combined force of the two streams was then put to good use at the Barton Mill complex, further down. All the mills were of ancient foundation, and each contributed greatly to the economy and the landscape of Canterbury.  Tragically, not one of these great mills has survived.

In addition to the watermills, there were once several windmills on the hills surrounding the city. This page gives details of all of the Canterbury's mills for which we have records.

The recollections below provide an insight into the life of a Canterbury flour miller who started his career as an apprentice in the trade. Neville Price worked at the famous Abbot's or City Mill for several years, as well as other mills elsewhere in the county.

Neville Price (1908-1992) and his days at Canterbury Flour Mill

  • Sent to 'Charles' by Mike & Lesley Price on 18th August 2001.

  • Neville was Mike’s (presumably not Lesley’s) father.

  • Extracted from Chapters 6-8 of a larger document, dated 12 Feb 1999.

  • Part of the Mills Archive Mildred Cookson Foundation Collection.

When I was eighteen years old, I had to leave the Shell Motor Company, because at eighteen years they had to pay you a man's wage and they could get plenty of lads of fourteen, glad of a job at ten shillings a week.

So I went to work at T. Denne & Sons flour mill, which was situated on a river a few hundred yards below the Weavers in Canterbury, at a wage of one pound, fifty pence per week, which was called a man's wage!!! Out of that I had to pay fifteen shillings to my mother for my keep, two shillings and four-pence for insurance and, as I was now eighteen, Mum decided I was old enough to buy my own clothes.

At first, I thought I was well off, but I soon found that by the time I had bought myself overalls and boots for work, tyres for my bicycle, etc. plus cigarettes for the week, I could only go out with my mates to a pub on Saturday evenings for a drink. On Sundays, we used to stroll up and down the High Street and chat up the girls. The rest of the week of an evening, I spent at home.

Anyway, now I was working at the Flour Mill, I did not feel like going out of an evening. I had to be up at five o'clock in the morning and be at work at six o'clock, spend all day unloading sacks of corn off the lorry and stacking them up eight feet high. Some sacks only weighed one hundredweight but most sacks of wheat weighed two and one-quarter hundred-weight.

Perhaps here I should give you some idea of the size of this Mill. It was a water mill of approximately 60 ft x 60 ft on the ground floor. It was constructed of brick up to the first floor, which was 10 ft above the ground floor, from then up it was built entirely of timber for another five floors.

On the roof right in the centre was built an observation tower. From this tower you could step out on to the roof and walk around it and view Canterbury in every direction. The only building higher than the mill was Canterbury Cathedral.

The mill stood up like a large white painted box. When they painted the weather boards on the outside of the mill, it used to take over two tons of paint.

Barton Mill, CanterburyIn the centre of the mill on the ground floor were two large water wheels. Each wheel was twelve feet in diameter, and the river water to each wheel was controlled by a gate that you opened and shut on a ratchet. The water gate was six feet wide, the same width as each wheel, and when a gate was opened, the water rushed against the steel paddles at great pressure, and you controlled the speed of the wheel by the amount of water you let through. If you opened the gate full out the wheel could generate about seventy-five horsepower.

The first three months in the mill, I spent unloading sacks of corn off the lorries. In between unloading we had to hoist the sacks to the upper floors. This was done by a chain hoist. The chain was coupled to a drum fixed in the roof timbers, and the drum was driven from the water wheel. From a lever on the drum, a thick cord was attached, and this cord travelled from the drum through a hole drilled in each floor, down to the ground floor. Beside the cord was cut a hole in each floor four feet square and these were covered by two hinged flaps, so that, as you hoisted the sacks up on the chain, they lifted the flaps as they went through, and the flaps then dropped back into place.

When you pulled the cord down, it engaged the chain drum and, as soon as you released the cord, the sack stopped rising, and the brake was engaged. By control of the cord, you could swing and lower a sack on to a bench that suited your height unhook the chain, release the brake, let the chain down to your mate at the bottom to hang the next sack on, while you carried that sack away and stacked it.

