Woodcock alias Wiremill

Woodcock alias Wiremill

The property known as Wiremill is located at the north-western edge of the parish of Felbridge, being at one time part of the Felbridge Place estate until the break up and sale of the estate from 1911. The whole area surrounding Wiremill is steeped in history but this document sets out to chart only the development of the site of Wiremill, from its first identified mention in the mid 1500’s until the ‘pub’ of the present day. It will cover the development and various uses of the building over the centuries and the people who have owned and occupied the site. This document will touch upon the land and other properties that have been linked with Wiremill over the years but the history and development of the surrounding area is involved and complicated with more than enough material to form a separate document in the future.

Wiremill is situated at the northern end of a lake that was created by the construction of a pond-bay, damming one of the tributaries of the River Eden in the 1560’s. The pond-bay is 178 ¾ yards (165 meters) in length and when the pond was in full water it would have been in excess of 9 feet (3 meters) deep, a substantial volume of water. The lake, which in antiquity was referred to as merely a ‘pond’, once stretched from the man-made pond-bay, south-west to the edge of the main London road, now the A22, at the foot of Woodcock Hill. This pond was just over twenty-five acres of water with surrounding marsh, but over the years, particularly during the last century, it has decreased by half. This reduction in expanse of water is largely due to the changing uses of the Wiremill property.

The course of the tributary has always passed close to the site of Wiremill, wending its way through Felbridge towards Lingfield where it joins the River Eden and there is evidence to suggest that the river was the source of power for a watermill in this area from at least the mid 1500’s. This area once fell under the tithing of Heath Hatch in the manor of Lagham and there are several references to a watermill in the area. In 1559 Nicholas Norton was recorded as the miller grinding ‘sundry grain near lands called Shawnors between New Chapelle and East Grinstead’, being requested to remove ‘trees and boughs in common river called Heggelond Ryver’. Between 1560 and 1563 it was recorded that John Myller ‘keeps the watermill’ and ‘sometimes receives excessive grain’ but ‘conducteth himself well and uprightly in his calling’. John Myller was succeeded by John Rodgers in 1563, being described as the ‘common miller there and keeper of a watermill’, but there is no mention of a miller from 1564 for the remainder of the Court Book. Unfortunately, the earliest surviving Lagham Court Book dates from 1559, therefore it is not possible to ascertain how long the mill had been operating prior to this date, although it is possible that the watermill referred to in the Court Books was a corn mill built on the site of Wiremill, or close to the site of the current building.

A slightly earlier and yet another tantalising document that may possibly refer to the watermill is dated 26th October 1533. This is for a lease of seven years made by Sir George Harper, knight, and William A… [illegible], esquire, administrators of the goods and chattels of Thomas Gaynesford esquire, (deceased), late of Crowhurst in Surrey, to John Cole, and Thomas Holerage of Crowhurst, yeomen, John Tycheborne, gent. and Reynold Holmedon, yeoman, of Lingfield, for a: ‘Forge and hammersmith in the parish of Crowhurst, late the property of Thomas Gaynesford, with all houses, cottage buildings, ways, bayes, ponds, waters and streams belonging to the same. Also, the right to fish once every three years. Also, all wood, trees and underwood growing in the woodland called Hedgecourt Park in the parishes of Godstone, Tandridge and East Grinstead, being the property of Sir John Gage, knight, now Lord Chamberlain’. The rent for this hammer mill with the rights to the fish and woodland amounted to £80 to be paid half yearly. An addition to the lease, written at a later date, states ‘Late bought of the said Sir John Gage by Thomas Gaynesford by indenture dated 4th March 1550’, paying in 1556, £33 6s 8d per half year. It is unclear exactly what was ‘late bought’ from Sir John Gage as the value of the rent is less than half the value of the property and rights in the original lease, perhaps it refers to just the woodland in Hedgecourt Park, although that was still part of the Gage holdings in 1562 when John Thorpe first leased Hedgecourt from the Gages.

There are three reasons why the lease of 1533 may relate to the mill on the site of what is today called Wiremill.
1), The lease refers to a ‘hammersmith’ or hammer mill, the known operation of the mill on the site of Wiremill by the 1560’s.
2), Under the terms of the lease the leasee of the ‘hammersmith’ was entitled to ‘all wood, trees and underwoods growing in the woodland called Hedgecourt Park’. The entitlement to the use of the wood from Hedgecourt was also included in later leases for the hammer mill on the site of Wiremill.
3), There is no evidence for a hammer mill in Crowhurst, a parish not too distant from the tithing of Heath Hatch in which the site of Wiremill is located.

What is known is that from the 1560’s there are references to ‘Swanne of the Hammer Mill’ in the area now known as Wiremill and that a hammer mill had been constructed on the site of Wiremill by 1561, known as Woodcock Hammer or Forge. It is possible that a corn mill could have been converted as a hammer mill but the river, as the source of water power, would have been inadequate resulting in the construction of the bay to retain a large volume of water. However, this alone would still not have provided enough water and a second pond located further up stream at Hedgecourt acted as a reservoir for the hammer pond at Woodcock Forge. The water at Hedgecourt also ran a watermill for grinding corn but Woodcock Forge held the rights to the water. [For further details see Hedgecourt Mills and Mill Cottages, SJC 12/99, and Hedgecourt Watermill and Cottages, SJC 07/04 Handouts]

Woodcock Forge
It has long been believed that the Woodcock Forge was built by Jack Dancey of Turners Hill, along with the building or re-modelling of Hedgecourt Mill. The construction of Woodcock Forge, together with a furnace further up stream from Hedgecourt in Myllwood (Furnace Wood), known at a later date as Warren Furnace, mark the beginning of a thriving iron industry in Felbridge that was to last until the 1780’s. The furnace also required water as a source of power to run the bellows, and like at Hedgecourt Mill and Woodcock Forge, a pond was created by the construction of a bay across the river. Thus the three large lakes in the Felbridge area, all man-made, had been created by the late 1500’s to serve the burgeoning iron industry. [For further details see Warren Furnace, SJC01/11, Handout]

Woodcock Forge would have processed cast or pig iron produced at the furnace by hammering to produce bar or wrought iron. The furnace primarily cast ordnance, mortars and cannons, but would also have produced large cast bars of iron known as ‘sows’ and ‘pigs’ that would have been taken to the Woodcock Forge. The sow was the long cast bar which had smaller bars – pigs, running off each side. These would then be hammered, producing bar or wrought iron that was strong, not prone to cracking like cast iron, and which could then be made into everyday iron implements, tools and household equipment.

A hammer forge powered by water, was the earliest and simplest mechanised method of working iron, the hammer being the largest item of equipment at a forge. The essential principle of a hammer was that the helve, a timber beam bound with iron hoops, was set in an iron pivot, called the hurst, mounted on timber posts. A cast-iron head weighing between 7 and 8 cwt (315-360 kg) was fitted at one end of the helve, falling on the work placed on the anvil. Cams, large wooden pegs, fixed in a drum lifted the helve. The shaft on which this was mounted formed the axle of the water wheel. The cams either lifted the helve or forced the tail of the helve downwards. An additional feature was a rabbet, a timber mounted above the hurst end of the structure that acted as a spring, supplementing the weight of the head in its downward movement. The whole mechanism being supported by a heavy timber frame built into the forge.

The hammer at the Woodcock Forge was operated by water passing over an over-shot wheel taking water from the top of the wheel and falling from a height on the buckets. The axle of the wheel in turn revolved the drum, as the drum revolved so a cam engaged under the head of the hammer until the point that it could no longer support the hammer. As the cam revolved past the point of support, the cast-iron hammer head was released and dropped onto the iron on the anvil, the hammer head awaiting the engagement of the next cam. During the hammering process, the iron was removed from the anvil and heated in a hearth at intervals, making the iron malleable. The temperature of the heating hearth was maintained by the use of bellows providing a regular stream of air into the forging area, run by a second over-shot waterwheel. This process of hammering and heating the cast or pig iron continued until the point at which it had been converted into bar or wrought iron.

The following is a fascinating description of working iron at a hammer or forge mill in the 1650’s given in Old English Mills and Inns written by R Thurston Hopkins:

In every forge or hammer there are two fires at least, the one they call the finery, the other the chafery.

At the finery, by the working of the hammer, they bring it into blooms and anconies thus:

The sow, at first, they roll into the fire, and melt off a piece of about three-fourths of a hundred weight, which, so soon as it is broken off, is called a loop.

This loop they take out with their shingling tongs and beat it with iron sledges upon an iron plate near the fire, that so it may not fall in pieces, but be in a capacity to be carried under the hammer. Under which they, then removing it, and drawing a little water, beat it with the hammer very gently, which forces cinder and dross out of the matter: afterwards, by degrees, drawing more water, they beat it thicker and stronger till they bring it to a bloom, which is a four-square mass of about two foot long. This operation they call shingling the loop.

This done, they immediately return it to the finery again, and after two or three heats and working they bring it to an ancomy; the figure whereof is, in the middle, a bar about three feet long, of that shape they intend the whole bar to be made of it; at both ends a square piece left rough to be wrought at the chaffery.

Note. At the finery, three load of the biggest coals go to make one tun of iron. At the chafery, they only draw out the two ends sutable to what was drawn out at the finery in the middle, and so finish the bar.
Note 1. One load of the smaller coals will draw out one tun at the chafery.
Note 2. They expect that one man and a boy, at the finery, should make two tuns of iron in a week; two men at the chafery should take up, i.e., make or work, five or six tun in a week.

At the Woodcock Forge, there was one over-shot wheel on the east wall and another on the west, one operating the hammer and the other the bellows to heat the forge.

The original hammer mill structure probably equates to the building closest to the pond-bay, running along the line of the bay, east/west, however, the building has been extended and altered over the years and there is very little evidence to say that any of the original structure still survives.

The Thorpes
The first clear reference to the identity of an owner of the Woodcock Forge can be found in a list of furnaces and forges operating in 1574, when John Thorpe of Hedgecourt, gentleman, worked the forge in conjunction with the furnace in Myllwood. John Thorpe first appears in the Felbridge area in 1562 when he was resident and collecting the rents for Hedgecourt Manor. Five years later in 1567, there is a lease between John Thorpe and Sir Edward Gage for the demesne lands of Hedgecourt which included ‘lands called the Park of Hedgecourte, Coddinglighe Park, Sharnowrs, Gages Meades, Cowpers Hill, Tanners, Smythforde Courte, the Tylt, Honnyes, Warnars Crofts and the Myllwood, with all barns, stables, stalls and other buildings in the park, mills and mill-dams, in Godstone, Horne, Tandridge, [East] Grinstead and Worth’. One of the mills and mill dams must be that of the Woodcock hammer mill, being that it is located in or near Sharnowrs, another mill being that of Hedgecourt. Evidence suggests that John Thorpe was leasing most of the woodland around Woodcock but there is no direct evidence that he was tenant of the either Woodcock Forge or the furnace in Myllwood in 1567. He was also referred to in connection with the ‘iron mill of Hedgecourt’; this has been assumed to refer to the furnace at Myllwood (later Warren furnace) as it is believed that Hedgecourt mill has always operated as a flour mill. However, it is also possible that it refers to the ‘iron mill’ known as Woodcock Forge, lying adjacent to Hedgecourt.

