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

Restoration of Jill Mill, Clayton

November 02nd 2014 by Elizabeth Trout

Click here for more information on Jill mill.

Jill Windmill at the start of major repairs. The existing sweep frames have been removed, and the tailpole and fantackle are missing

Inside the mill, the French burr stones at the tail are dismantled and their working faces are re-dressedFrank had a long association with the Jack and Jill Windmills at Clayton. He first wrote some notes and made a brief sketch of the wooden windshaft of the post mill (Jill) on 7th November 1934. The earliest correspondence he kept was a letter from Hampton & Sons Estate Agents regarding the sale of the mills dated 17th November 1952. Frank did another sketch of Jack, the tower mill that stands next to Jill, dated 6th August 1957. Another letter of 26th June 1961 from Knight Frank & Rutley, the estate agents, sent Frank a copy of the details of Clayton Mills prepared for their client Mr Longhurst.

Mike Peat fits new cogs to the brake wheel. The peak runner stone has not yet been installedFrank kept cuttings about Jack and Jill including three from 1957 to 1959. A news item from the Evening Argus of 15th May 1957 outlines the £450 cost of the painting and repairs that will be met by East Sussex CC. A photograph from the Southern Weekly News of 26th September 1958 shows Jill covered in scaffolding during the repainting and a more detailed article and photograph of the making of the sweeps by Edwin Hole, reported in the Evening Argus of 5th March 1959. The photograph shows Mr Hole and Mr F. Agate working on one of the sweeps. Another picture from the Brighton & Hove Herald dated 18th August 1962 shows Jill restored.

Mike Peat trues up the rear face of the brake wheel which had become slightly warped, ready for the fitting of new wooden cogs

By 1979, Frank was on the management committee of the Jack & Jill Windmills Preservation Society. He was again dealing with engineers at the Mid-Sussex District Council. Frank has a copy of a letter dated 17th April 1979 sent to Mr D. Chamberlain the District Engineer from Mr R.D. Williams of the Timber Maintenance Department at Gabriel Wade (Southern) Ltd. The letter refers to the spraying of the loose lengths of timber purchased for external cladding. The company provided their labour and Profex fluid treatment free of charge as would Stanhope Chemicals Ltd who supplied the Woodtreat. Mr Chamberlain replies on 20th April 1979 that Mr Hole, the millwright of Burgess Hill, will carry out the major structural repairs during the summer and when complete the Society will proceed with the re-cladding. Frank assisted with the removal of the sweeps in 1979. Sidney Ashdown told Frank that he would dress the stones at Jill on 14th September 1983.

A new fantackle is lifted into position at the rear of the mill and attached to the end of the new tailpoleA copy of a letter from Mr H.V. Owen, District Finance Officer, dated 13th March 1984 to Mrs J. Thomas of the Jack and Jill Windmills Society explained that the Insurance Company is prepared to waive, free of charge, the exclusion restricting work to below thirty feet provided that: the work is completed in three months; the work is undertaken on Saturdays only; and expert supervision is provided. Frank has annotated the letter listing the people that are named to work or supervise above 30 feet on the back of the mill: Martin Brunnarius; Frank Gregory; Danny Jarmann; Mike Peat; Simon Potter; Alan Stone; and Noel Thomas.

The fantackle, complete with 5-bladed fantailJill’s sweeps eventually turned, on 11th August 1984, for the first time since 1906. Frank became one of the volunteers showing visitors around. Sidone MacBain, a SPAB member met Frank on a visit to Jill Windmill at Clayton where he was a volunteer guide. She was impressed with his passion for windmills. He also volunteered with her at Lurgashall Watermill which had been rebuilt and returned to working order at the Weald and Downland Open Air Museum, Singleton.

With repairs to the mill body complete, new stocks and sweeps are fitted, a pair at a time. The photograph shows Simon Potter on the sweep and Martin Brunnarius belowFrank kept some of the minutes and AGM notes of the Management Committee from 1979 to 1998. Frank was mentioned personally in some of them. The Chairman’s report to the AGM in 1983 reported that “Frank Gregory continues to provide his enormous expertise and advice”. At the management committee meeting on Monday 31st October, 1983 it was noted that the Carpenter at Worthing District Council had offered some pine beams to help the work on the mill. They did not need them for Jill, so Frank suggested offering them to the team working on High Salvington Mill. The AGM report of 1985 stated that “Frank Gregory has continued to give a series of talks to a wide assortment of meetings all over Sussex”. In the AOB of the management committee meeting of Tuesday 30th June 1992, Frank asked if there was any mention of when the Clayton Windmills first became known as Jack and Jill. No-one did know, so the question would be put in the Remolo (newsletter).

Jill Mill in working order, with Jack Mill in the background. Together, the two mills are a fine sight in the landscapeOn Tuesday 25th May 1993, at the 15th AGM, Frank was re-elected to the management committee. At the 19th AGM on 14th May 1997, Frank was again re-elected to the committee. The last agenda Frank kept was for the 20th AGM on Wednesday 22nd April 1998. Jill windmill was one of the six mills where Frank’s ashes were scattered after his funeral in 1998.

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