To let the fellow up top know if the next sack was hung on ready to be hoisted, the man on the ground floor would give a couple of jerks on the cord, you then knew it was okay to hoist up.

It was as well to have this signal, because several chaps had their fingers caught in the chain hook, as they put it around the neck of the sack which they were hanging on, through the chap upstairs not waiting for the signal, but engaging the hoist straight away.

Having had my own fingers caught this way, I knew how painful it was being hoisted up along with the sack! It was no good shouting 'stop' because the main upstairs could not hear you above the noise of the machinery in the mill.

The man upstairs doing the hoisting nearly always watched the sack coming up, to make sure it was not swinging from side to side too much as it came up, because if it caught under the floor at either side of the hatchway, it would rip the sack to pieces. You can imagine what it was like to look down to make sure the sack was not swinging too much, and to see a face twisted in pain and shouting obscenities, coming up with the sack. You could not hear what he was shouting, which was just as well, but you quickly lowered the sack to the next floor down.

Of course, if the man hanging the sacks on the chain was not badly hurt he could always call you up on the speaking tube, and tell you what he thought of you!!! But he seldom did in case the top man offered to change places, as it was much easier The site of Cock Mill, Canterburyto hang the sacks on at the bottom than carry them away and stack them at the top.

The speaking tube I have just mentioned consisted of a 3/4 inch bore galvanized pipe that ran up through the mill from the bottom floor to the top floor. On each floor it had a T junction with a mouthpiece attached.   In the mouthpiece was a whistle which fitted tightly. To call anyone on another floor, you just removed the whistle, placed your mouth over the aperture and blew hard into the pipe. This caused the whistles to sound on the other floors. Having removed your whistle and blown hard into the pipe, you placed your ear against the mouthpiece and waited for someone to speak, very much like the old call radios. One speaks, the other listens, then vice versa.

Of course, if you had caught someone's hand in the chain and did not want to hear what he thought of you, all you did was put your whistle back over the hole, and let him talk to himself.

Talking about this chain hoist, I will tell you about a very dangerous practice we used to do. As I said, one person hung the sacks on the chain at the bottom, and the person on the top floor hoisted them up. Well after about an hour of carrying and stacking sacks, we would decide to change jobs, so the one at the bottom would signal he was coming up. That didn't mean he was going to walk up sixty or seventy steps. On no!!! You just sat on the next sack to be hoisted and rode up on the chain. As you reached every hinged flap on each floor, you just put your head down, hunched your shoulders to take the weight of the wooden trap door as you went through and so on, right up to the top floor, hoping all the time the chain would not break.

In two years, I had known the chain to break twice. When it did break it was always near the drum where it got the most wear. If you were downstairs and it broke, you could hear it rattling down through all the hatchways and you very soon jumped out of the way, as no-one fancies having one hundredweight of chain falling on their head.

It was quite a job to gather up seventy feet of chain, wrap it round your shoulders and stagger up seven flights of stairs to repair it.

An engraving showing the enormous Abbott's Mill, CanterburyAs I was saying, to save walking up the stairs, we used to ride up on the chain hoist and to save ourselves walking down the stairs, we would sit in the chute and slide down. This chute was a spiral affair, made out of metal sections bolted together, very much like you see at a fun fair, only it cork-screwed in a much tighter circle. If you laid down in this chute, pulled your arms in tightly, you could slide down from the top floor to the first floor in about thirty seconds. A favourite trick, if you heard someone coming down the chute, and you were on a floor or two below, was to toss in a 21/4 cwt sack of wheat right behind them. The sack of wheat being over twice their weight would catch them up. This meant when you came off the bottom of the chute, if you weren't quick enough, you had 21/4 cwt fall on top of you.

When you are young you do not care how dangerous a thing is. It’s just fun and a challenge!