From these early leases it is evident that the Gage family were the landowners of the Wiremill area when John Thorpe leased the demesne lands of Hedgecourt, the Thorpe family moving from Cudworth manor in Newdigate, Surrey, around 1562. John Thorpe may have already had knowledge of the iron industry, as Newdigate could boast of ironworks from 1533, when Ewood Furnace and Forge, which had already been established by the Nevill family, was leased to George and Christopher Darrell, along with the manor of Ewood. The Darrell family were recusants, retaining their Catholic faith and refusing to conform to the Anglican Church. As such they were liable to fines resulting in a portion of the manor being sold off to cover mounting debts, and when George Darrell died in 1567 he was recorded as being of ‘reduced circumstances’. His brother Christopher retained the ironworks but the circumstances surrounding the date of 1567 may bear some significance for the Thorpe family’s decision to re-new the lease on the Hedgecourt area.

Apart from the Woodcock Forge and the furnace in Myllwood, John Thorpe was later to have connections with the Vachery ironworks in Cranleigh, Surrey, as the deeds of 1580 record that he was the nominal owner having been conveyed land, including the ironworks, by Sir Edward Bray and his son Reynolde. At that date the Vachery ironworks were leased to John Gardyner, alias Lambert, probably in partnership with John Duffield of East Grinstead.

In 1586, John Thorpe purchased the following from William Swanne, senior (probably ‘Swanne of the Hammer Mill’ as referred to in the 1560’s), 1 messuage, 10 acres of land, 5 acres of meadow, 20 acres of pasture, 20 acres of wood and 5 acres of land wholly covered with water. It is known from later transactions of the Thorpe family that this holding formed part of the Woodcock forge area and probably refers to land to the east and south of the lake, Wire Mill Wood and the old cottage that now forms part of Mill End House. This area travelled separately to Woodcock Forge until 1748 when both areas became part of the holding of the Edward Evelyn.

Between 1598 and 1606, the rent for Woodcock Forge was paid by Thomas Thorpe son of John. In 1629, John Gage, leased property including the ‘iron forge or iron works called Woodcock Hammer or Woodcock Works’ to Richard Thorpe of Worth, gentleman, for the term of thirty-one years for £400, with a rental of £100. Richard Thorpe was the son of Thomas Thorpe and lived at Gibbs at Fenne on Hedgecourt Common, now Gibbshaven Farm in Furnace Wood. As gentlemen, John, Thomas and Richard Thorpe were unlikely to have ‘worked’ either the forge or furnace directly but would have overseen the running of the ironworks. Richard Thorpe, son of the above mentioned Richard, continued to hold Woodcock Forge until 1651, when it was subject to a sheriff’s seizure at the suit of the Gage estate for a debt of £50 and £3 costs. At this date Thorpe’s interest was sold to Simon Everenden of Cliffe near Lewes, a gentleman, by the Gage estate.

Richard Thorpe, however, still retained the property purchased from William Swanne until 1668, and in January 1652, he leased the ‘parcel of land covered with water being part of a pond called Woodcocke Pond, with liberty to flow it with water as formerly, together with a cottage theretofore used as a Forgeman’s house and the parcel of land theretofore used with the forge called Woodcocke Forge and all bays and banks’ to Simon Everenden, for the term of eight years for the rental of £5. The terms of this lease do not include the forge itself, however, in October 1652 a new lease was granted by Thomas Gage bart. to Simon Everenden for ‘the site of the manor of Hedgecourt with lands, waters and iron forge and premises’ for the term of twenty-one years.

There are two points of interest in the Thorpe/Everenden lease:
1) ‘Cottage used as a Forgeman’s house’, this implies that as well as the Forge there was a dwelling house for the forge-man that worked the Forge. The most likely property for the ‘Forgeman’s house’ now forms part of Mill End House, formerly known as Ben Ezra and before that as The Old Cottage, which is located near the east end of the pond-bay.
2) There is no mention of the Forge building itself confirming that it was not the property of Thorpe to lease.

The Gage/Everenden lease, nine months after the Thorpe/Everenden lease, refers to ‘waters and iron forge and premises’ confirming that the Gage family owned the actual forge and that the Thorpes had only been leasing it from them. However, in a deed of recovery dated August 1654, Mary Gage, the widow of Thomas Gage bart., together with the executors of his will and Simon Everenden sought to recover debts owed by James Littleton of Cowden, Kent, gentleman. The debts in question were £12 for the rent of Woodcock Forge and £83 12s 6d for wood, both debts outstanding from 24th June 1654. This deed implies that Woodcock Forge was, at this date, in the occupancy of James Littleton. Unfortunately no information has yet come to light linking Littleton with the iron industry. The 1654 deed requested that the value of the debt should be paid to John Newnham of West Hoathly, gentleman, suggesting that John Newnham then took on the Woodcock forge at this date.

John Newnham
In the late 1600’s John Newnham held large tracts of land in the Felbridge/Crawley Down/Lingfield area, although evidence suggests that he only held the Woodcock Forge for about ten years. However, on his departure in 1664 he did not leave the iron industry or break his associations with the Gage family as he is recorded as leasing Maresfield Forge from them in 1669. Maresfield Forge in Sussex had been built in 1574, being leased to John Fawkenor. As a point of interest, John Fawkenor along with John French had helped set up the furnace in Myllwood (later known as the Warren furnace), for Sir Edward Gage when he first ventured into the iron industry in the 1560’s. It is not known how long John Newham held Maresfield Forge but in 1691 he was recorded as occupying Pounsley Furnace in Framfield, Sussex, supplying shells and shot the Board of Ordnance until at least 1707. However, John Newham formerly of Woodcock Forge had died by April 1693, suggesting that perhaps a son called John continued supplying the Board of Ordnance after his death.

Jeremy Johnson
In April 1664, Jeremy Johnson the younger of Charlwood, Surrey, gentleman, took on a six-year lease for the Woodcock Forge from Sir John Gage. The lease gives a good description of what went with the Forge – ‘forge and forge-pond called Woodcock Forge in Godstone with the Forge-man’s house, gardens, land and a cottage formerly used as a Forge-man’s house; the land actually used with the Forge; land in Godstone leased to John Gage by Richard Thorpe, lately occupied by John Newnham, gentleman, under a lease by Thomas Gage bart., the father of John Gage; the iron-house or warehouse’. The lease included a schedule of tools, unfortunately not itemised. The tenant was to have the cinders from the Forge to repair the forge pond-bay and was to sell or dispose of the rest. John Gage also gave timber from his manor of Hedgecourt for the repair of the Forge and also from his manor of Shovelstrode in East Grinstead ‘if insufficient’.

It is clear from this lease that by 1664 a second property had been built near Woodcock forge to accommodate the forge man, superseding the ‘cottage formerly used as a Forgeman’s house’, unfortunately the exact location of the new Forgeman’s house is not known.

Jeremy Johnson was born around 1635 and married his wife, Alice, around 1667, settling in East Grinstead where they had nine children, the first, a son, born in 1668. In 1669 the Johnson family were recorded as living at 26-28 High Street, East Grinstead moving to 1-2 Judges Terrace by 1674. In 1670 the Hearth Tax records that he had ten hearths implying that he was a man of some wealth, but it is not known whether this refers to his High Street house or Judges Terrace house. Much of his wealth was made through the iron industry during his tenure of the Woodcock Forge between 1664 and 1710. He was an up-standing member of the East Grinstead community and during his life he was an overseer for the poor in 1678 and served as a bailiff or holder of public office in 1679.

In December 1696, Jeremy Johnson increased his property holding by the purchase of ‘two messuages, barns, buildings and land called Hammer Lands (70 acres)’ that he occupied, from John Finch of Steyning, a maltster, for the sum of £483. This property became known as Forge Farm and was only held for a few years before Jeremy Johnson conveyed the property in February 1700 to the Joseph Gage of Sherborn in Oxfordshire, William Goreing of Burton and Henry Gage of Bentley, Framfield in Sussex, (executors of John Gage, deceased), and trustees of his infant son Thomas Gage for the sum of £440.

Jeremy Johnson died in 1707 and his wife Alice in 1719, both being buried at St Swithun’s Church in East Grinstead. However, in 1717 the Woodcock Forge was still listed as ‘Mr Johnson’s forge’, implying that either his wife was running the business in his name, or possibly a son was running the business. By the date of his youngest daughter’s death in 1723, the Johnson family had acquired a coat of arms that are displayed on her monument in Hurstpierpoint church where she is buried. The arms are: argent a pheon [arrow-head with an inner engrailed edge] between 3 voided lozenges gules. In 1747, 1-2 Judges Terrace, ‘late of Phillipa Johnson’, was purchased by William Purchase being described as: ‘a burgage, yard, and garden of ¼ acre’. This implies that either an unmarried daughter had been living in the house or a widowed daughter-in-law, thus ending the Johnson association with 1-2 Judges Terrace. The personal details used here about Jeremy Johnson and his family were published in the East Grinstead Bulletin, no.77.

In 1664, when Jeremy Johnson took on the tenure of the Woodcock Forge, the lease refers to timber ‘for the repair of the Forge’ implying that the Forge may have seen better days and was in a bad state of repair. One reason for the dilapidated state of the Woodcock Forge may be that the iron industry as a whole had been in decline in the Wealden area.

It is well documented that the iron industry of the Weald doubled in size between 1548 and 1573, during which time both Woodcock Forge and the furnace in Myllwood were constructed. However, by 1653 the number of operating forges had dropped from 58 to 45 and operating furnaces from 52 to 36. Some of the decline in numbers of forges can be attributed to furnaces making more castings and less pig iron therefore having the knock-on effect of reducing the number of forges required to process the iron. By 1667, three years after Jeremy Johnson took on the Woodcock Forge, the number of forges had dropped to 17, those that had survived producing smaller quantities of bar iron than in the earlier hey-day of the industry. By 1717 the number of operating forges had dropped still further to just 13, one still operating being the Woodcock Forge referred to as ‘Mr Johnson’s forge’. On average, these forges were converting only half the quantity of pig iron worked compared to that in 1667. In 1717 and 1718, the output of the Woodcock Forge was recorded as 40 tons per annum, but it is not known if this figure had dropped, increased or remained the same over the years as unfortunately there are no earlier surviving output figures to compare with.

The reduction in bar iron production of the forges reflects the difficulties that Wealden forge-masters were facing due to good quality foreign bar iron being imported from the Continent and the Baltic. The low prices of the Continental producers enabled them to compete with local Wealden producers, particularly in London, and the South and East coastal areas. In addition to the imported bar iron, competition was growing from the Midland forges whose bars were also competitively priced with a wide range of qualities.

In October 1664, whilst Jeremy Johnson was in the tenure of the Woodcock Forge, Richard Thorpe of Gibshaven in Worth and his brother George Thorpe, both gentlemen, leased ‘a messuage called Forgeman’s House, adjoining Woodcock Hammer, with floodgates and all their land usually flowed with water by the hammer-pond’ to John Gage, for a term of seven years. Three years later, John Gage secured an annuity by leasing property in this area including the ‘forge or iron-mill called Woodcock Hammer’ to William Rooper of St Giles in the Field, London, esquire, and Thomas Pellet of Bignor, Sussex, gentleman, for 99 years. This action was purely for raising capital for the annuity.

The Finches
In April 1668, John Finch the miller at Hedgecourt Mill, purchased 74 acres of land and two houses and a barn at Woodcock Forge being ‘lately the estates of Richard Thorpe of Gibshaven and his brother George Thorpe. This purchase saw the end of the Thorpe’s interest in this area that had begun nearly one hundred years earlier in 1567, replaced by the interest of the Finch family that was to last for just short of thirty years. In June 1669, John Finch leased the Forgeman’s House adjoining Woodcock Forge with ‘all floodgates, waters and watercourses’ to John Gage of Firle for the term of seven years.

