Millers’ Tales


The Mills, Trimley c.1900 -1905 (enhanced postcard image in sepia)

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  Enhanced postcard image in black and white

IMG_2014  Enhanced postcard image of the reverse,

I purchased the postcard above in October 2020 and can truthfully say I have never paid so much for a 3” X 5″ piece of card. The amount was eye watering. It’s not even as though the image is clear and panoramic in its beauty. In defence it has to be said this card provided weeks of happy research and volumes of correspondence between Len Lanigan (The Village Recorder for Kirton), Charles Posford and myself. Questions were posed, many of which have been answered through research. Some answers have been omitted as the  project started to become unwieldy. The account below is a much-curtailed report of our discussions and discoveries. Thank you, Len and Charles with additional thanks to Chris Hullcoop.

The Postcard

It is unusual in that the photographer is not the well-known and celebrated local photographer, Emeny. Instead it is in the ‘Fairlight series” whose manufacturer printed many postcards of Suffolk scenes in the years before the First World War, although the photographer is currently unknown. But it is not just the image which is important but also the message, which revealed a story of families, friendship and Mills.

The image (Obverse side)

The postcard image shows a rural scene from the turn of the twentieth century. The view is impossible to reproduce today as it was taken from what is now a garden in Trimley St. Martin’s Cavendish Road. In the foreground, a field of stooks stand raggedly piled up awaiting collection. In the middle of the view a hedge with small trees divides the scene. Behind are five buildings of varying age and purposes, which from left to right are seen to be:

  • Semi-detached houses sit close to the base of a windmill.
  • To the right of the houses stands a large windmill, a Post Mill
  • Next to the Windmill is a small white building.
  • In the middle of the card a large building with an extended chimney and house attached.
  • On the far right of the card is another Post Mill.

The semi-detached houses on the left are Constance Villas, built in 1900 and still extant. In 1901, Number 1 Constance Villas was occupied by 35-year-old Daniel Last, a self-employed carter together with his wife Jane, aged 34 and his three children, Constance aged 6, Ronald aged 2 and Felix who was just 8 months old[i]. Their next-door-neighbours, living in Number 2 Constance Villas were a School Mistress, Kate Williams aged 39, her widowed mother, Elizabeth and her nine-year old niece, Kate. By 1911, none of the family in Number 2 remained in Trimley but had been replaced by Frank Cree, a Flour Miller, and his family. By then Kate Williams had become a Head Teacher at Gosbeck School, near Coddenham. Daniel Last and his family remained in the same house.

Next in line, the small white building, which some Trimley St. Martin residents still recall from its days as a Fish and Chip shop prior to demolition in the mid-twentieth century/

The brick buildings are those of the Steam Mill and the Mill House. On the far right, another Mill.

 The message to the recipient (Reverse side):

Worthy of note on the reverse of the postcard are the three postmarks and the date September 13th ‘05 on two of them. Cattawade and Manningtree are clearly visible whilst the third has been damaged by the removal of the stamp. It is most likely, given the proximity of Trimley to Walton, Suffolk, that WA is Walton.

The message states:

“When are you paying these a visit? Plenty of room for you and sisters now. The nicer weather will soon be over am afraid. Love E.S.”

and is addressed to:

Miss Gowing

Rowland Villa



The signature of the sender is simply E.S.

The card, posted in Walton, travelled to Manningtree and Cattawade on the same day, possibly because of some obscurity in the address. E.S. wrote the address assuming everyone would know its location.

In 1901, Miss Gowing, the recipient of the card lived with her parents, Ernest and Ellen GOWING and her two siblings. Thirty-eight year old Ernest Gowing, born in Capel St. Mary,  was a Foreman working in Bramford Mills, Ellen Gowing was thirty-seven and the three children ranged from Cecilia age six born in Layham, Kathleen age three and Reginald age five months, who were born in Brantham. Their house, ‘Rowland Villas 1896’ was between  Brantham and East Bergholt.  East Bergholt is slightly under three miles away from Brantham.

Screenshot 2020-10-14 at 14.49.16

Rowland Villas on the B1070, Brantham

A decade earlier in 1891[ii] the unmarried Ernest Gowing was living in his wife’s home village of Layham working as a Miller. After the move to Brantham, Ernest and his family moved yet again and by 1911were living in Sweffling near Saxmundham. He advertised himself in Kelly’s  1912 Directory describing himself  as a ‘Wind and Oil Miller’. He was to remain there until at least 1939[iii].

As may be seen in the family tree above, the Gowings had a long-standing trade connection with milling.

Screenshot 2020-11-16 at 22.24.27

Locating the sender and the connection with the recipient.