Like me going to sleep during the night at work and leaving the mill to run itself. I realized later on that if the mill had caught alight whilst I was asleep, I could have been burnt alive, as I worked at nights on my own. In fact the mill did catch alight and burn down completely in 1933, as I will relate in my story later on.

After three months, I was taught how to look after the grinding stones and the running of them. Also how to grind the different sorts of corn to the right specifications. The grindstones themselves were six feet in diameter and set up in pairs. One stone is set fixed to the floor and the other stone revolves on top of the fixed stone. Each stone, when new, weighed approximately two tons and in this mill we had eight pairs: four pairs of stones driven by each water wheel.    

After a few weeks training, I was able to take over the running of this part of the mill on my own. Being mid-summer, the water in the river was getting low and there was only enough water to drive one water wheel. This made it easy for me for a start because quite often there was only enough power generated from the one wheel to drive two pairs of stones, as well as all the other machinery that was being used at the same time.

For instance, even the sewing machine, that a woman used to mend the torn corn sacks with, was driven by power from the water wheel and also the chaff cutter, fans for cleaning corn, rollers for crushing oats and even the dynamo for all the lights in the mill were driven by the water wheel. The dynamo only generated 110 volts, but there were at least sixty light bulbs in use throughout the mill.

There were other men to look after the machines for oat crushing, cleaning, etc. My job from now on was to run the stones to grind the corn for pig and chicken feed, also to grind wheat for wholemeal flour. Each pair of stones would grind two to four hundredweight of corn per hour, so that meant going upstairs and filling each hopper with sacks of corn which fed each pair of stones.

The hoppers held about one ton of corn, which took about ten minutes to fill. You then went back downstairs and any bags that were full of ground corn, you took off the hooks, hung an empty bag in its place, took the full one away on a sack barrow, weighed it off to exactly one hundredweight and stacked it ready for delivery. So with only two pairs of stones to look after during the summer, it gave me at least thirty minutes in every hour to spare, which I thought was a cushy job, even though it was a twelve hour shift with no set breaks for meals. You ate your sandwiches when you felt like it, or were able to.

On this job I had to do one week on days, and one week on nights alternating. On days it was not too bad with eight other people working there. There was always somebody to talk to, but the week on night shift I was on my own from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. There was only one other fellow and myself classed as skilled flour millers, and so we had to work alternate weeks on nights or days. Everyone else was classed as labourers and worked days only.        

I used to hate night work, the time did drag so, especially in the winter when it was dark. Even if you looked out of the windows there was nothing to see. After a few months on night work, I worked out a system whereby I could grab a few hours sleep.

Each stone, as it ground the corn spilled the ground corn down a chute into elevators which carried it up and along a trough, down into the empty bags. The troughs were nine feet long, with an auger-like screw inside, which carried the meal along, until it went through the first empty hole into a sack beneath. When this sack was full, the meal filled up the 'sleeve' that hung into the sack, and so passed on to the next hole, and filled each bag in turn, until all six bags were full.

It depended on what sort of corn was being ground as to how long it took to fill all six bags before it overflowed the end of the trough and on to the floor. Many a night I would sit down about one o'clock in the morning, and drop off to sleep, wake up about two hours later and find all the bags full and a heap of meal to shovel up off the floor into bags. Having to shovel that up was hard work, so I reasoned out how I could rig up an alarm to wake me up when all the bags were full. I studied the problem for a while, then it came to me. I looked at the end of the trough where the ground meal boiled over, and decided that, if I balanced a metal scoop on the end of the trough, when it started to overflow it would knock off the scoop, and the noise of that hitting the floor from seven feet up would wake me up. I tried it out and it worked a treat. At last I could get a few hours sleep and help the night to pass more quickly!!!

By this time, I was so use to the rhythm of the mill, if one of the grindstones ran empty through a blockage in the pipe feeding the corn to the stones, the mill would immediately speed up and, as soon as that happened, I would wake up. Of course, I did come unstuck one night all because I did not go out at least three times during the night to check the river level.