In February 1672, John Gage of Firle, with John Finch of Worth, a yeoman, assigned two separate plots to Gabriel Leach of New Inn, Middlesex, gentleman, in trust for Thomas Taylor of St Andrew, Holborn, London, for the sum of £280. The two plots included:
1) The Forgeman’s house adjoining Woodcock Forge in Godstone and thirty acres of wood next to Woodcock Pond called Hammerwood (later known as Wiremill Wood).
2) Sixteen acres of land below the Woodcock Hammer pond-bay, the Forgeman’s house and part of the pond-bay, together with Woodcock House, barn and twenty-eight acres of land occupied by John Stephens; and a piece of land next to the hammer-pond ‘usually flowed with water’

This lease refers to the two Forgeman’s houses, as well as a property referred to as Woodcock House. As the forging industry in general was in decline at this date, it would seem unlikely that the two Forgeman’s houses indicated two forge men were working the Woodcock Forge; a more likely scenario was that the new house had been built to replace the original property. As already established, the two forgeman’s houses refer to the house now called Mill End House and one other, the location of which has not yet been established. Evidence suggests that it could be the property called Woodcock House now known as Legend, the property standing to the north of the pond-bay, west of Wiremill. There is no mention of the Woodcock Forge in the lease, this having been in the tenure of Jeremy Johnson since 1664.

In 1685, John Finch died and his probate inventory records the property he was holding at the time of his death within the house now called Legend. The Lagham Court Book records that his only daughter Elizabeth, wife of Nicholas Ditcher, tenants of the manor of Walkhamsted (Godstone), was ‘intitled to the lands called Woodcocks’, and that she was to pay a herriot of one cow to the value of £4. However, in January 1691, John Finch of Steyning, a yeoman, mortgaged ‘2 messuages and 100 acres called Hammer Lands in Godstone’ recently left him in the will of John Finch of Godstone, to Jeremy Johnson of East Grinstead, the gentleman holding the tenure of the Woodcock Forge, for £50. ‘Hammer Lands’ in this context refers to ‘lands called Woodcock’ as both names appear to be used for the same area.

In June 1694 John Finch and Richard Finch his father, a miller, both of Steyning, made a settlement of lease and release to Ralph Drake of Cliffords Inn, London, gentleman, in trust for John Finch. This settlement included the two messuages, barn and the ‘Hammer Lands or Hammerland Farm’ of fifty-five acres in Godstone that had recently been left to John Finch in the will of John Finch the miller of Hedgecourt. The occupiers of the property were recorded as being David Maynard, Edward Martin and John Finch. Two years later, the Finch interest in the area ceased when John Finch of Steyning, conveyed the two messuages, barns, buildings and the land called Hammer Lands in Godstone, now seventy acres, to Jeremy Johnson the occupier of the lands and holder of the Woodcock Forge. As previously stated Jeremy Johnson only held the two messages, barn and Hammerlands Farm for four years, conveying the property to the executors of John Gage of Firle, deceased, and trustees of his son and heir Thomas Gage in 1700.

Thomas Stanford
It is not clear how long the Woodcock Forge remained in the hands of the Johnson family although the Fuller’s list of 1717 records it as being ‘Mr Johnson’s forge’. As already ascertained, Jeremy Johnson died in 1707 so for the Forge to still be in the name of Johnson implies that either his wife continued the business or that the Forge had been taken on by a son or relation. What is known is that in 1718 the output of the Forge was 40 tons, the same as the previous year, and that by 1729 Thomas Stanford was ‘converting sows’ from Heathfield furnace at Woodcock. A possible reason for converting pig iron from as far a-field as Heathfield is that although the furnace in Myllwood, (Furnace Wood), was closer there is evidence to suggest that it had ceased operating around 1627.

Despite the closure of the furnace in Myllwood, and general decline of forges, the Woodcock Forge appears to have continued its output of 40 tons per annum until at least 1736 when it was included in the Fuller’s list of forges and furnaces for that year. In May 1738, Thomas Stanford appears in a twenty-one year lease between William Gage and Edward Evelyn for ‘a piece of land with the coppices, dwelling house and barn and 65 acres, purchased of Mr Jeremy Johnson by the trustees of Thomas Gage, deceased; and another barn and 21 acres lying about the Forge or Hammer occupied by Thomas Stanford’. However, nothing more is known about Thomas Stanford and, to date, there is no evidence of him connected to any other iron working in the Wealden area after 1738. At the same date, Sir William Gage was paying 4d quit rent on Woodcock alias Hammerlands, then in the occupation of John Stenning, the name being recorded as being still in occupation in 1778, although by then under the ownership of James Evelyn who was paying 2s 4d quit rent suggesting that Hammerlands had increased in size over the intervening forty years.

Samuel Baker
In 1742, Samuel Baker was recorded as paying rent for the Woodcock Forge implying that Thomas Stanford no longer held the Forge. There are Bakers connected with the iron industry of the Weald, although no connections have yet been established between them and Samuel Baker. In the 1560’s Bakers had worked ores on the northern fringe of the Weald around Hawkhurst and Sissinghurst and held Biddenden hammer from around 1574 to around 1650. Bakers had also held several iron works in the Mayfield area including Mayfield furnace and Old Mill furnace, and held shares in Hamsell furnace and Bircham forge in Rotherfield.

In 1744, William Gage died and his manor of Hedgecourt was acquired by Edward Evelyn at the cost of £8,250. Three years later, in 1747, Sir John Evelyn leased from Sir Francis Pool, the executor of William Gage, deceased, various farms and mills including ‘the Forge Pond in Godstone and the Forge in Godstone called Woodcock Hammer with the Forgeman’s house and lands in the occupation of Samuel Baker, 4 acres’. By 1748, this property had been incorporated as part of the Felbridge estate by Edward Evelyn, (a relation of Sir John Evelyn), replacing the Gage family as the landowners for the entire Hedgecourt and Felbridge area. The lease of 1747 confirms that Samuel Baker still held the forge but by 1758 Woodcock Forge was in the hands of Edward Raby and Alexander Master. It is not known where Samuel Baker moved to after leaving the Woodcock forge, but in 1765 he took on Hawksden forge and furnace in Mayfield remaining there until 1776.

The Raby’s
Evidence suggests that Edward Raby, who acquired the Woodcock Forge in 1758 and the furnace in Myllwood (Furnace Wood) sometime before 1762, was the son of Edward Raby who had been apprenticed to Ambrose Cowley in 1693. Edward Raby senior was the son of William Raby a smith from Swinford in Worcester. On the completion of his apprenticeship in 1701, Edward Raby senior appears to have set up his own company Raby & Co in Stourbridge, as well as becoming an agent for Ambrose Cowley’s ironmongery business in Stourbridge, a position that carried considerable responsibilities. Edward Raby senior’s position in Stourbridge put him at the heart of a thriving iron industry giving him an opportunity to gain a wide knowledge and vital contacts.

Edward Raby, (of Woodcock Forge and Warren Furnace), married Mary Master, the daughter of Alexander Master in 1746, Mary bringing £15,000 to the marriage. From the marriage license Edward Raby was 23 years old, (therefore born circa 1723), being described as the son of Edward Raby, ‘late of London, deceased’. Edward and Mary Raby had a large family, the eldest being Alexander born in 1747, followed by six brothers and five sisters, although only 5 of their children survived to adulthood.

Edward Raby worked with his father-in-law Alexander Master in the lucrative ironmongery business. When Alexander Master died in 1744, Edward Raby went into partnership with his brother-in-law Alexander Master continuing to run the family business. Between 1749 and 1750, the Raby family moved from West Smithfield to Southwark retaining the business premises in Smithfield. During the 1740’s and 50’s the business took an upturn supplying the domestic iron market after the end of nine years of overseas war.

In 1758, Raby & Master supplied the Board of Ordnance with various gauges of bar iron, staff iron and rolled plate, all products of the forging process implying that this was their line of business. Also around 1758, Raby & Master acquired the tenancy of the Woodcock Forge and that of the furnace in Myllwood (Furnace Wood) by 1762, both situated in the area of the Weald that was fast becoming the principal source for heavy guns for Government service. Their arrival heralded the second phase of the furnace in Myllwood that became known as the Warren furnace, which then continued to operate until about 1774. Evidence suggests that Master stayed with the ironmongery side of the business and Raby took on the skill of founding.

In 1762, Edward’s son Alexander Raby was apprenticed to his uncle Alexander Master but his apprenticeship also covered working in the forge and founding side of the business with his father. Unfortunately, within 2 years the company of Raby & Master had gone bankrupt, evidence suggesting that it was the ironmongery side of the business that was at fault as within a short period of time after the bankruptcy Edward Raby was back in business casting from Warren furnace, whilst still working Woodcock Forge, this time in partnership with Mr Roger, possibly Obadiah Rogers. In the space of fifteen years Raby & Rogers did over £40,000 worth of trade, mostly in ordnance from Warren furnace.

From the accounts of local carriers it is possible to see what activities were being carried out at both Warren furnace and Woodcock Forge. The majority of the entries are for the haulage of mortars and cannon from Warren furnace to Woolwich, but there are also entries for the carriage of ‘coles’ specifically for the Woodcock Forge. Coles referred to as sea coal was brought from London and Brail near Lewes used for drying moulds at the furnace or fuel for the Forge. Carriage from the Woodcock Forge included guns and shot to London. The two main carriers used were Paynes of East Grinstead and Knights, based at Felbridge Water, in the vicinity of Harts Hall. [For further details see Harts Hall, SJC 07/05, Handout].

The following are a few of the accounts from the Knights Carriers dealing with the Woodcock Forge:
1767 Mr Raby’s bill of Coles from the Broil [Brail], Lewes, to Woodcock Forge:
April 9th 3 loade & 2 sacks
18th 3 loade & 1 sack
21st 3 loade all but 2 sacks
25th 3 loade & 3 sacks
May 4th 3 loade & 3 sacks
12th 3 loade of coles
16th 1 loade & 21 sacks of coles
Settled accounts with Mr Raby, due me £0 3s 0d
1769 Jan 2nd 13 inch shells – 34 peases
10 inch shells – 6 peases
32 pounder shot – 22 peases
Brought back from London to the Forge 1 caldron and halfe of coles.
Jan 5th 13 inch shells – 38 peases
10 inch shells – 15 peases
Brought back from London to the Forge – steal £40, 4 bundles of iron
Jan 8th 13 inch shells – 38 peases
10 inch shells – 15 peases
16th Shells & 1 mould and shoat - £80
I mould left at Felbridge.
Feb 7th Cared up to London from the Warren Furnis
1 long 9 pounder gun - 2800
3 6 pounder guns - 4200
Brought back from London to the Forge – 1 caldron & halfe of coles.
March 15th Received of Mr Raby - £12 12s 0d
20th Received of Mr Raby - £ 2 2s 0d

The majority of Edward Raby’s work in the Felbridge area was supplying armaments to the Board of Ordnance but in peace time, with a lack of Government orders, he did a buoyant trade supplying the East India Company and the Merchant service with guns, shot and shells. Ordnance findings from the area include a cannon ball in its rough state before being cleaned up. It is made of cast iron and weighs approximately 12 oz., when cleaned it would probably produce an 8 oz. ball. A scissor mould for making 25 bore shot has also been found, whereby the molten metal, probably lead, would have poured into the mould, which, when cooled, was released by opening the scissor mould handles, producing a ½ inch diameter ball. By 1764, Edward Raby had also taken on Gravetye furnace after its bankruptcy in 1762, casting cannon there which were brought, generally by Knights Carriers, to the Warren furnace to be finished before haulage to London, although Raby gave up Gravetye in 1769. By 1770, Edward Raby had perfected the casting of bronze guns at Warren furnace, which was ultimately to lead to the downfall of his son Alexander Raby.

