Frank W. Gregory (1917-1998) A Milling Hero

Restoration of High Salvington Mill

November 02nd 2014 by Elizabeth Trout

Click here for more information on High Salvington Mill.

The project to restore the mill nears completion, with all four sweeps in place. The trestle of the mill is protected with polythene while the ground is prepared for the construction of the new roundhouse

The mill in the early 1970s, prior to the start of restoration, photographed by Guy Blythman. The mill carries a set of dummy common sweeps. Its roundhouse is overgrown with foliageFrank’s involvement in the restoration of High Salvington began when Mr Caldicott, the Worthing Borough Amenities Officer invited Frank, in view of his “association with the Mill and technical expertise”, to a meeting on 28th May 1975 to discuss the future maintenance and use of the Mill. Frank made handwritten notes and a report on the work that needed to be done. He also spoke to the millwright Mr P. Barrett Lennard of Rickling, Essex, for further advice and a survey. In addition, SPAB Wind and Watermill Section sent someone to survey the mill and mentions, possibly Rex Wailes as he still made technical reports when required.

The left side of the mill body is stripped of weatherboards to reveal the framing underneath. The roof of the mill is protected with a tarpaulin

A public meeting was held in September 1976 and, as a result, The Friends of High Salvington Mill was formed. Peter Casebow recalls meeting Frank at this meeting. His initial impression was that:

Frank was a bit scruffy but he quickly realised that he was an easy bloke who knew what he was talking about. Frank became their mentor on the project and got on with everyone apart from the cat!

A frame made from connected RSJs, with 'needles' passing thrrough the mill body from side to side, supports the body while some of the principal timbers are replaced

A technical committee was formed and the first meeting took place on 12th February 1977 at the mill. Frank was co-opted to the committee as a representative for SPAB Wind and Watermill Section along with Mr F. Morris, Worthing Borough Architect; Mr J. Norwood, Curator, Worthing Museum; and Mr J. Pelling, also representing SPAB. Two sub-groups were formed and sub-group B was the restoration group led by Frank and John Pelling. The minutes record that Frank was “invited to serve on a consultation basis for the preparation of the necessary schedules of work needed for the restoration of the Mill; Mr Gregory to advise”.

In the workshop, a completely new brake wheel was constructed to replaced the decayed original. It has 136 individually-fitted wooden cogs and is more than 8ft in diameter

At a committee meeting of The Friends of High Salvington Mill on Wednesday 16th February 1977, Mr Wannell reported that the exhibition was ready. Frank had loaned various items including a model of a mill that pupils at the Thomas à Becket school had helped to make and a model of the miller whose smock had been loaned by the museum.

From the scaffolding, the upper part of the mill's front wall is re-boarded. The angles here are complicated and care is needed to ensure water cannot penetrate and cause decay

The minutes of The Friends of High Salvington Mill for 27th April 1977 record that, on behalf of the High Salvington Mill Trust, “Mr Gregory had completed his technical report and that this was now being prepared for discussion by the technical sub-committee of the Trust”. The report indicated that several major structural members had to be considered for replacement. The meeting discussed the format of the forthcoming AGM and the desire to have a slide illustrated lecture. Frank offered to give a short talk on the restoration of Nutley Windmill, followed by John Pelling to talk about the problems faced in restoring High Salvington Mill. Frank duly gave an illustrated talk on the restoration of Nutley Mill after the AGM on 24th May 1977.

Restoration of the mill is progressing well, and the first pair of sweeps have been fitted. The discarded crown tree is visible in the foreground: it was found to be too decayed to be savedFrank received a copy of a general report of the Mill prepared by Martin Watts of Bath in August 1977. The minutes of the meeting of the High Salvington Mill Trust on 19th January 1978 include a report of the Technical Advisory Sub-Committee. A full report of the plan of work was presented with a proposed start date for March 1978. The project was divided into four clearly defined areas each with their own project leader: site maintenance and development (Mr F. Edwards); roundhouse and trestle (Mr R. Wannell); buck structure (Mr J. Pelling); and machinery and equipment (Mr F. Gregory). The items for discussion included the decision to sub-contract the lifting of the buck, which weighed 20 tons, to a commercial firm who could use specialist jacking equipment and supports during the restoration. A commercial firm would be indemnified against all risks and if the mill toppled over they would have to meet the cost of putting it back or pay damages to the Trust.

Frank Gregory and Peter Casebow discuss the fitting of the final boards to the ridge of the roof of High Salvington Mill

It was also planned that Southern TV would be approached to film the whole proceedings but Frank has no information of when this happened. The photographs of the restoration were taken by Frank and John Pelling. In 1959 Frank had photographed High Salvington for Worthing Council. Frank was always there in the early days of the restoration, travelling from afar. He was against the involvement of Worthing Borough Council. When the restoration team had a problem, Frank, as their mentor and advisor could explain how to design a particular item and would think nothing of climbing up to the roof if necessary; a photograph taken by John Pelling shows Frank sitting atop the mill with Peter Casebow.

Restoration complete. The appearance of the mill compares well with early photographs showing it in working orderThe mill reopened to visitors in the early 1980s. By this time, the repair of the structure of the mill was progressing well. The old crown tree was found to be severely decayed so it was replaced with a new piece of oak; the remains of the original one can still be seen the grounds of the mill. The complete replacement of the huge brake wheel, in 1985, was one of the major tasks of the project. In 1987 the first pair of sweeps were installed. These were a pair of commons, joined in 1988 by a pair of spring sweeps. Internal repairs continued. In 1990 the existing octagonal concrete roundhouse, with its charactersitically large windows, was replaced with a circular roundhouse to match that shown in old photographs of the mill. On 4th April 1991 the mill ground flour again after a break of approximately a century.

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