It was necessary to check the level of the river every night to maintain the level of water at the right height If it began to get too high, you had to open one of the floodgates to let the surplus water bypass the mill.

This particular night I felt safe not to bother going out to check the water level, because I was taking every drop of water coming down the river through the water wheels, and I knew if the water level dropped the mill would slow up, which would in turn wake me up. But what I didn't know was that there had been a very heavy storm at Ashford, twelve miles up the river. Of course about 4 o'clock in the morning, the flood water reached the mill. With all the floodgates shut, the river just rose and rose, until it overflowed the gates and kept rising until I went out about 5.30 a.m. to check that everything was all right before I knocked off work at 6 a.m. when the day shift took over.

What a shock I had to see the river lapping over the banks. For the next ten minutes I rushed around opening up the floodgates to lower the water level before I flooded half the town, also before the foreman arrived!!

I just made it - or so I thought - but that night when I went back to work, I was on the carpet for flooding several houses and a church!

My excuse was that I had had a breakdown in the machinery and had to shut the water wheels down and did not realise how long it had taken me to do the repair. It was a poor excuse, but I could not admit I had been asleep. I'm sure the foreman realized I had dropped off to sleep accidentally. It was a good job he did not know about my 'alarm clock' or I would have been out of a job. In those days men would hang about outside the mill hoping somebody would get the sack and they were ready to take their place.

A night I will not forget was when I had a belt break which drove the dynamo that supplied all the lights in the mill. It was about 2 a.m.. Suddenly all the lights in the mill went out and, of course, not having to generate electricity the water wheel speeded up, thus the stones speeded up and everything seemed to be shaking like mad, including me!!

Anyway, I pulled myself together, fumbled my way downstairs and out to a shed, found a candle which I lit and then groped my way back in.

I knew I had got to stop the machinery racing away, so my first job was to shut off the water to the water wheels and so stop everything. Next go outside and open a flood gate before I flooded people out again!!!

That done, I went back inside with my little candle, and had to find my way upstairs to the fifth floor, where the dynamo was situated. Finding the belt that drove the dynamo was broken, my next job was to find the tools to mend it with. While I was looking at the broken belt I suddenly realized how quiet it was. Well, the machinery was quiet!! But my God, the other noises!!!

I heard rats run across the floor above my head, two rats fighting somewhere behind me, and I looked round to see where they were, but with only a candle for a light all I could see was somebody standing over beside a machine.

Knowing all the outside doors were locked, I thought "how the hell did he get up here? It must be a ghost" I jumped, and so did he. Then I realized it was my own shadow cast by the candle light What a relief it was.

I then carried out the repair to the leather belt to the accompaniment of squealing rats, creaking timbers, the moaning of the wind over the roof, and the cracks and snaps of machinery cooling down. As everything else cooled down, I was beginning to sweat with fear!

Anyway, I managed to repair the belt, but as I had had to cut a piece out to repair it, it was now too tight to push it back on the pulley. The only way to get it on now was to start up the mill again. What a relief, the noise of the mill was like music after all those other ghostly noises. Now all I had to do was grope my way back up those stairs again with the candle, jump up on a high stool, take hold of the repaired belt and throw it back on the pulley wheel while it was turning, making sure I didn't put my fingers under the belt or slip off the stool and put my arm through the spokes of the wheel.

Success!!! and on came all the lights. What a relief, it was like being in a dark ghostly house, and suddenly all the lights coming on. No more moaning noises and rats running, just the hum and rumble of moving machinery.

One summer we had quite a drought and the river water level was very low for several weeks. There was only enough water to drive one water wheel, and only enough pressure to generate enough horsepower to drive one pair of stones, and the dynamo for lighting. This meant a fairly easy night, apart from having to go stone dressing.