Edward Raby appears to have died suddenly in 1771 as there is no will and his twenty-three year son Alexander took over the business. Alexander Raby continued to run the business for a further three years before a legal wrangle with the Government forced him to give up Warren furnace and the Woodcock Forge in 1774. The Government maintained that Alexander Raby was using larger moulds than his competitors and was therefore using more bronze, as such the Government demanded compensation for the use of the excess bronze. The wrangle was eventually settled out of court and the business was taken over by Joseph Wright & Thomas Prickett.

It is unclear as to what happened after the business was taken over by Wright & Prickett except that Warren furnace had been abandoned by 1787 and it is assumed that the Woodcock Forge ceased being a hammer mill around the same date. One path that can be followed for the development of the Woodcock Forge site can be found in the Land Tax Records, but unfortunately, at the beginning of the records in 1780 it was included in the lump sum of the Felbridge Estate paid by James Evelyn until his death in 1793 when his son-in-law Sir George Shuckburgh Evelyn took over the payment. However, in 1800 the property was listed separately from the estates of Sir George S Evelyn for the first time, being called Wire Mill, taxed at the value of £2 9s 8d. The individual itemisation and change in name to Wire Mill implies that sometime between 1787 and 1800 the Woodcock Forge had been converted as a wire mill.

Daniel Fossick
Although the Land Tax was paid by Sir George S Evelyn between 1800 and 1803, it is known that Daniel Fossick held Wire Mill in 1800, being recorded of ‘Wire Mill’ in the Tithe for the Felbridge Estate. By the name, ‘Wire Mill’, the implication is that the Woodcock Forge must have been producing wire from at least 1800, but unfortunately it not yet known when Daniel Fossick took over the redundant Woodcock Forge, converting it as a wire mill. Daniel Fossick was recorded paying the Land Tax of £2 9s 6d for Wire Mill, a reduction of 2d, until 1808, when payment of the tax was taken on by William Pilbeam.

Evidence suggests that Daniel Fossick came from a Quaker background appearing as a wire worker and trading as Daniel Fossick & Co of London, between 1776 and 1785. It would appear that he was joined by a son in 1785 as the company’s name changed to Daniel Fossick & Son until 1791 when it became Daniel Fossick & Sons, possibly joined by another son or sons. There was yet another name change in 1799 when the company traded as Fossick & Sons until 1817. By 1799, the company was described as a copper, brass, tinplate and wire warehouse. It is possible that Daniel Fossick took over the Forge from Wright & Prickett, although there is no documentary evidence proving or disproving the possibility.

As a point of interest, there is a court case in 1743 of the trial of Sarah Mills of St Andrew, Holborn, who was found guilty of stealing 10 hanks (15lbs) of brass wire to the value of 25/- from one Mr Samuel Fossick, where she worked as a charwoman. She was ordered to pay 4s 10d and was transported to Australia for her crime. Evidence was presented at the trial that the brass wire could only have been made by Mr Samuel Fossick. Sadly there is no evidence to confirm a link between Samuel and Daniel Fossick but it is conceivable that the two were related.

The Wire Mill
The Woodcock Forge would have been relatively easy to convert to a wire mill, as both processes required a hammer and a set of bellows, both run by waterwheels. The only distinction between a hammer mill or forge and a wire mill was the size of the building, the latter requiring much larger premises to hold the drawing machinery. The alterations carried out at the time of its conversion left the building much as you see it today, (minus a few flat-roof extensions to the west side), a brick and weather boarded property under a slate roof, with three floors. The lucomb or wooden grain hoist that projects out over the private road to the north of the building was added when the property became a flour mill in the 19th century.

The following is a contemporary description of the workings of a wire mill taken from the Book of Trades or Library of Useful Arts, published in 1811:

The metals most commonly drawn into wire are gold, silver, copper and iron. Silver and gold wire are the same, except that the latter is covered with gold. There are also counterfeit gold and silver wires, made of copper gilt and silvered all over.

The business of a wire-drawer is thus performed: if it is gold wire that is wanted, an ingot of silver is double gilt, and then by the assistance of a mill it is drawn into wire. The mill consists of a steel plate, perforated with holes of different dimensions, and a wheel which turns the spindles. The ingot, which at first is but small, is passed through the largest hole, and then through one a degree smaller, and so continued till it is drawn to the required fineness; and it is all equally gilt, if drawn out as fine as hair.

The next operation is that of the flatting-mill, which consists of two perfectly round and exquisitely polished rollers, formed internally of iron, and welded over with a plate of refined steel; these rollers are placed with their axes parallel and their circumferences nearly in contact, they are both turned with one handle; the lowermost is about ten inches in diameter, the upper about two, and they are something more than an inch in thickness. The wire unwinding from a bobbin, and passing between the leaves of a book gently pressed, and through a narrow slit in an upright piece of wood, called a ketch, is directed by a small conical hole in a piece of iron called a guide, to any particular part of the width of the rollers, some of which are capable of receiving, by this contrivance, forty threads. When the wire is flatted between the rollers, it is wound again on a bobbin, which is turned by a wheel, fixed on the axis of one of the rollers, and so proportioned, that the motion of the bobbin just keeps pace with that of the roller.

Brass and copper wire is drawn in a similar manner to that already described. Of the brass wire there are many different sizes, suited to different kinds of works. The finest is used for the strings of musical instruments. Pin-makers also use great quantities of wires of several sizes to make pins of.

Iron wire is made from bars of iron, which are first drawn out to a greater length, to about the thickness of half an inch in diameter, at a furnace with a hammer gently moved by water. These thinner pieces are bored round, and put into a furnace to anneal. A very strong fire is necessary for this operation.

They are then delivered to the workmen called rippers, who draw them into wire through two and three holes, and then annealed for a second time; after which they are to be drawn into wire of the thickness of a packthread after this they are again to be annealed, and then delivered to the small-wire-drawers. The plate, in which the holes are, is iron on the outside, and the wire is anointed with oil, to make it run easier. The first iron that runs from the stone, when melting, being the softest and toughest, is usually preserved to make wire of.

The greatest improvement ever made in this art, was undoubtedly the invention of the large drawing-machine, which is driven by water or by steam, and in which the axle-tree, by means of a lever, moves a pair of pincers, that open as they fall against the drawing-plate; lay hold of the wire, which is guided through a hole of the plate; shut as they are drawn back; and in that manner pull the wire along with them.

Wire-drawing, in all its branches, is profitable to the master, and to the workman it is a good business, being a trade that is not exposed to the weather, that can be carried on at all seasons of the year, and by which he may earn from one guinea to double that sum in a week.

It is not known which metals were drawn into wire at the Wire Mill but the will of Daniel Fossick refers to copper and iron, and as the company of Fossick & Sons was described as a ‘copper, brass, tinplate and wire warehouse’ this implies that they may also have been producing brass wire there. There is also a reference to the company supplying ‘woven wirecloth’ to a papermaker in the 1780’s, but there is no indication of which metal was used to make the wire for the wirecloth.

Daniel Fossick died in 1816 and left the Wire Mill, referred to as Woodcock Mills, to his son-in-law, William Matthews, although as already established, William Pilbeam was paying the tax for the mill from 1808/9, and was succeeded by John Burt in 1811 who continued to pay the tax until 1816/7. The will of Daniel Fossick had been written in 1805 and proved in 1816 but it is unclear whether he had sold the mill or was sub-leasing it to William Pilbeam and then John Burt. However, based on the evidence of Daniel Fossick’s will it would seem likely that William Pilbeam and John Burt continued to operate the property as a wire mill. The will states that William Matthews could have the mill if he paid the sum of £300 to the nieces of Daniel Fossick, with the value of the iron and utensils being equally divided between them, or he could sell the mill and valued iron and utensils, dividing the whole sum between the two nieces. It is not known which option William Matthews took but the will does outline some of the equipment at the Woodcock Mills which was just one of several wire mills owned by Daniel Fossick. The will states:
‘… And I desire all my household furniture at Woodcock Mills together with sundry carpenters tools which I have there and do not in any manner appertain to the manufactory of wire may be sold for the best price that can be got for the same either by private or public sale at the discretion of my executors And all my Line which I may have at Woodcock Mills at the time of my decease I desire may be added to my Line in London hereinbefore bequeathed to my said two nieces Elizabeth Dickinson and Mary Alderson and equally divided between them as before directed And I further order and direct that a proper inventory shall be made and taken of the whole stock of iron and all other utensils and implements in the mill and in the smithy also? Hammers anvils vice and bellows copper and Lye Tubs and all the wood and faggots scouring barrels and shed over the same all which I desire may be for fairly valued and appraised by such persons whom my executors and my son in law William Matthews shall trust…’

Lye tubs were the vessels used to either make or store a caustic solution called lye, which was manufactured by running water through wood ash, the resulting liquid being natural potash lye or potassium hydroxide. The scouring barrels would have contained an acidic solution that was heated and used in the first step of the wire making process by cleaning the scale, rust and dirt from the wire rods. After this process the rods were rinsed in water and placed on the wire drawing frame, being pulled through the die blocks reducing their size and extending their length. At the time of writing the will in 1805, Daniel Fossick lists the occupiers of the Woodcock Wire Mills as William Bourd and his wife Mary implying that William ran the mill for him.

In 1815, the rate of Land Tax for the Wire Mill paid by John Burt was increased from £2 9s 6d to £3 2s 5d, along with a rent of £50 10/-. The increase in the Land Tax was not only confined to Wire Mill but applied to all the properties on the Felbridge Estate, therefore reflecting a change in the rate of Land Tax rather than a valuation change for the property. From 1816 the rate of Land Tax was reduced again and the tax payable on Wire Mill was £3 0s 5d and remained at that figure until the end of the available records in 1832, the rent being unchanged throughout.

Like William Pilbeam, little is known about John Burt and nothing conclusive has yet been found on either of them after their departure from Wire Mill. However, in the 1842 East Grinstead Tithe a John Burt was recorded as occupying the property known as Oak Cottage on Hedgecourt Common in Felbridge, situated on the site of the house in the corner of Leybourne Place, off Crawley Down Road, formerly part of Ann’s Orchard, although by 1851 he had either moved or died as he does not appear in the census. [For further details see Ann’s Orchard, SJC 05/01, Handout]

After the death of Daniel Fossick in 1816, it would appear that his son-in-law William Matthews sold Woodcock Mills to James Jenner who later appears as a corn miller implying that this was the date at which the mill ceased being a wire mill and became a flour mill. However, unlike converting a hammer mill to a wire mill, which is relatively simple, the conversion of a wire mill to a corn mill would have been fairly major, requiring very different machinery.

James Jenner
James Jenner, referred to as James Jenner junior in the Land Tax Records of 1817, (for just that year only), remained at the Wire Mill for over twenty-five years, until 1844, when he was succeeded by Thomas Brand. James Jenner was born in about 1781 and married Elizabeth Newington, the daughter of Samuel and Elizabeth Newington, at Saint Saviour church, Southwark, on 19th April 1834. Elizabeth was born in 1806 in Leatherhead, Surrey. They had several children including, Samuel born in 1835, Newington born in 1848 and Eliza born in 1841.

