05 August 2016

Easthill Windmill Portslade

Judy Middleton 2003 (revised)

copyright © Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove
Frederick Nash painted this view of East Hill windmill in 1841.

Ancient Origins

The location of this windmill was on a site north east of St Nicolas Church where Mill Road is today. It was a post-mill and originally had a tilt pole but this was converted to a fantail.

It is interesting to note it was way back in 1265 that the first mention of a windmill at Portslade was documented. Probably soon afterwards, the mill was rebuilt. This was because it was in such a dilapidated condition that nobody was interested in leasing it. No doubt the mill was rebuilt at other times too but if so there does not seem to be any mention in records.

Richard Scrase

He was born at Preston and lived at Hangleton where he was described as a landowner, brewer and miller. He also owned 100 oxen, 2 ploughs and a brew-house at Hove. The family once owned land on Romney Marsh but his Uncle Robert had sold it. It is thought Richard Scrase held the office of valet to the crown under Edward VI.

  copyright © D.Sharp
Here lyeth buried Rychard Scrasce late of hangleton, gentlema whiche died in ye yeare of our lord god one 1499. Here lyeth buried Rychard Scrasce of Blechington gentlema which died in ye yeare of our lord one 1519. Here lieth buried Edward Scrasce of blechington gentlema who died in ye yeare of our lord 1579. 

Richard Scrase was married twice and there was a large family of four daughters and four sons, the latter being James, Edward, Walter and Richard and it was James who inherited the land at Hangleton.

copyright © J.Middleton
Richard Scrase made bequests to St Helen’s Hangelton, in his Will.

Richard Scrase died in 1499; in fact he wrote two wills. He left the following bequests.

First Will – 1486/1487

‘Wynde-mylle’ in Portslade to wife Alice
3/4d to the high altar of St Helen’s, Hangelton, plus 5/- for general repairs
20/- to Preston Church
3/4d to the Grey Friars of Lewes to pray for his soul
40/- to the Prior and Monastery of St Pancras, Lewes, to pray for his soul

Dom Thomas Atwell, Prior of St Pancras, supervised this will

Second Will – 1499/1500

The price of a cope to Aldrington church
10/- to the high altar of St Helen’s, Hangleton
5/- for tithes forgotten and 6/8d to Hangleton church
10/- to Hove church
3/4d to Lindfield church
8/4d to Preston church
10 marks for an ‘honest priest’ to sing at Preston for a year
Bequest to Chichester Cathedral
Son James, besides the land at Hangleton, was to receive 1,400 sheep (of which 700 were ewes, 400 were wethers and 300 tegs)
A ‘latten’ (brass tablet) was to be set into his tombstone

copyright © J.Middleton
Richard Scrase left "the price of a cope" in his 1499/1500 Will to St Leonard's Church, Aldrington

An interesting difference between the two wills was that in the first he wanted to be buried In St Peter’s Church, Preston, next to his deceased wives, Alicia and Malina. In the second will he had changed his mind about his companions in death. Although he still wished to be buried at St Peter’s, he wanted to lie ‘beside my fader and moder’.

When his first will was drawn up he left the windmill to his wife Alice/Alicia but she pre-deceased him.

Cheesman Family

Francis Cheesman must have enjoyed a profitable career as a miller in Portslade. When he died in 1746 he left a will and the inventory details a wealth of worldly goods.

His widow received £5 a year as long as she did not remarry
His son Francis received 21/-
His son John received 21/-
His daughter Mary (married to Joseph Goldsmith) received 21/-
His daughter Ann received £2 plus a valuable feather bed
His son William was left two properties in Southwick

It seems in writing his will Francis Cheesman was following the old custom of inheritance still extant at Portslade and known as Borough English, which pre-dated the Norman Conquest in 1066. The thinking behind this custom was that older sons and daughters were more likely to be independent or married while their younger siblings might be infants or young children and would need support and so Ann and William seem here to be especially favoured.

But in 1745, the year before Francis died, there must have been a tremendous falling out because Francis added a codicil to his will in which he cut off John and Mary and left them precisely one shilling each. By contrast William, then a young man of around 25 years, became a property owner.

Inventory of Kitchen Goods

Dresser
Tables
Chairs
Cupboards (total value £2)
Large bell brass pot
3 iron pots
2 brass skillets
12 pewter plates
12 pewter dishes
Brass mortar and pestle
Brass scummer
Pair of scales
Pair of skillards
A chaffing dish
2 spits
2 pot-hooks
A gridiron
A warming pan
Other small items (total value £3)

Feather Beds

The height of luxury was a good feather bed. The one in the best chamber complete with bedstead and curtains was valued at £2-10s and there were no less than eleven pairs of sheets to go with it.
There were three other feather beds in the household and daughter Ann was fortunate to be given one of them.

