Memories of Suffolk's 'Windy Miller'

WHAT Bob Wright remembers most about his old job working a Suffolk windmill is the terrible dust.Mr Wright, who celebrates his 88th birthday on Friday , is a fourth generation miller, one of the last survivors of a bygone age.

WHAT Bob Wright remembers most about his old job working a Suffolk windmill is the terrible dust.

Mr Wright, who celebrates his 88th birthday on Friday , is a fourth generation miller, one of the last survivors of a bygone age.

Up until the mid-1960s, he worked at Friston Post Mill, at Friston, near Saxmundham, which had been in his family since his great, great uncle, Joshua Reynolds, bought it in 1837.

Today he is part of a trust working to preserve his old mill for posterity. Other trustees are Piers Hartley, an old buildings enthusiast who bought it 30 years ago and lives nearby, and mill historian Rodney de Little.


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Mr Wright, of Judith Avenue, Knodishall, near Leiston, worked at the mill almost as far back as he can remember.

"I was in the mill all the time," he recalled. "We made animal feed with two pair of stones in the mills and we used to make stone-ground flour."

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But he believes his time there has taken its toll on his health, and has had a few spells in hospital with breathing troubles.

"I hated it. It was a man-killer as far as I was concerned. Full of dust," he said. "We didn't have masks and stuff then."

They would lift sacks weighing up to 16 or 18 stone, he said.

"That was hard work but we just took it in our stride and nobody worried about it."

By the 1950s, old-fashioned windmills were being replaced by large-scale mechanised operations and eventually Mr Wright went to work at Paul's in Ipswich.

"It didn't pay because you had to rely on wind and you couldn't afford to have a bloke standing around waiting for the wind to blow," he said.

Moving to a larger company brought its benefits. One of the constant difficulties of running a small mill was collecting money from farmers, he recalled.

"I got the wages every week – I didn't have to fight for them," he explained. "Farmers only paid you at the end of the harvest."

But one of the things he misses today is the bread his mother would bake with the freshly-ground flour.

"It was proper bread," he said. "What we made was real food."

So far, the trust has secured the backing of English Heritage, which has agreed to fund 20% of the cost of repairs to the building. It is looking for other funding sources, and is involved in talks with some charitable trusts and the National Lottery.

The giant Grade II * Listed mill, dating back to the early 19th century, stands 53ft tall, and it is believed it may be the tallest East Suffolk Mill of its type ever built.

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