To do this it entailed having the stones taken apart, the top stone laid on its back, you then laid on the lower of the stones in turn, with a cushion under your elbows. With a foot long wooden mallet, which had a hole though the head of it, into which you slid a ten inch long tapered steel chisel (this tool was called a thrift) held in both hands, you worked your way around the stones cutting out new deep furrows. It was these chiselled-out furrows which actually ground the corn when the stones were running.

These furrows would be ground away after about two weeks of day and night grinding corn. To keep four pairs of stones working continuously, there had to be two pairs of stones under repair at any time, or being redressed as it was called.

This stone dressing was normally done during the day. I only helped out with stone dressing during the night if the person, who usually did it during the day, was off sick, as he often was through breathing in stone dust in to his lungs. In fact this fellow died in his early forties from silicosis of the lungs.

The few hours each year I spent stone dressing damaged my left lung. This I only found out when I had my first chest X-ray at the age of forty-two. From the X-rays I had then, it showed my left lung was badly scarred from stone dust. In those days we were not issued with face masks, nor were we informed of the danger of the dust getting into our lungs.

During the Autumn of 1932, we got fairly busy in the mill and the boss decided it would be better to have an extra man on night work, to get ready the orders for dispatch the next morning.

If I was not too busy grinding corn, I would help the other chap get his orders ready, and then we could take turns to have a few hours sleep.

During the following summer, the water coming down the river was only enough to drive two pairs of stones, and so I had very little to do. This enabled me to help my mate Alex get his orders completed in record time and so we had plenty of spare time to pass away.

One morning at about 3.30 a.m., we strolled out of the back of the mill for a smoke and watched it get daylight. Alex spotted a flat-bottomed boat tied up to the fence at the bottom of a garden just up the river.

"How about a trip up the river?" he said.         "How come?" I asked.

"Well that boat tied up, up there, I’m sure I can walk along the wall of the river if I hold on to fences, then I’ll untie the boat and let it float down here. While I’m doing that you go and find a couple of poles, then away we go punting up the river".

He got the boat and away we went punting up the river at four o'clock in the morning. As we went up the river through the town, we came to the bridge that carries the High Street over the river and, being only partly daylight and quite a mist rising off the river, it seemed quite ghostly.

Suddenly Alex started laughing. "What’s the joke?" I said.          

"Can you imagine someone looking over mat bridge at this moment and see us two in a boat and both of us covered in flour dust looking as white as a couple of ghosts, emerging from the mist?"

When we considered how it would look, we rolled up with laughter and had to hang on to the bridge to stop ourselves floating back down the river, whilst we got our breath back from laughing.                

Goodness knows what anyone would have thought if they had had a sleepless night, and happened to look out of their window down on to the river just as we drifted by.

When we got back to the sluice gates at the back of the mill, I said "How are we going to get the boat back to that person's garden?"

"We don't" said Alex "we leave it here, and the owner will think he didn't tie it up properly."

In August the weather was very warm and, as Alex and I were working nights again, Alex suggested we take a swim in the river. I thought this a good idea, because the river at that point being held back by the sluice gates, was about eight feet deep. It was about 3.00 a.m. but with the outside light on, we thought it would be great. At least we could see if there were any rats swimming in competition with us.

Having stripped off naked, we strolled outside ready to jump in, but on second thoughts decided it would be too cold to dive or jump straight in. Also with the houses backing on to the river, and owing to the warm night most of the bedroom winders were open, we decided we had better get in the river quietly.

There was a four feet high boarded fence along by the side of the river, so Alex suggested we tie a rope to the top rail of the fence, men by leaning back on the rope, walk down the wall and enter the water silently.

The rope tied in place, Alex said he would go first. He climbed over the fence, placed his feet on the walled bank of the river, took hold of the rope and lowered himself well back to walk down the wall.

"Crack, splash".

The board broke and sounded like a gun going off and, when Alex hit the water, it sounded like a water buffalo sniffing and snorting.

