Wenden Lofts’ Mill

“Miss Nellie Smith who lived at Hamlet House, Pond Street, is shown on the photograph as a young girl on the steps of the Mill. Her family lived at Hope Farm and farmed the land round about. The Mill was taken down very soon after the First World War.” (Handwritten note on the back of this photograph)

This photo was taken around 1905 according to a note written on the back. Miss Nellie Smith was obviously with a lot of her friends and not marked out, so sadly we don’t know which one she is. But what is amazing is to have a picture of a local mill. There are a few pictures of Lofts Mill and sadly we don’t have any pictures of Chrishall Mill at all, although it was of a similar structure I think so probably looked very like this one.

Lofts Mill MapAs you can see from the extract of an 1898 map, Lofts Mill stood at the back of the Mill House opposite the Pond Street turning on the main Royston to Saffron Walden Road. (Many locals might know this as the site of Mr Palmer’s house, the man who ran the fruit farm. A new house has been built on the site in recent years.)

I think, in the photograph, we are looking towards Lofts Hall, with our backs to the main road and therefore it is probably Park Wood in the far distance with Chrishall Church just off to the left.

Nellie Smith would have been 14 at the time of the photograph. She lived with her family at Hope Farm, the farm that is straight on from the end of the Pond Street road (the ‘no through’ road – all other traffic would turn left up towards Duddenhoe End). I presume when Nellie moved to Hamlet House she would have been married but I’m not sure. We have photographs from Hamlet House that we think are of the Mallow family: https://chrishallessex.co.uk/hamlet-house-photographs/ and https://chrishallessex.co.uk/are-these-the-mallows-too/. Is there a connection?

From the Trade Directories we do know something of the millers at Lofts Mill:

1848: Robert Hamshar

1863 and 1874: George Nottage – miller and farmer

1895: Henry Edridge

The lovely website ‘The Mills Archive‘ doesn’t have Wenden Lofts Mill listed separately but a search does bring up some millers for Lofts starting from 1615 which would be around the same time that Chrishall windmill was constructed and running for.

Mr Brand from Building End certainly used Chishill Mill as we have a receipt from his collection. I wonder if any of the Chrishall farmers used Wenden Lofts mill?

Footnote: History House (https://historyhouse.co.uk/placeW/essexw08a.html) has an extract from White’s Directory of Essex 1848 suggesting that Lofts is actually a corruption of Le Hout, the family that held the manor of Wendon Lofts in the reign of Henry III (1207-1272). According to Wendens Ambo history, the name Wenden is said to be Saxon and means winding valley. https://www.recordinguttlesfordhistory.org.uk/wendensambo/wendensambohistory.html

Wendens Ambo Society say there was historically very little contact between Wenden Lofts and what was then Great and Little Wenden (Wendens Ambo) until the time of the Wilkes and the Fiskes in the late 1700s/early 1800s. If you are interested in reading more about how ‘Great and Little’ Wenden became one ‘Ambo’ they have a new edition of their history book available: https://www.wendenheritage.org.uk Or email them at wendensambo.soc@yahoo.co.uk

Memory Box

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Nellie Smith and the mill

‘I have the same picture. I know exactly where the mill stood….. you can still just see the mound in the field where the mill stood. As a boy I knew Nellie Smith quite well. She was a quite eccentric old lady who lived on her own in Pond Street Farm which was just up the road towards Pond Street on the left which has all been converted into fancy houses.  She (Nellie) was quite a good water colour painter and I think Mary had flower picture that she painted. She was the lady who had a cockerel with a frozen comb…. The timber from the mill, which was taken down either just before or just after WWI, was reused to build a barn down Building End. I remember Walter Brand showing Dad and I the timber which was still painted white inside the barn and had been reused for its framework.’