Posted 13 March 2013 by Andrew Gardner
If you want evidence of a changing landscape, look no further than the W in Wikipedia. In search of information about a few famous Sussex windmills that I wanted to tell you about, I stumbled upon a long list of those that used to exist, with notes of when they fell down, disappeared or were last mentioned. Towns and villages needed their own mills, and with them came the specialist jobs of miller and millwright; it was an industry within an industry.
Take Shipley Mill, for example, which sadly closed to the public in 2009 but is in working order and you can still have a peek from outside its grounds. Known variously as King's Mill or Vincent's Mill, it was built in 1879 by a Horsham firm of millwrights and worked commercially until 1926. In 1906 it was bought by the writer, poet and political activist Hilaire Belloc, who lived there until his death, after which it was restored by a Burgess Hill millwrights a memorial to him. More recently, it found fame again as the setting for Jonathan Creek’s home in the TV series of that name.
You can, however, still visit the Clayton mills - also in West Sussex – we have plenty of holiday cottages nearby to choose from, and see them being operated, albeit mainly for the tourist industry now (nothing wrong with that, mind you). Known as Jack and Jill, they're on the South Downs just above the village of Clayton, with fabulous views over the Weald. Jill originally stood in Brighton and was relocated to Clayton in 1852 by a team of horses and oxen - quite some job. Jack was built in 1866, worked until 1907 and is one of the few windmills to have a male name; apparently they're usually considered to be female. A bit like ships, I suppose.
There's a car park near the Jack and Jill windmills, so you don't have to hike up the downs to get there - but if you do like to walk, it's worth continuing along the escarpment for the terrific views and lovely fresh air.