A confusion of Christian Names

William Cheesman also worked at the mill and he married Susanna. Their children were William and Susannah. William Cheesman’s will was dated 1 December 1785 and he left one of the Lisbon Cottages in South Street to his daughter Susannah Peters. William married a Susannah too.

(It is interesting to note there was prominent local builder at Hove by the name of George Cheesman. In the early 1830s he was busy building the first houses in Adelaide Crescent. He also built three houses in Brunswick Place and may have been responsible for some houses in Brunswick Square. He built Brighton Vicarage and St John’s Church, Carlton Hill, Brighton. Later on the firm of Cheesman & Co were involved in the construction of a groyne on Hove seafront and constructed houses in Seafield Road, Denmark Villas and Wilbury Road.)

copyright © J.Middleton
St Nicolas Church, Portslade.

Peters Family
 copyright © D.Sharp
John son of John and Susanna Peters. 
He departed this life ye 28th June 1782 
aged 2 years 2 months. St Nicolas churchyard.

John and Susannah Peters had four children:

John baptised 14 May 1780 died 28 June 1782 aged 2 years 2 months
William baptised 3 August 1783 died 1860
Thomas baptised 9 July 1786 died 1858
Francis baptised 25 October 1789 died 1826

Susannah Peters died in 1828.

William and Thomas helped out at the mill when they were grown up.

William Peters married Harriet and they had eight children:

Susannah baptised 25 May 1806
William baptised 30 July 1809
Thomas baptised 26 December 1811
Edward baptised 3 July 1814
George baptised 8 June 1817
Harriet baptised 9 April 1820
Elizabeth baptised 16 February 1822
Arthur baptised 27 August 1826

  copyright © D.Sharp
The font in St Nicolas Church
where all the Cheeseman's 
14 children were baptised
Possibly there was a whiff of scandal attached to Harriet Peters. At any rate there is a record of baptism for Harriet on 29 September 1844, daughter of Harriet Peters, spinster.

Thomas Peters married Susannah Cheesman on 8 October 1812 at St Nicolas Church, Portslade; the couple had six children:

Helen baptised 7 December 1817
Cheesman baptised 13 February 1820 buried 26 March 1820
Owen baptised 13 May 1821
William Cheesman baptised 1 February 1824 died 28 December 1885
Francis baptised 5 November 1826
Edwin baptised 18 October 1827 died 5 February 1881

All fourteen children were baptised at St Nicolas Church.

There is an interesting sidelight on Thomas Peters and his family. Apparently, Thomas Peters was a trustee of the will of Samuel Godsmark who farmed the Stonery and who died in 1829. His son James Godsmark (1816-1891) was set up in an apprenticeship with money from the will but it did not suit him at all. By chance he bumped 
into Thomas Peters who kindly offered to make a miller of him. 
Since young James had no other option, he agreed to the proposal. 
  copyright © D.Sharp
Samuel Godsmark
St Nicolas churchyard

However, when he arrived at the house he was enraged to find it stuffed full of his late father’s goods to which James thought Thomas Peters had no right. Swallowing his pride, he tried to make the best of his situation but some of Thomas Peters’ sons bullied him badly and he had to leave. In his biographical writings James did not mention the names of the bullies.

In 1841 Thomas Peters was given the task of enumerator that is ensuring the census returns for Portslade were correctly recorded. One fact he had to record was the age of the one female servant the family employed – she was twelve years of age.

By 1851 Thomas Peters had retired from running the mill and he was 64 years old. Instead his occupation was noted as a collector of taxes.

Thomas Peters died on 12 March 1858 aged 71 years and was buried is St Nicolas churchyard where the family tomb is still to be seen. The inscription runs In Memory of Thomas Peters who for a number of years filled various offices in this Parish with zeal, efficiency and with heartfelt consideration for the Poor and Aged.’

It was most probably his concern for the poor that led to a Portslade tradition. This was that corn gleaned after the harvest could be brought to the mill and ground free of charge. Quite often enough was ground to fill two sacks.

Thomas’s wife Susannah lived to the grand age of 93 and died on 3 December 1879.

Three of Thomas’s sons also worked as millers; they were Edwin, William Cheesman and Francis. Unhappily, there was trouble at the mill when the two latter had a spectacular falling out and sued each other for being insolvent debtors. Naturally, such an atmosphere could not be endured and in 1854 the partnership was dissolved.

For the first time for many years people from outside the Peters family ran the mill.