From 1826, the Land Tax Records itemised what the tax and rent was paid on, which at the Wire Mill included a house, mill and land. The most likely house for which James Jenner was paying land tax was that of the property on the site of Legend. In 1838, James Jenner was joined by John Saunders at what was then called Woodcock Mill, until his departure to take over Hedgecourt Mill sometime before 1840, when James Jenner was joined at the Woodcock Mill by William Brand.

In 1841, the Jenner household included James and his wife Eliza and two of their children, Newington and Eliza. Living in the house with the family were George Tidy a forty-year old servant, possibly assisting in the mill as a loader, James Brand aged thirty-five working with James Jenner as a miller journeyman, and Jane Russell a twenty-year old servant, probably working as a domestic servant in the house.

By 1841, there were two cottages near the mill and living in one of the cottages was John Taylor aged fifty working as an agricultural labourer, along with his wife Elizabeth, also aged fifty, and the second cottage was home to Thomas Carey, a fifty-year old shoe mender and his family, wife Sarah aged forty-five, and children Thomas aged twenty and Margaret aged fifteen. It is difficult to ascertain the location of these two cottages as the map evidence suggests there were at least three buildings near the mill, as well as the house in which James Jenner lived in.

In 1844, the Godstone Tithe details the extent of the property known as Woodcock Mill. The property was owned by Hon Charles Cecil Cope Jenkinson the Earl of Liverpool, the son-in-law of Sir George S Evelyn, and the mill was held by James Jenner, miller, as part of plot 143.

No. on Plan Description Cultivation Area Total
139 Bridge Field Arable 04. 02. 27
144 Four and a half Acres Arable 04. 02. 16
147 Barrack Field Arable 10. 00. 32
158 Four acre Field Arable 04. 02. 16
160 Six Acres Arable 07. 00. 14
161 Long Field Arable 04. 03. 35
162 Three Acre Field Arable 03. 00. 24
163 Barn Field Arable 04. 03. 07
190 Lower Bush Field Arable 02. 03. 19
192 Upper Spring Field Arable 07. 01. 30
193 Pt. Upper Bush Field Arable 05. 03. 27
136 Five Acres Meadow 04. 03. 26
137 Little Meadow Meadow 03. 00. 03
138 Sawpit Meadow Meadow 00. 00. 21
142 Sawpit Meadow Meadow 00. 03. 22
157 Barn Meadow Meadow 03. 00. 36
165 Barn Plat Pasture 00. 02. 33
189 Lower Spring Field Pasture 03. 01. 22
16a Pasture 05. 01. 10
155 Pond Tail Pasture 05. 00. 26
156 Pond Tail Pasture 06. 00. 26
143 Mill Plat Wood 00. 03. 10
166 Pt. Pond Tail Wood 00. 00. 21
183a Wood Wood 02. 01. 26
184 Shaw Wood 00. 00. 30
186 Spring Field Shaw Wood 01. 00. 04
140 House 00. 03. 06
141 Yard 00. 01. 00
146 Buildings 00. 00. 18
154 Mill Pond Water 18. 02. 15
164 Barn 00. 00. 30
185 Cart Pass 00. 01. 20
187 Pond Water 00. 00. 12
188 Cart Pass Road 00. 01. 05
Total 119. 01 .14

The location of the dwelling house confirms that James Jenner was living in the house now called Legend, formerly called Woodcock House in 1672. Likewise, the location of the attached farmland suggests that it was made up of the eighty-five acres known as Hammerlands Farm in 1694, with an additional thirty-four acres. The increased acreage in 1844 included eighteen acres of mill pond that had traditionally travelled separately to the Hammerlands, thus there was an additional sixteen acres unaccounted for. The acreage of the mill pond is not known prior to 1844 and as such the sixteen extra acres could have been water if the mill pond had historically been larger, or it could just be attributed to more land/woodland acquired by the property. It is interesting to note that by 1844 the mill ‘pond’ at just over eighteen acres, had decreased by seven acres from its potential size of twenty-five acres in the 1500’s. The reduction in the area of water may indicate the silting up of the pond resulting from the changed use of the mill, from a hammer and wire mill requiring a vast volume of water to operate the machinery to a corn mill requiring less water for the milling operation.

Woodcock Mill
During the mid to late 19th century the mill appears with the interchangeable names of Woodcock Mill and Wire Mill, but was almost certainly being operated as a flour mill. Conversion from a wire mill to a flour mill necessitated a change of mechanism and the removal of the hammer, forge and wire drawing machinery. Traditionally much of the gearing mechanism of a flour mill would have been made of wood, but as the conversion of Woodcock Mill occurred during the 19th century, cast iron would probably have replaced the use of wood for much of the mechanism.

The flour mill would have operated on three flours, with the spout floor on the ground level, stone floor at the first level and the bin floor at the top. The waterwheel would have driven a horizontal wooden watershaft on which would have been mounted the pit wheel. It is not known whether both waterwheels were used when the mill operated as a flour mill, or whether one was redundant. The pit wheel would have been a cast-iron bevel gear mounted vertically that meshed with a smaller cast-iron gear called a wallower mounted on a vertical wooden mainshaft. Above the wallower would have been mounted the great spur wheel, made of wood. This would have meshed with the cast-iron stone nuts, small pinions, which drove the grindstones through a vertical shaft or spindle.

The spindle rotated the upper stone called the runner above a fixed bedstone. Grain would have been fed from a hopper into shoe or spout. The shoe would have been vibrated by a vertical piece of machinery called a damsel that shook the grain into the centre of the runner stone. The grinding action moves the grain outwards to the edge of the stones and the finished product falls into meal bins on the ground floor.

At the top of the mainshaft would have been another wheel, the crown wheel, which would have run two ancillary drives. One of these would have powered the sack hoist at the top of the mill, a slack belt operating as a primitive clutch. The other would have driven a flour dresser that would have separated the whole meal into bran and flour.

Thomas Brand
By the spring of 1844, James Jenner had died and his widow Eliza(beth) married Thomas Brand on 29th April 1844, Thomas taking over the mill, which was again referred to as Wire Mill in 1851. Thomas Brand was born in East Grinstead in 1814, being several years younger than Eliza, but little else is known about him.

By 1851 the Brand household included Thomas and his wife Eliza, Thomas listed as a miller and farmer of 85 acres employing five labourers. Living with Thomas and Eliza were Eliza’s children by James Jenner, Samuel aged sixteen, working as a miller’s apprentice with his step-father Thomas, Newington aged twelve and Eliza aged ten, both scholars, along with a daughter by Thomas and Eliza called Susannah aged four. They would appear to have also had a son called Thomas in 1846 but he was not listed in the household on the day of the census. Also living in the house with the Brand family were John Holman aged thirty-six and Charles Wood aged seventeen, both working as agricultural labourers and probably being two of the five labourers employed by Thomas Brand, along with Amy Huggett a twenty-year old servant from Burstow who had replaced Jane Russell as a domestic since the last census.

The remaining labourers employed by Thomas Brand were probably those living in the pair of cottages near the mill, John Taylor, and Thomas and William Bishop. John Taylor was aged sixty and in 1841 had been working as an agricultural labourer whilst in 1851 he gave his occupation as a miller’s labourer, possible one and the same thing. Living with John Taylor was his wife Elizabeth aged sixty-two. The other cottage was home to Thomas Bishop aged thirty-eight and William his son, aged twenty, both working as agricultural labourers, and sharing their house was their housekeeper, Elizabeth Whatmore aged fifty-one. The Bishops had moved from the Snow Hill area where they had been living in 1841.

In 1855, whilst Thomas Brand was at Wire Mill, the Felbridge Estate was sold by Lady Selina Charlotte Jenkinson, Viscountess Milton, daughter of the Hon Charles Cecil Cope Jenkinson, the Earl of Liverpool to George Gatty of Crowhurst in Sussex. At the time of the sale Thomas Brand was recorded as holding 107 acres 1 rood and 37 perches, having acquired a further twenty-two acres since 1851. The sale catalogue gives the first good description of the holding called ‘The Wire Pond, or Woodcock Mill and Farm’, consisting of:
‘of a neat Brick and Tiled House containing 5 Bedrooms and Lobby, a Parlour, Counting House, Kitchen, Wash-house, small Dairy, Pantry, Cellar, Mangling Room. A capital large garden enclosed with fine Quick, Yew and Box hedges and shrubs. The outbuildings comprise of 2 tiled Sheds in Cow Yard, a boarded Stable for 5 horses (tiled), an Ox Shed, and a Waggon Lodge (tiled).
A Spacious Flour mill situated upon the Sheet of Water No.154 in a romantic, secluded spot, worked by 2 Overshot Wheels and driving 4 Pairs of Stones with Grinding Floor and Corn Chambers – altogether a commodious Building. The lands, with detached Barn and Yard (No.164) embrace about 107 acres.
No. on Plan Description Cultivation Area Total
192 Upper Spring Arable 07. 01. 30
193 Upper Bushy (part of) Arable 05. 03. 27
136 Five Acres Meadow 04. 03. 26
137 Little Mead Meadow 01. 00. 06
138 Sawpit Mead Meadow 03. 00. 03
142 Sawpit Mead Pasture 00. 03. 33
157 Barn Mead Pasture 03. 00. 36
165 Barn Field Pasture 00. 02. 33
189 Lower Spring Pasture 03. 01. 22
16a Pasture Pasture 05. 00. 26
155 Pond Tail Pasture 05. 02. 35
156 Pond Tail Pasture 06. 00. 26
143 Mill, Plot & cottage 00. 03. 10
166 Part of Pond Tail Meadow 00. 00. 21
183 Wood Wood 02. 01. 26
184 Shaw Shaw 00. 00. 30
186 Shaw Shaw 01. 00. 04
140 House & c. 00. 03. 06
141 Yard 00. 01. 00
145 Cottage, & c. 00. 00. 35
146 Buildings 00. 00. 18
164 Yard, Barn & c. 00. 00. 30
185 Road 00. 01. 20
187 Pond Water 00. 00. 12
188 Road 00. 01. 03
139 Bridge Arable 04. 02. 27
144 4 ½ Acres Arable 04. 02. 16
147 Barrack Arable 10. 00. 32
158 Four Acres Arable 04. 02. 16
160 Six Acres Arable 07. 00. 04
161 Long Arable 04. 03. 35
162 Three Acres Arable 03. 00. 24
163 Barn Field Pasture 04. 03. 07
190 Pt. Lower Bush Field Arable 02. 03. 19
Total in Godstone 101. 00. 04
85 Arable 03. 03. 08
86 Arable 02. 02. 25
Total in Tandridge 06. 01. 33
Total 107. 01. 37

Rent Charge to the Vicar of Godstone £8 17s 0d
Land Tax £3 1s 0d
Total £11 18s 0d
No. on Plan Description Cultivation Area Total
154 The Wire or Hammer Pond in Godstone Water 18. 02. 15 18. 02. 15

At the time of the sale in 1855, the schedule for ‘Woodcock Mill and Farm’ indicates that the mill had become part of Woodcock Farm, or vice versa. The Lot had gained the cottage in plot 145, which was not part of the holding in 1844 but the mill pond was advertised as a separate Lot. However, it is known, from future records, that the mill pond was retained with Woodcock Mill and Farm, until at least 1912.

