Thursday 6 December 2012

What do we know about windmills

We have a note from Rob who is 'currently in the process of completing a fairly hefty tome on the > windmills of SE London and NW Kent, concentrating on sites from the old  London border of Kent to the Darent valley.'
He is asking GIHS if we can help with the following

a windmill attached to a water-powered paper mill, described as 'near the East India Docks in Deptford', insured by a gentleman called Josiah Johannott (apparently a papermaker from Switzerland) in > 1751. Mr Johannot was declared bankrupt shortly afterwards and the > mills were advertised for sale in the London Gazette in 1754
 "To be Sold to the highest bidder, pursuant to an Order of the Lord High Chancellor in a Commission of Bankrupt awarded against Josias Johannot, late of Deptford, Paper Maker, on 25 February inst. at the Guildhall, London.
A leasehold estate of which there are ninety years to come from Christmas last, consisting of a water-mill, and Windmill, used for the  making of Paper; a dwelling house, garden and wharf, two small tenements and Yards adjoining to the Mill, the whole containing, in Front next the River Thames, 200 feet or thereabouts, adjoining to Wells's Dock. Also meadow land adjoining, situate at Deptford.   Likewise the Utensils in and about the said Mills for making of Paper."

Rob says he cannot place this mill at all, and it  appears to be unrecognised in historical research. A wind powered paper mill in the UK is very rare, and I have no records for a watermill either; in fact this could be a tide paper mill, again a first. Any thoughts? My guess is that it was somewhere in the  Victualling Yard, but I am baffled.

Victualling Yard mills. I have a succession of windmills in the Victualling Yard at the end of the now gone Windmill Lane. The government appear to spend enormous amount of money on these, in order  to supply ships biscuits to the fleet. They seem to be burned down or sold off at some regularity. The last one I have is mentioned in a House of Commons exchange as built in 1826 at the cost of £40,000!!, which is an astonishing amount to spend on a windmill! To compound this, none of the Victualling yard windmills are marked on maps.


I am baffled by a lovely watercolour of Deptford Theatre with pub adjoining dated 1840, showing a white smock mill apparently on the other side of the Creek in the corner. All the features of this  watercolour are well drawn and apparently accurate, but I have no windmill recorded in this spot. It looks like it is attached to a  factory, perhaps the soap factory(?), or the waterworks, so perhaps was  used for another function. 

A windmill called 'Clayton Mill', marked on Rocques map is still a mystery...


David Riddle said...

Without wishing to be pedantic, although I'm not sure commonly recognised facts come under that category, technically 'East India Dock' is not in Deptford, or at least not in the area known as Deptford today. I quote Wikipedia (?) "The East India Docks was a group of docks in Blackwall, east London, north-east of the Isle of Dogs."

Also, AFAIK, no part of Deptford was ever located north of the river. I may be wrong but will simply quote again "Deptford is a district of south east London, England, on the south bank of the River Thames."

M said...

Eeyore - I suppose, as a woolly donkey, it is in your nature to be a pedant. I just quoted what Rob had said to me - and I think it sounds like its going to be a jolly interesting book.

Rob C said...

Just to reply to this, the reference to East India Docks describes it as 'near' which techically could mean opposite, i.e. across the river. Another advert refers to the mill being at Wells' dockyard (any ideas where this was?). I think the number of references attaching this water powered paper mill and windmill to Deptford makes it indisputable that the mill existed. I've even seen a picture of Johannot's watermarked paper somewhere. I have another reference from Francis Bacon describing a windmill with an unusual annular sail at Deptford Bridge.

Any ideas on Wells' dockyard? I still suspect this may have been swallowed up by the Victualling Yard, and unlikely to have been marked on maps for strategic reasons. Subsequent mills were not marked.

Rob C said...

And quoting Wikipedia is always a dangerous thing to do!

M said...

Rob - if you look at our list of speakers you will see we have someone coming to talk about Wells the week after next

Rob C said...

Also a dock formerly leased by the East India company on Deptford waterside was taken on in 1788 by William Barnard, so there presumably was a dock on the Deptford side of the river known as East India Dock for a period. I would love to come to the Wells' meeting but unfortunately cannot.

Unknown said...

My g-g-g-grandfather, Benjamin Sawkins, married in Deptford Old Church in 1772, was a 'paper and blotmaker' and may have bought or otherwise acquired Johannot's mill, as the Sawkins and Willmott families were already involved in paper-making with the Johannots in Eynsford and Shoreham, Kent, further south on the Darent river, from the last years of the 17th century. The Johannots came from Annonay in France, not Switzerland and their watermarks are liberally sprinkled in manuscripts of the time in French libraries to this day. Lionel Sawkins (