Family mill and sleeping giant

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FRANK Catt from Hailsham has some happy memories of his family mill and its sleeping giant.

This is, in part, what he has to say:

“I believe the defining thing for my interest in mechanics was the sleeping giant at the mill next to my house. My father, his brothers and several generations before them were millers, and we lived in Mill House, still my home, next to the family-owned provender mill in Hailsham.

“The earlier windmill at the site, built in 1834, was burnt down in 1923 and replaced with a factory-like power mill.

“It no longer relied on the wind but on power from a 50HP gas oil engine – the giant...

“l would climb down the few brick steps from the mill floor, and just stand and look at this magnificent black giant of a machine, tired and resting after a hard day’s work, with the small hiss and wisps of steam, the creak of slowly contracting metals, and the drip of lubricating oils.

“I later insisted on seeing the giant at work. I can remember the total awe in which I went down those same three steps into an audience with this monster, now awake and bellowing with power.

“I stood dumbstruck in fascination to watch all of the exposed parts of this magnificent beast working in unison. Nothing I had ever seen had so much impression on me – and probably never will.

“Then, in 1951, mains electricity became available to the mill, and I was devastated to hear that electric motors would replace the engine, and that with the press of a button they could work without having to fight my giant into life.

“He lay lifeless for a while, then eventually workmen and cranes arrived to dismantle him and, I was told, he was exported to Bombay where I suspect he still lives in some forgotten corner.”