In 1861, the Brand household consisted of Thomas, calling himself a miller and farmer of one hundred acres and employing four men and two boys, his wife Eliza, and two of Eliza’s children from her first marriage, Newington and Eliza Jenner, Newington now working as a miller with Thomas, his step-father. Visiting the family on the day of the census was Emily Brand, the thirty-four year old daughter-in-law of Thomas Brand, and her daughter Emily Jane aged nine, both born in Hartfield in Sussex, along with a male visitor born in Ireland called Mapinham [illegible], a sawyer’s clerk aged sixty-five, and servant Sarah Sargent aged nineteen working as a house servant. Still living in the pair of cottages near the mill was John Taylor, now widowed and aged seventy, with John Holman aged forty-four, James White aged nineteen and Thomas Huggett aged fourteen, all four men working as agricultural labourers, probably on Woodcock Farm for Thomas Brand. And in the other cottage was Thomas Bishop with only his housekeeper Elizabeth Whatmore, his son William was not recorded suggesting that he may have moved on.

Also living in the vicinity at 1 Rabies, part of the property called Rabies on the Newchapel Road off Newchapel Green in Felbridge, was Edward Chapman, described as a ‘miller’s loader’, presumably working at Wire Mill being that this was the nearest mill in 1861. Edward Chapman had been born in East Grinstead in 1821, and was living with his wife Harriet, aged thirty-six also born in East Grinstead, along with their children Susan aged ten, Thomas aged eight, Rhoda aged five, Harriet aged three and John aged eight months. The first two children were born in East Grinstead, the remaining three in Lingfield, suggesting that the Chapman family had moved from East Grinstead to Newchapel around 1856. It is perhaps interesting to note that the property called Rabies had formerly been a single dwelling, believed to have been named after Edward or Alexander Raby, the two gentlemen that ran the iron industry in the Felbridge area from about 1758 until 1774. By the mid 1800’s the property had been divided into three tenements but in recent years has been converted as a pair of properties.

In June 1866, Susannah, the daughter of Thomas and Eliza Brand, married Charles Holmden, a twenty-four year old miller and son of Thomas Holmden a farmer of Felbridge. The marriage took place at St John’s Church at Felbridge. By 1881, Charles Holmden was recorded as farmer and miller of Scarlets House, Cowden in Kent, and by 1927, C Holmden & Sons were listed in the Kelly’s Directory as the millers at Brambletye mill. Three years after the marriage of Susannah Brand her step-brother Newington Jenner married Eliza Cooper, the twenty-three year old daughter of John Cooper a farmer of Blindley Heath in Surrey. Eliza and Newington Jenner also married at St John’s Church in Felbridge and settled in Lingfield, where, by 1881, Newington Jenner was working as a grocer. As for Newington’s brother Samuel, he married a woman called Sarah, and after serving his apprenticeship at Wire Mill moved, as miller, to Oxted before becoming a Commission Agent in Brighton by 1891.

In 1871, Thomas Brand was still running Wire Mill and the farm. At the time of the census his wife Eliza was not recorded in the Brand household although Thomas was recorded as still being married. Living with Thomas were servants, Sidney Killick, a twenty-year old farm servant and Susan Bryant an eighteen-year old servant. Sidney Killick was the nephew of John Killick, the head gamekeeper at Chartham Park and later the Felbridge Estate [For further details see More Biographies from the churchyard of St John the Divine, Felbridge, Estate Workers of the Gatty Family, SJC11/03, Handout.]. Still living in the pair of cottages near the mill was John Holman who had succeeded John Taylor as head of the household, John Taylor having died since the last census in 1861. John Holmden, who had given his occupation as an agricultural labourer ten years earlier, was listed as a miller in 1871, and living with him was John Burfield, another miller, aged twenty-eight from Westerham in Kent. Having three men listed as millers would suggest that either there was a boom in agriculture having a knock on effect in the milling operation or that Thomas Brand, now in his advancing years, was perhaps reducing his time spent working the mill, or was concentrating on the farm.

Living in the second cottage was the Heaseman family, although ten years later, and from then forward, they are recorded as the Baldwin family! Evidence shows that all the children were baptised with the surname Baldwin and as such the family will be referred to as Baldwin. Head of the household was William aged thirty-five working as a loader. In 1871, he gave his birth place as Hartfield in Sussex, although in 1881 it had changed to Cowden in Kent. Living with William was his wife Caroline aged thirty-six, born in Salisbury in Wiltshire. The Baldwin family had moved from the Clapham area in about 1865 as their first two children living with them in 1871 were born in Clapham, Eliza in 1861 and George in May 1862. The remaining three children were all born in Godstone, Betsy in 1866, John in 1868 and James in June 1869, implying that the Baldwin family moved to Wire Mill around 1865. As a point of interest, James Baldwin went on to become a Metropolitan Policeman and was sadly murdered whilst on duty on 2nd October 1898. [For further details see Biographies from the churchyard of St John the Divine, Felbridge, SJC09/02, Handout]

In 1881, the census records Thomas Brand, aged thirty-five as operating Wire Mill, this may be another Thomas Brand, however, no other Thomas Brand of that age has yet come to light suggesting that it was a mis-transcription of age. In the 1881 census, Thomas Brand’s occupation was listed as a ‘(Wire) miller and farmer of one hundred and fifty acres, employing eight labourers’, the farm having increased by forty-three acres since 1855. Living with Thomas was his wife Sarah aged fifty-two. The reference to ‘wire miller’ implies that perhaps wire was still being made at Woodcock Mill, although this was the first and only time that Thomas Brand was referred to as a ‘wire miller’.

Also living in the Brand household were Frederick Holmden, a widower aged thirty-four born in Tandridge, giving his occupation as a loader and miller, presumably assisting Thomas Brand at the mill, and Annie Stone a twenty-seven year old domestic servant. Frederick Holmden may have been related to Charles Holmden who had married Susannah Brand in 1866; however, no conclusive evidence has come to light to prove a relationship.

John Holman was still living on one of the cottages near the mill, by then called Wire Mill Cottages, and lodging with him was George Wheeler a widower aged fifty-six, both working as farm labourers. Still living in the other cottage was the Baldwin family. By 1881, son George Baldwin, by then aged eighteen, had left home and was working at Gate House Farm at Newchapel, and the family had increased by a further five children, Sarah Annie known as Anne born in 1871, Charles born in 1873, Fanny born in 1874, Henry born in 1876 and Kate born in 1878. Father William Baldwin gave his occupation as a ‘(Corn) miller’s loader’, confirming that the mill was definitely operating as a flour mill in 1881. This is confirmed by the memoirs of an old Felbridge resident whose family has lived in the Felbridge area since the 19th century. Her memoirs record that the Wire Mill, for most of the late 19th century, was a corn and flour mill that ground trefoil seed and corn.

The Thomas Brand of the 1881 census continued to operate Wire Mill and run the farm until 1887/8, when he was succeeded by David Dadswell.

David Dadswell
David Dadswell was born in 1853 in East Grinstead, the son of Thomas and his wife Harriet née Bassett. He had at least six brothers and sisters, Jane born about 1845 in Heathfield, Mary born in 1846 in Buxted, Harriett born about 1847 in Rotherfield, Edwin born in 1850 in East Grinstead, Kate born in 1855 in East Grinstead, and Thomas born about 1857 in Burstow. David married Mary Ann Streatfield born in 1852 in Withyham in Sussex, the daughter of John Streatfield and his wife Susannah née Godley. David Dadswell and Mary Ann Streatfield married about 1877 and settled in Selsfield, West Hoathly, where David worked as a miller, having moved from Kent. They had at least seven children, John born in around 1878, Clara baptised in 1878, Nellie born in 1880, Thomas born about 1883, David born in 1888, William born in 1889 and Gladys Maddelena born in 1900, the first four children being born at Selsfield and the last three at Wiremill. Sadly, Gladys died at six months and was buried at St John’s Church, Felbridge.

In 1891, the Dadswell family were still living at Wire Mill and boarding with them was Luke Godley a twenty-one year old widower from Hartfield in Sussex, working as a miller with David Dadswell. Living in one of the properties near the mill, called Wire Mill Cottages, was George Dadswell and his family. George was David’s cousin, the son of William Dadswell, brother of David’s father Thomas Dadswell. George Dadswell had been born about 1850 in East Grinstead and worked as a carter at Hurstpierpoint in Sussex before moving to Worth around 1882 and then Wiremill. George had married Mary Bowles in 1879 at Hurstpierpoint and they had at least four children, Charlotte born in 1878, Charles born in 1880, Alice born in 1883 and Cecilia born in 1884, the first two in Hurstpierpoint and the second two in Worth.

By 1894, Moses Chapman had joined David and George Dadswell at Wire Mill, working as a stockman, and he and his wife Mary and daughter Ann were living in one of the cottages known as Wire Mill Cottages, George Dadswell and his family living in the other cottage also known as Wire Mill Cottages.

Whilst Wire Mill was in the hands of David Dadswell, the Felbridge Place estate, including the mill, passed from Charles Henry Gatty, (the son and heir of George Gatty who had died in 1864), to two male cousins, Alfred Leighton Sayer and Charles Lane Sayer in December 1903. The Sayers kept the estate for seven years after the death of Charles Gatty before selling it to Mrs Emma Harvey, who, along with her son Percy Portway Harvey and the East Grinstead Estate Company, put the entire estate up for auction in May 1911. [For further details see Felbridge Place, SJC10/99, Handout]

Wire Mill was part of the Felbridge Place estate auction as Lot 35, as, being described as:
A valuable freehold agricultural Sporting & Business property including the Old-Established Flour Mills known as Wire Mill and Farm, in the Parish of Godstone about 3 miles from the Market Town of East Grinstead and Stations, 2 ½ miles from Lingfield Station.

The property comprises of about 157a 0r 27p, principally Pasture and Arable land, together with a Picturesque Old-Fashioned Residence, built of brick with tiled roof and containing 6 Bedrooms, 2 Sitting rooms and good Offices.

Very productive old garden and lawn, with grand old Cedar tree.

The Old-Established Corn and Flour Mill, brick and timber built with slate roof with 2 overshot water wheels.

The Lake of about 14 acres in extent, affords valuable water power for the mill, and included in the Sale is the advantage of control of the sluices etc. at Hedgecourt Lake, provided that such control is reasonably exercised, but not so as to interfere with the user of the Lake in the breeding or preservation of fish or general enjoyment thereof, and also the Purchaser of this Lot shall covenant to keep the sluices etc. in good repair.

Excellent Fishing, Boating and Wild Fowl shooting.

2 small Detached Cottages.

The Farm Buildings include capital Stabling, 2 Cart sheds, Wagon Lodge, 3 Bullock Sheds and Yards, Corn and Meal Stores etc. The Farm includes some very useful land bordered by woods and there are some excellent sites for a large residence.

This little Estate would particularly appeal to a gentleman of sporting proclivities seeking a picturesque retreat of moderate dimensions, within easy reach of London; whilst by letting the Mill and Agricultural land the sporting rights might be rendered most inexpensive.

Long Frontage to the London Road.

Possession of the woodlands can be given on completion. Possession of the house, Mill and Farmlands at Michaelmas next. The Shooting rights until February 1912, over this Lot are reserved.

Note – Certain machinery in the Mill is the property of the tenant and has to been taken at valuation in addition to the ordinary tenant right.