I dashed back inside the mill and could not do anything for laughing. I peeped out after and there were several heads looking out of their winders and I could hear voices. I looked for Alex but could not see him. I was trying to make up my mind whether to put my trousers on first or go as I was. The heads disappeared and I crept along below the fence, when Alex's voice said:

"Is it all clear?"      "Yes", I said, "Where are you?"

I heard a quiet splashing sound, and he reappeared swimming across the river. He had managed to hide under a little boat platform on the other side of the river.

I helped him out and we dashed back inside the mill, collapsing with laughter on some sacks.

We had to make up a story to tell the mill foreman the next morning, as to how the board in the fence had been broken. Alex decided to say he had tripped and fell against it.

Being told this, the foreman said, "According to the splash I heard, you must have got pretty wet!"

Obviously he guessed what we had been doing, but that was all he said.

My mate, Alex, was good fun to work with! He was also very keen on body building and weight lifting. He could lift 80 lbs. in each hand from the floor to above his head with his arms straight up. He got me practicing it and after a few weeks, I could manage to do it with a 56 lb. weight in each hand. Alex said for my weight which was 10 stone 5 lbs. (145 lbs.) that was really good. Alex stood 6ft 4ins. tall and weighed about 15 stone (210 lbs.).

It was now the beginning of October, 1933, and I would be twenty-one years old the next month, which meant another seven-year cycle was up. I should have known a change was due. I had been on night work and was in bed asleep the next day. When I woke up, I was told the mill was alight. I just couldn't believe it but when I went down the town in the late afternoon, sure enough it had burnt down.

I was off work for the rest of that week and was then asked to go and work at another mill the boss owned at Wye, near Ashford. As it was fourteen miles from where I lived, they had found me lodgings. Rather than be on the dole at 10/- per week, I took the job and went into lodgings.        

In the Spring of the next year, I was moved from the mill at Wye to another one at Chartham, which was much better for me as it was only seven miles to cycle to work instead of fourteen miles.

I used to sleep during the night at work for a couple of hours. The only lighting over the whole mill was by hanging oil lamps. I realize now how dangerous it was, but I survived.

During the following four years, I was transferred to Faversham to work in a new mill the firm had bought. It was a large building situated on the Quayside at Faversham Creek. It had a couple of berths for tying up barges and these barges would come up the creek twice a week to unload either 100 tons of corn, or during the season 100 tons of seed potatoes.

The boss had converted a part of this building into a corn mill, by putting in a modern machine for grinding corn. It was still a pair of stones, but was driven by a 30 h.p. electric motor and produced as much ground corn as three pairs of the old fashioned stones in the Water Mill.

I was still working alone at night but the hours were reduced. My mate, Bill, and I did a week about. On days the shift was from 6.00 a.m. until 3.00 p.m. and the night shift was from 3.00 p.m. to midnight.

Sometimes, when a Dutch motor vessel came up the creek to unload at our store, carrying 200 to 300 tons of meal in bags, it necessitated a gang of seven men to unload the boat and, as they were paid by piecework, they would carry on without a break until it was unloaded. Often they worked all day and all night and maybe finished by the afternoon of the second day. It paid the men to do it that way, because the rest of the week they were on the dole. I have seen them, on the second morning, pushing the sacks away on sack barrows looking like a lot of zombies, just to get an extra day's dole money, which was 5/-, or in today's money twenty-five pence.

I was only earning 7/6d. a day, but at least mine was regular, or at least it was if I didn't get laid up. In those days it was no work, so no pay.

Until I worked at the mill at Faversham, I had never been drunk on alcohol. When I was a teenager, I had been partly drunk admittedly. But from the time I got married in 1933 until 1938, the only drink I ever had was at Christmas and then only the odd pint so you can imagine how I felt when the mill foreman, who lived near the mill, was having a party and, about 9.00 pm., he sent word over to me to come and join the party.

