Oral History: Jackie Stewart recollections of Michaelchurch Mill
The historical information below comes from Jackie Stewart, who lived in the converted Corn Mill with her family for a number of years from 1985 and whose husband Ronnie Stewart was the builder who carried out the conversion. Her recollections, written about 1990, are based on discussions with a variety of local people including Warren Lewis who operated the mill around 1930, and on a broadcast about Michaelchurch Mill on BBC radio Hereford and Worcester on April 7th 1989, when the Mill was opened to the public by the Stewarts and the waterwheel turned again for the first time in nearly fifty years.
The Corn Mill. Michaelchurch Escley
Mr Warren Lewis b. 1906
Warren came to The Mill with his family in 1917, when he was 12 yrs old. Besides the Mill and retail business, there was a small-holding looked after by his father. A miller was employed then - Mr Britain, father of six, who lived at Yew Tree Cottage, on the Longtown road. Warren had an accident and badly damaged his leg. The doctors said that he would never make a full recovery, and would only be able to do light work, so his father took the Post Office at Longtown for Warren to look after. However, he proved the doctors wrong and made a full recovery, and worked as the miller until he married in 1930. He then went with his wife to Longtown Post Office, which his father and sister Cissie had been looking after, and they came back to the Mill.
When Warren was the miller, he kept a workman to deliver grain for the retail business (using a horse and cart), and also to help with the farm work. He had half a dozen of these helpers during the years that he was there.
It was a working mill until 1942, and also a retail outlet for corn and feeding stuff. The living quarters were across the road at the present P.O. and baking was done there, by hand, and using wood ovens. 2lb and 4lb loaves were baked, three times a day on three days of the week, and twice a day all the other days of the week. Mrs Lewis, Warren's mother, was in charge of the baking in those days.
After the mill closed, it continued as a retail outlet until 1943. When the war was over, Warren's brother, Eric, came back from the forces and decided to turn the mill into a bakery. He took out the upper moving stones, and installed steam ovens. Ron Roberts worked for Eric in the bakery. A few years later Eric moved the bakery, lock stock and barrel, to Kingstone, keeping his local bread round on.
The Corn Mill was then empty, and over the years became derelict.
BBC Hereford & Worcester Broadcast April 7th 1989 [Warren Lewis speaking]
We used to grind the corn which the farmers grew, to feed to the animals, mostly pigs, to fatten in the winter time. They brought it here and collected it in two or three days, as soon as we could get it ready. Quite a meeting place, two or three gathered together waiting, and would have a drop of cider. During it's [the wheel's] working life you had to be here to make sure everything was alright, to put grease on the end and so on.
The metal teeth of the cogs mesh with wooden ones, to cut down the noise. The ideal wood for these is Maple, but that was hard to obtain, so oak was used instead. Apple is another suitable wood. They were, of course, shaped by hand. Harry Price, who used to work part time on Michaelchurch Estate, made the ones here, until he became a full-time worker on the Estate, and then Bill Powell, The Pear Tree, took over instead.
The revolving stone could be raised and lowered, to make for finer or courser grinding. This was done by raising the beam which the spindle was on. The resulting produce was:-Kibble (coarse) - used for feeding young stock and chickens, and Meal (fine) - used for baking.