The commutes Tithes apportioned for the purpose of the Sale amount to £27 4s 2d, present value £19 0s 11d
No. on Plan Description Cultivation Area Total
90 11.213
91 10.193
93 5.849
101 3.002
102 4.979
103 Cottage & Garden 0.370
104 Arable 6.055
105 Arable 7.413
106 Arable 8.505
121 Pasture 5.019
122 Arable 4.573
123 Wire Mill Wood Wood 20.934
125 House, Cott., Builds etc 2.678
126 Arable 0.928
127 Mill, Occupation Road 1.267
143 Arable 10.202
144 Pasture 1.635
145 Pasture 1.570
148 Rough Grass 3.234
150 Marsh & Waste 12.780
151 Plantation 1.109
152 Pasture 3.464
153 Roadway & Pasture Pasture 2.527
124 Mill Pond Water 14.263
69 Arable 5.854
92 Pasture 7.554
Total 157.170

By 1911, the lake had decreased in size to only fourteen acres compared to eighteen at the time of the last sale in 1855. The holding also included Wire Mill Wood, formerly known as Hammerwood, which had not been part of the holding in 1855, but it had lost two fields in Tandridge and four fields in Godstone, amounting to about twenty-seven acres, and a small Woodland and Shaw, amounting to about four acres, abutting Coopers Moors to the southeast of the holding, although it had gained thirty-three acres to the northwest of the holding since 1855. It is interesting to note that the water at Wire Mill Lake and Hedgecourt Lake was still under the control of the owner of Wire Mill, as long as they were reasonable in their use and maintained the sluices at both Wire Mill and Hedgecourt.

At the time of the break up and sale of the Felbridge Place Estate, David Dadswell was recorded as the tenant of both Wire Mill and Farm and the cottages known as Raby’s Cottages, the three tenements at Newchapel Green. George Dadswell and Moses Chapman were still living in Wire Mill Cottages, and Thomas Dadswell and another David Dadswell were both lodging in furnished rooms on the first floor of the mill. However, by 1912 the Dadswells had left the Wire Mill area which had been split up and partially sold by the East Grinstead Estate Company.

There is evidence that not all of the Wire Mill area sold in May 1911 as later that year or early in 1912 another attempt was made to sell land in the Wire Mill area as Lot 7 of a second auction. The Wire Mill area that was left unsold in 1911 was put back up for auction along with Felbridge Place its mansion and grounds, Hedgecourt Lake and mill, and several other areas of the former Felbridge Place estate that had not sold in the initial auction.

In this auction of circa 1912, Wire Mill and Farm were advertised as ‘An important freehold investment’ with the following description:
The origin of the name of this property is, like that of Jeames de la Plush, ‘wrapt in mystery.’ That such a Brummagen product as wire was ever made in such sylvan surroundings is quite unthinkable. The whole environment is indicative of the pursuit of the arts of husbandry and bucolic peace.

At the present time, in addition to the old-fashioned flour mills, the property presents considerable attractions as a sporting and agricultural estate. With a long frontage to the London road, its one hundred and fifty-seven acres are principally pasture and arable land of fair quality, but they also include a twenty acre wood and fourteen acre lake, and offer several eligible sites for the erection of a large house.

The diversified character of this estate gives it a very strong claim to the consideration of several classes of buyer. It also readily adapts itself to profitable sub-division.

Approached by a good occupation road running out of the main London road, is a comfortable old-fashioned residence, picturesquely nestling in a trim garden under a giant cedar tree. Built of brick, with a tiled roof, it contains half-a-dozen bedrooms, a couple of living rooms and good offices.

This estate should particularly appeal to a sport-loving gentleman seeking a picturesque retreat of moderate dimensions, within easy reach of London. By letting the mill and agricultural land, the sporting rights might be rendered most inexpensive.

On the opposite side of the road is a comprehensive range of farm buildings and the corn and flour mill, a commodious brick and timber, slate-roofed structure, with two overshot water wheels.

The lake, of about fourteen acres in extent, affords valuable water power for the mill, and
Incidental to the ownership of this property is the advantage of the control of the sluices etc. at Hedgecourt Lake, subject to such control being reasonably exercised but not to interfere with the user of the Lake in the breeding or preservation of fish or general enjoyment thereof. A covenant to keep the sluices etc. in good repair is also involved in the purchase.

Good fishing and punting may be enjoyed, and with the adjoining marshland and woods excellent wild fowl shooting is obtainable. The establishment of a fish hatchery might doubtless be made a source of considerable profit.

There are also two modern detached cottages on the estate which are useful for the accommodation of employees, besides adding considerably to the air of domestic beauty which provides the cluster of buildings nestling in the lovely sylvan dell un which the mill is situated.

As well appears from the photographs, all the surroundings are extremely picturesque. The location is exceptionally convenient, being about two miles from Lingfield, and three from East Grinstead. The main road frontages are valuable both for present convenience if access and future development.

Possession of the house, mill, farmlands and woodlands can be given on completion of the purchase, or the Mill with house would be let.

With the development of the whole of the Felbridge lands and the general trend of the neighbourhood towards more intensive cultivation of the soil, it may be safely predicted that a well equipped and well managed mill must prove a sound commercial proposition in such a location and with natural advantages as are possessed by Wire Mill. Therefore it may be assumed that anyone taking chief interest in the agricultural, sporting or residential sections of the estate would have little difficulty in letting or disposing of the Mill and its appurtenances advantageously and readily.

Certain machinery in the mill is the property of the tenant and has to be taken at valuation in addition to the ordinary tenant right.

No. on Plan Description Cultivation Area Total
101 3.002
102 4.979
103 Cottage & Garden 0.370
104 Arable 6.055
105 Arable 7.413
106 Arable 8.505
121 Pasture 5.019
122 Arable 4.573
123 Wire Mill Wood Wood 20.934
125 House, Cott., Builds etc 2.678
126 Arable 0.928
127 Mill, Occupation Road 1.267
143 Arable 10.202
144 Pasture 1.635
145 Pasture 1.570
148 Rough Grass 3.234
150 Marsh & Waste 12.780
151 Plantation 1.109
152 Pasture 3.464
153 Roadway & Pasture Pasture 2.527
124 Mill Pond Water 14.263
Total 103.627

Between the two auction dates of 1911 and circa 1912, the holding of Wire Mill and Farm had decreased by nearly fifty-four acres from just over 157 acres to just short of 104 acres. The reduced acreage was due to the loss or sale of land to the north and northwest of the holding as advertised in 1911. Circa 1912, there is reference to two ‘modern detached cottages’ located in plot 125, which included the mill and the property now known as Legend. In the 1911 sale the cottages were described as merely two ‘small cottages’ and were not listed at all in the 1855 sale. The only other building standing within the plot reference was a property on the site of what is now called Toad Hall, located just east of the mill itself.

By the second auction circa 1912, the bulk of Lot 7 was unsold and was retained by the East Grinstead Estate Company, being leased to Henry Smeed. The remainder of the Lot had been divided and purchased by four individuals. Freehold arable land, plots 101, 102 and 126, and the house on plot 125, (now called Legend), were jointly purchased and occupied by Miss Laura Gertrude Whitfield and Hilda Maude Ransome, calling the property Garden Cottage. Freehold land to the south east of the lake, formerly part of Wire Mill Farm was purchased by Herbert Malcolm who also purchased the freehold land of Woodcock Hill. The remainder of Lot 7, including the mill, stores and a hut, the farm and buildings at Wire Mill, two cottages and their gardens (Wire Mill Cottages, occupied by Moses Chapman and Arthur Killick), and the mill pond and adjoining marsh land was sold to Major Alexander Stuart Crum, who in turn leased everything, except the mill, to Henry Smeed.

By 1914, Major Crum had acquired more of the Wire Mill area with the purchase of plot 143, the second field on the south of Wire Mill Lane, on which he had built Wire Mill House and later Wire Mill House Lodge. Also by 1914, Misses Whitfield and Ransome had purchased two cottages and their gardens in the Wire Mill area.

Wire Mill Estate
In early 1918, there was a third and final attempt to sell the residue of what had become termed the Wire Mill Estate, appearing in the sale catalogue entitled ‘Cuttinglye and its Environs’. The Wire Mill Estate was advertised as a ‘sporting and fruit-growing estate, overlooking lake, affording several high and charming sites for residences’, stating that:
The Estate is 54 ½ acres in extent, comprising meadow, arable and wood land, with private drive from the main (London) road , and overlooking the picturesque Wire Mill Lake, the haunt of wild duck and water fowl in abundance. The owner of the lake grants permits for fishing and sport. The valuable timber will be included in the purchase.

The diversified character of the Wire Mill Estate gives it a very strong claim to the consideration of several classes of buyers.

Approached by a good occupation road running out of the main London road, this estate should particularly appeal to those seeking a picturesque retreat of moderate dimensions within easy reach of London. All the surroundings are extremely picturesque and overlooks the large and ornamental Wire Mill Lake. The location is exceptionally convenient, being within easy reach of both East Grinstead and Lingfield. The land is peculiarly suitable for orchard cultivation, for which purpose it has been strongly recommended by one of the most successful apple growers of the United Kingdom.

The property at the same time affords a delightful ground for a gentleman’s residence, set well back from the road and commanding extensive views south and south-west.

The Cooper’s Moors Wood, 37 ½ acres, with its long and valuable frontages, can be included and comprised, if the purchaser so desires.

This property is sold subject to certain rights of way enjoyed by the owner of Wire Mill and lands held therewith, of passing over the property between points A, B, C and D on the plan and from point D along the cart track to Wire Mill.
No. on Plan Description Cultivation Area Total
104 Arable 6.055
105 Arable 7.413
106 Arable 8.505
121 Pasture 5.019
122 Arable 4.573
123 pt Wire Mill Wood Wood 20.934
152 Pasture 3.464
153 Roadway & Pasture Pasture 2.527
Total 54.490

As already established the lake and adjoining land amounting to just over fifty acres, including the mill, house, cottages and barns, had previously been sold to either Major Crum or Misses Whitfield and Ransome, resulting in just the farmland and Wire Mill Wood to the east and south of the lake, down to Coopers Moors, up for auction in early 1918. However, the remaining fifty-four and a half acres known as the Wire Mill Estate only appeared in the first edition of the sale catalogue of Cuttinglye and its Environs and had been removed from the Revised Edition, dated July 1918, having already been sold to Mr H F Sturdy.

By 1920, Misses Whitfield and Ransome had sold Garden Cottage to Leonard M Pink, along with their two cottages and gardens, and by 1921, Major Crum had sold the mill, store and hut to Miss Wilkins who converted the mill into a dwelling house, calling it Wire Mill. On conversion the rateable value of the property rose from £10 to £30.

By 1922 Major Crum had sold most of his interest in the Wire Mill area to the Women’s Farm and Garden Union who had also purchased Wire Mill, the recently converted mill, the store and hut from Miss Wilkins. The Women’s Farm and Garden Union was a national movement set up in 1910 to promote women in agriculture which, like everything else at that time, was predominately male orientated. The secretary for the Wire Mill Union was Mrs Miles Benson, and by 1922 the Union’s holding in the Wire Mill area amounted to the mill, the mill pond and surrounding marsh land, the farm buildings and yard, land and four cottages, predominantly occupied by women, and by 1926 their holding had risen by a further two cottages and gardens and Garden Cottage purchased from Leonard M Pink.

By 1927, the property called Wire Mill was occupied by Miss Gertrude Beatrice Mould who by 1929, had been joined by Miss Hannah Tate. Miss Mary Arbuthnot Robertson occupied what was called the Wire Mill Tea Gardens; evidence suggests that this was from either the store or hut attached to Wire Mill. It is unclear when the Women’s Farm and Garden Union sold their interest in the property known as Wire Mill, but by 1933 Wire Mill and the Wire Mill Tea Gardens, the building that had once been used as the hammer mill, wire mill, flour mill and house, had become the Wire Mill Fishing Club, occupied by Walter Pearce and Alexander and Florence Ward. Two years later this had been taken over by Arthur Hugh Simmons and his wife Esther Emily. It is unclear whether Wire Mill operated as a hotel as well as a fishing club at this time and its activities during the Second World War have not been investigated, but by 1948 Wire Mill was operating as a Hotel and Fishing Club, with a good description documented in Old Surrey Water Mills by J Hiller that reads thus:
I advise any one who likes fishing and good fare to make a detour to the mill and the lovely pool. Naturally there are few traces of the old industry, except the wheel-well of the over-shot wheel, and the mill is now a hotel and the headquarters of a very fortunate angling club.