In 1855 John Hampshire and George Hodson were described as dairymen, farmers and millers. It was a logical move for George Hodson because he already farmed at West Blatchington.
copyright © D.Sharp
Sarah, daughter of William and Caroline Mobsby,
St Nicolas churchyard.

In 1861 brothers Thomas Mobsby and William Mobsby were running the mill. In St Nicolas churchyard a tombstone inscription runs In Memory of Sarah, daughter of William and Caroline Mobsby late Portslade Mill. She died March 16 1865 aged 28 years. Close to this spot lies the body of the above William Mobsby who died September 23 1865 aged 68 years.

William Cheesman Peters’ second name was his mother’s maiden surname as well as the Christian name of his deceased infant brother. When William and his wife Jane had a son they decided to follow the tradition; he too was called Cheesman and was baptised on 1 May 1853. William Cheesman Peters died on 28 December 1885 aged 62 and Mr Scrase of Portslade made his tombstone. Peters could not join other family members in St Nicolas churchyard because it was closed to further burials and so he was buried in Portslade Cemetery.

It seems that Francis must have missed the mill and by 1862 he was back in charge. He managed on his own until 1870 when his younger brother Edwin joined him. Edwin had earned his living as the village baker from at least 1841 and after forty years he was still described as a baker; in this capacity he employed two men and a boy. Edwin died at the age of 54 on 5 February 1881 but his wife Phoebe survived him for a good few years and died at the age of 88 in 1 July 1909.

Demise of the Windmill

Although Easthill Windmill had such an ancient lineage by the closing years of the 19th century it was becoming irrelevant. New technology had arrived in the area and there was the Britannia Steam Mills next to the canal at Portslade-by-sea.

 copyright © Brighton & Hove City Libraries
This historic photograph dating from around 1914 shows long-vanished parts of Portslade. 
The Britannia Flour Mills stand at the centre with a ship at the wharf, the Crown Inn is on the right, the Star Model Laundry is on the left while in the background the spire of Our Lady, Star of the Sea, and St Denis is visible.

It is difficult to ascertain exactly when Easthill windmill was demolished. Percy Hardwick, who farmed at Hangleton, told his friend Captain Bately in 1935 that he had the mill dismantled in 1880 because the sweeps were in a dangerous state and might collapse onto nearby cottages.

Other authorities state the windmill was not demolished until 1895 and indeed the Directory for 1895 still lists Alfred Hardwick at the windmill.

Whenever the sweeps and top part were removed, the base of the mill survived for many more years. The lower floor had been constructed below ground level, which was an unusual feature; also the brick piers were very solidly built. It was called the Round House and in 1923 alterations were carried out.

The structure was completely dry inside and later served as a library and study for the occupants of Mill House Farm.

In the 1940s Mr R.F. Simms purchased the property while it was still in the occupation of Canadian troops. In 1948 Mr Simms made the Round House into a residence with a spiral staircase leading up to a newly constructed second floor. But in 1952 the Simms family emigrated to Canada.

Frank Newlove was the next occupant of the Round House and he lived there with his aunt. The house continued to be lived in until May 1958 when it was sold to R. Green, property developers, who built 28 houses on the surrounding land. They used the Round House as an estate office while construction was underway but when its usefulness was over, it was demolished.

Chronology

1265 – Mill in poor state, belongs to Manor of Portslade
1499 – Richard Scrase, owner of ‘wynde-mylle’ dies
1621 – John Gunter, Portslade miller
1746 – Francis Cheesman, miller, died
1786 – William Cheesman, miller
1801 – Two windmills at Portslade with capacity of grinding 10 quarters in 24 hours
1814 – William Cheesman, junior, died
1817 – Thomas Peters, William Peters, millers
1818 – John Peters, miller
1820 – Thomas Peters, William Peters
1841 – Frederick Nash paints watercolour of mill
1841 – Thomas Peters, miller and enumerator
1851 – William Cheesman Peters and Francis Peters, millers and bakers
1854 – William Cheesman Peters and Francis Peters dissolve their partnership
1855 – John Hampshire and George Hodson, dairymen, farmers and millers
1861 – Thomas Mobsby, 35, and Philip Mobsby, 24, brothers and millers
1862 – Francis Peters, miller
1870 – Francis Peters and Edwin Peters, millers
1880 – Percy Hardwick orders sweeps to be removed
1940s – Base of mill survived, known as Round House, purchased by R.F. Simms
1952 – Simms family emigrate to Canada
1958 – Round House and land sold to R.Green, property developers

See also Copperas Gap Windmill in south Portslade

Sources

Census Returns
Baptism, Burials and Marriage Records of St Nicolas Church, Portslade
Directories
Encyclopaedia of Hove and Portslade

Copyright © J.Middleton 2016
page layout by D.Sharp