Thinking I would only go in for ten minutes, I just cut the feed off from the machines, opened the stones apart a little to save the stones from getting hot and let the machine run empty.

When I arrived at the party, there were about ten people getting quite merry, not just beer either, but all the spirits were flowing like water. Goodness knows what I was drinking, or how much. I just know my glass was never allowed to get empty. I was also eating sausage rolls and slices of a very rich fruit cake, in between doing a 'knees-up'.

At midnight the foreman and most of the others were blind drunk. Somehow in my drunken stupor, I realized I had to go and shut the mill down, clear up, put the lights out and lock up.

I remember tipping bags of corn into the hopper to fill up for my mate Bill, who would be in at six o'clock in the morning. Somehow I managed to tidy up, shut everything off and lock up. How I do not know!

Next I found myself outside the gate with my bicycle. I tried to focus my eyes and stop swaying and thought "Right , now get on". Cheers! I made it, I was on my bike - for one yard only and then I promptly fell off the other side. It took me several minutes to get up and have another try at getting on, but the second time I stayed on. Luckily I had the whole street to myself, because even in the High Street at Faversham, at one o’clock in the morning you seldom saw anyone. I eventually got home, and crawled into bed. I woke up in the morning at about ten o'clock, and felt fine apart from feeling light-headed and decided to have egg and bacon for breakfast

Soon after I felt terrible. I felt half drunk and was staggering about. I had to lie down until 2 o'clock, when it was time to cycle to work again.

Somehow I got through that evening shift of nine hours and after that night’s sleep I was okay. The mill foreman told me afterwards that I was drinking rum and port wine at the party and usually people are drunk for two days, even if they only drink water the next day. That is the one and only time that I have been totally drunk.

I remember one winter, it was very cold and we had a lot of snow. One week I was on the morning shift and it was so cold I could hardly ride my bicycle to work. I was riding one mile, then getting off and running half a mile to warm up! Admittedly I had no overcoat to wear and only a pair of socks for gloves. God!! I was frozen.

During 1938, we could see a war was coming and in a way it affected me because several workers at the mill were called up for the Army and Navy. There were more ships to unload at various wharves at Faversham and there was a shortage of dock workers to unload them. There was one boat to be unloaded at a wharf next to ours and the manager of this firm was in a fix. The boat had got to be unloaded by the Sunday night, otherwise the firm had to pay demurrage, which means unless the boat is unloaded in the time allotted, a heavy fine is imposed by the boat owners for every day the ship lies idle.

The manager could not get any dock workers until the following week, so seven of the mill workers offered to work on the Sunday to unload 120 tons of corn, which amounted to 1200 sacks weighing 2 cwt each.

We started at 7.30 a.m. Sunday and worked straight through till 2.30 p.m. non-stop. I think it was only the free beer supplied that kept us going. I know between us we got through 10 gallons of beer, we were sweating it out as fast as we drank it.

At 2.30 p.m. as promised, the manager was waiting to pay us as we were on piecework. It worked out just under two pounds each, almost as much as my wages for a whole week.

Sketch map of central Canterbury, showing the positions of mills on the Great Stour River

The numbers in red are the IDs of these mills in our Mills Database. You can view a Google maps version with links the individual mill pages there

Information about Canterbury mills

Click on the links below to see a profile of each of the Canterbury mills, together with all the catalogued items we have available for each one.

WINDMILLS

More about Canterbury, Drake's Chest Mill

More about Canterbury, Dane John Mill

More about Canterbury, St Martin's Black Mill

More about Canterbury, St Martin's Mill

More about Canterbury, St Lawrence Mill

More about Canterbury, Elham, Cullen's Hill Mill

WATERMILLS

More about Canterbury, Abbot's Mill

More about Canterbury, Barton Mill

More about Canterbury, Cock Mill

More about Canterbury, Dean's Mill

More about Canterbury, King's Mill

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