The weather-boarded walls are whiter than ever they were at work, and nowadays this little building with its jutting lucomb at one side and its tall dormer windows on the other, has a comfortable air of well-being and good living. A note of distinction is given to the river frontage by a glass case in a green-painted frame, fixed high up on the wall, and containing a jack pike of such enormity that if tales of a Wire Mill Pond Monster had circulated before its capture, one could have forgiven the credulous.

Moored alongside the ‘jetty’ are punts and other boats, and I imagine no more halcyon day than one spent idling on the water and angling, watching the kingfishers and the graceful reed buntings, listening to the bird song, including the jerky, spasmodic outpouring of reed warblers (uncommon in Surrey), and perhaps occasionally, if my eye chanced to stray to the float, taking aboard an importunate fish. Even I, no apt pupil of the gentle Isaac, could not fail to hook something here – in June, just after the opening of the season, the pond was as full of fish as the pools of Eden must have been – that other Eden not this.

By 1962 the property was being promoted as a ‘Lakeside Hotel, Country and Fishing Club’. The facilities were offered to members and non-members and included weekend dances, water skiing, fishing, riding and clay pigeon shooting. During the next decade the Wiremill Country Club grew in popularity attracting a clientele from far and wide. Unfortunately, with its popularity came a growing reputation of raucous late night dances and after hours drinking. Nearby residents of Wiremill Lane naturally began to complain about the noise and anti-social behaviour connected with excessive drink, the Club being described as a ‘drinking and dancing den’. The outcome of the complaints resulted in the Health and Recreation Committee for Tandridge District Council refusing to renew the Club’s music and dancing licence. However, the Club continued to run the weekend music and dancing, stopping at midnight instead of 1 am, but without the licence they could not apply for a special hours drinking certificate to allow them to keep the bar open as before.

Eventually the Wiremill was put up for sale and in 1986 the property was purchased by McGurran Quest Inns Ltd for £245,000, a far cry from the £2,000 asking price in 1911! Shortly after the purchase, the building caught fire whilst undergoing alterations and renovation work. Fortunately the structure was not severely damaged with only the loss of half the roof, although the remainder of the building suffered some water damage. Six months later, in September 1986, the refurbished Wiremill re-opened its doors to the public once again, offering a restaurant, a function room, two bars with bar snacks, and a terrace area over-looking the lake leading from the main bar.

In 1996, the Wiremill was taken over by husband and wife team Gus and Viv O’Keefe who jointly ran it with the Old Cage in Lingfield. After four years they decided to sell the Wiremill to concentrate on their business at the Old Cage. In March 2000, Wiremill was again sold and became part of a chain of businesses run by Massive of Twickenham.

Today the Wiremill is described as a ‘traditional country pub’ and a venue catering for small functions of up to seventy people. The three floors of the original wire mill building create a split-level pub and restaurant, the main pub area at the top, with a restaurant serving French cuisine one level down and a small seating area and washroom facilities a further level down. The main pub area gives access to a patio beside the lake used by the Wiremill Water Ski Club. In the summer one of the biggest attractions at Wiremill is the ‘Jazz on the Lake’ music evenings, which have again established Wiremill as a music venue, fortunately less raucous than the days of the Wiremill Country Club of the 1970’s and 80’s.

Wiremill – from Hammer Mill to Pub
It has been established that the property known as Wiremill dates to about 1561, working as a hammer mill known as the Woodcock Forge. There is also evidence for the existence of a water powered flour mill in the vicinity before that date, but the exact location has not yet been established. The site that accommodated the original hammer mill has been used for the structure nearest the pond-day running east/west, although little (if anything) survives of any original building. It has also been established that the lake, originally termed a ‘pond’, was man-made and the third in a series of man-made lakes along a tributary to the River Eden that served the iron industry of Felbridge from the mid 16th to late 18th centuries.

It has also been established that between 1787 and 1800 the Woodcock Forge was converted as a wire mill. The change of use would have been relatively simple as both a hammer mill and wire mill needed a pair of waterwheels to run the hammer and bellows, both required in the process of converting pig iron to bar iron, as in the hammer mill, or metal ingots, be it copper, brass, iron or precious metal, to wire. The only additional requirement of a wire mill was larger building with good light to house the drawing machinery. This requirement necessitated the construction of the building that runs north from the original structure.

The next development of Wiremill came around 1817 when it ceased being a wire mill and was converted as a flour mill, grinding trefoil seed and corn. As a flour mill the hammer, bellows and drawing machinery were redundant being replaced by a flour milling mechanism, and having two pairs of grind stones suggests that both waterwheels were still in use. Wiremill remained a flour mill for just short of a hundred years before it was sold off as part of the break-up of the Felbridge Place estate. The sale brought to an end over three hundred and fifty years of milling on the premises, the building being converted first as a dwelling house and then for use in the leisure industry, as a hotel, later with the addition of a country club, and then as a bar and restaurant as it is still run today.

It is inevitable that with a building that is nearly four hundred and fifty years old, traditions have been attributed to it other the years. A widely known local legend is that the nails for the re-building of St Paul’s Cathedral were wrought at Wiremill. The original cathedral burnt down in the Great Fire of London in 1666, the commission for the new design being won by Sir Christopher Wren. The impressive building that we see today is reputed to be the fourth on the site, being built between 1675 and 1710, during the time that Jeremy Johnson held Wiremill as the Woodcock Forge. Detailed accounts were kept during the construction of St Paul’s, which still survive, but on investigation there is no mention of nails being supplied by Woodcock Forge or references that indicate any coming from the Felbridge area.

Wiremill, inevitably due to its great age, is also reported to be haunted. The ghost is reputed to be that of a worker who fell into the ‘lower mechanism’. For the mill to have any ‘lower mechanism’ implies that it was a flour mill at the time of the accident, however there is no evidence for such an accident being reported. This story may have been fabricated in more recent years helping to spice up its history!

Wiremill still retains fragments the original hammer and wire mill buildings but is now devoid of any machinery except a millstone propped up against a wall outside, (relocated from the main bar where it used to stand), a reminder of its life as a flour mill, the last phase of the milling operations in the history of a property that stretches back nearly four hundred and fifty years.

Lagham Court Books, P25/21/11, SHC
Lease of 1533, Harl 79 f 33, BL
Iron Trade in England and Wales 1500-1815, P Wickham King, 2003.
Notes on the Iron Industry of Felbridge by N McIver, FHA
Lingfield Parish Registers, HMLHC
The Iron Industry of the Weald by Cleere and Crossley
Hedgecourt Mills and Mill Cottages, SJC 12/99, FHA
Hedgecourt Watermill and Cottages, SJC 07/04, FHA
Warren Furnace, SJC01/11, FHA
Old English Mills and Inns by R Thurston Hopkins
Wealden Iron by E Straker
The Book of Newdigate by Callcut and the Newdigate Society
Lease, 1567, SAS/G43/34, ESRO
List of forges and furnaces, 1574, State Papers, BL
The Vachery Ironworks by E Straker, SyAC vol.47 48/9, CL
Feet of Fine, Swanne/Thorpe, CP25/2/227/28 & 29, Eliz 1, Mich, TNA
Lease, Feb1629, SAS/G43/123, ESRO
Lease, Jan 1652, SAS/G13/100, ESRO
Lease, Oct 1652, SAS/G43/127, ESRO
Bourd Map, 1748, FHA
Felbridge Parish & People, FHA
Deed of recovery, 1654, SAS/G33/69, ESRO
Lease, April 1664, SAS/G43/52, ESRO
Lease, Oct 1664, SAS/G43/53, ESRO
The East Grinstead Bulletin 77/06, FHA
Lease, Aug 1667, SAS/G21/131, ESRO
Conveyance, April 1668, SAS/G46/9, ESRO
Lease, June 1669, SAS/G43/144A, ESRO
Fuller’s list of forges and furnaces
Assignment, 1672, SAS/G46/9, ESRO
Index of tenants for the manor of Walkhamsted, Ref: 6511/1/1, SHC
Mortgage, 1691, SAS/G42/58, ESRO
Settlement, 1694, SAS/G43/59-62, ESRO
Conveyance, 1696, SAS/G43/63-65, ESRO
Conveyance, 1700, SAS/G43/67-68, ESRO
Lecture Notes on the Gage connection with the iron industry of C Whittick, FHA
Lease, 1738, SAS/G43/148, ESRO
Rentals, 1742, SAS/G11/11-30, ESRO
Conveyance, 1747, Box 3151/2, SHC
Lease, 1747, Box 3151/2, SHC
Alexander Raby, Ironmaster by SIHG
Harts Hall, SJC 07/05, FHA
Knights Carrier Accounts, 1767-9, FHA
Land Tax for Felbridge, Ref: QS6/7, SHC
Felbridge Estate Tithe, Ref: 3069/1, SHC
Fossick Company, London Directory
Court Case Fossick v Mills, Ref: T17430907-28, FHA
Book of Trades or Library of Useful Arts, 1811
Investigation of the Metallurgy of 19th Century Piano Wire by B D Newbury
Reproduction of Authentic Historical Soft Iron Wire for Musical Instruments, by S Birkett & P Poletti
Denis Diderot - The Encyclopaedia, 1772
Will of Daniel Fossick, Prob. 11/1582, TNA
Probate inventory of John Finch, Prob. 4/1588, TNA
Census details, 1841, 1851, 1861, 1871, 1881, 1891, 1901, FHA
Godstone Tithe 1844, SHC
Ann’s Orchard, SJC 05/01, Handout, FHA
Sale Catalogue of the Felbridge Estate, 1855, FHA
Kelly’s Directory, 1855, 1874, 1887, SHC
Parish Registers of St John the Divine, Felbridge, FHA
More Biographies from the churchyard of St John the Divine, Felbridge, Estate Workers of the Gatty Family, SJC11/03, Handout, FHA
Biographies from the churchyard of St John the Divine, Felbridge, SJC09/02, FHA
Documented memoirs of D Trefine, FHA
Weald and Downland Guidebook
Dadswell Family History courtesy of S Ruffles, FHA
Felbridge Place, SJC10/99, Handout, FHA
Felbridge Place Estate Sale Catalogue, 1911, FHA
Facts and Photos of Felbridge, East Grinstead, c1912, FHA
Sale Catalogue for Cuttinglye and it’s Environs, 1918, FHA
Godstone Rate Book 3294/12/6, 7, 51SHC
Godstone Electoral Roll, QS7/4, SHC
Godstone Electoral Rolls, CC802/44, 46, 48, 50, 52/2, SHC
O/S map 1938, FHA
Old Surrey Watermills by J Hillier, W&DML
Watermills of Surrey by D Stiddler, 1990, OL
Wiremill changes hands, 1986, Local Newspaper article, FHA
Fire Destroys Ancient Inn, c1986, Local Newspaper article, FHA
Charm of waterside Inn, c1986, Local Newspaper article, FHA
Wiremill flyer, 1990’s, FHA
The Wiremill Inn, http://eugeneportman.com

SJC 03/06