Suspecting ‘E.S.’ lived in Trimley St. Martin a search of the 1901 and 1911 censuses for Trimley St. Martin, located an Emmeline Scarfe in 1911, aged forty-six and born in Hintlesham. Her household[iv] in the Mill House consisted of her husband Samuel Scarfe, aged forty-eight. He was a Miller and Corn Merchant who employed other men. Their children were William Samuel Norman Scarfe, a Rates Clerk and Cecil Ernest Scarfe, a Clerk.

Like Ernest Gowing, Samuel was born in Capel St. Mary and was also the son of a Miller/Journeyman, Stephen Scarfe. He lived next door to the Gowing family[v] in Capel and would have known Ernest from his earliest childhood. He followed his father into the milling business, working as a Journeyman Miller until the late eighteen eighties. At that point he married Emmeline Beer in 1889, possibly on the back of finding a mill of his own to run. Emmeline was local to Capel having been born and raised in Hintlesham, a mere three miles away as the crow flies.

Ernest, Emmeline and Samuel may be found in the school register for Capel St Mary Church of England Voluntary Controlled Primary School for 1872[vi]. This alone indicates they were long-standing childhood friends whose similar backgrounds and occupational connections cemented their relationship. Ernest and Samuel’s individual careers followed each other as Millers. Both ended up with their own mill, although in the first instance they were probably occupiers rather than owners.

On the postcard, Emmeline was writing to one of the Miss Gowings in a friendly adult way encouraging them to come and visit. It is not always possible to identify non-familial relationships when researching family history but unusually, in this case the close friendship between the Scarfes and Gowings is self-evident: a connection which is reinforced by the names of two of the children Cecilia Gowing and Cecil Ernest Scarfe.

In 1891[vii], Samuel and Emmeline Scarfe (E.S.) were living in Trimley St. Martin’s Mill House with their eleven-month old baby, William. Ten years later, in 1901, they were the family who lived on the other side of Kate Williams, the school teacher, in the Mill House. This part of Trimley was then known as Heath Mills (on Trimley Heath). By then the family had extended itself and the Scarfe’s had two sons, (William Samuel) Norman Scarfe and Cecil Ernest Scarfe.

The milling heritage of the Scarfe family are below, albeit in a simplified form”

Screenshot 2020-11-16 at 22.30.35

The First World War

Viewing the names of Samuel Scarfe’s two boys in the 1911 Census pushed me to discover what happened in the forthcoming 1914 – 1918 War. Both were in the Army although only William survived. On the 15th June 1917 the London Gazette [viii] reported the promotion of Corporal William Samuel Norman Scarfe (on prob.) No. 320089 and again on 20th September 1920 when he temporarily became a Second Lieutenant. On the 7th February 1920[ix], “Temporary Lt. W. S: N. Scarfe  -Egyptian “Lab.” (better known as the Egyptian Labour Corps.) relinquished his commission because of ill-health contracted on active service. He was permitted to retain the rank of Lieutenant. After leaving the Army, he returned to his work as a Rating Officer, married Alma Smith and had one child. By 1939 the family had moved to Felixstowe.

There are minimal records for Cecil Scarfe but the Commonwealth War Graves Commission records[x] his death. Cecil Ernest Scarfe, Lance Corporal 43786, 2nd Battalion, Suffolk Regiment, died on13th November 1916 at the Battle of Ancre. As he was missing in action he has no known resting place but is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial.

IMG_5058 2

  Thiepval Memorial, Picardy, France, 29th April 2011

The Mills in Mill Lane – location

This research has been conducted during the Corona 19 virus pandemic and whilst Suffolk Archives have been closed due to relocation. Therefore, it’s not been possible to search earlier than 1784 but it is reasonable to suppose the windmill has earlier origins. The mill in the foreground of the postcard goes back to at least 1807, when it is recorded on the Inclosure map for Trimley St. Martin in that year. It sits just off what is now known as Mill Lane, Trimley St. Martin. The Mills are no longer extant but Constance Villas still stands one hundred and twenty years later. One other feature on the postcard may still be visible: the lanky tree, which is older than the house by perhaps fifteen or twenty years.



  Hand drawn detail taken from 1807 Enclosure Map (with modern street names)



The Tree on the right-hand side of the photograph is probably that in the centre of the original post card. October 2020


    …and as it was in c.1900.


The over-hanging foliage to the left of the black car in Mill Close roughly indicates the possible site of part of the Windmill’s sail span seen on the original postcard


$_57 2.jpegConstance Villas with the windmill behind it.c.1900

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Extract from Google Maps showing the approximate location Constance Villas, Mill Lane, Trimley St. Martin. November 2020

The post card features three of the four Trimley St. Martin mills located in what is now known as Mill Lane. The remains of the fourth, the Black Mill, are along Kirton Road, which retains its brick base.

The Manufacturer and Millwright – Whitmore and Sons of Wickham Market

Steam Mills date back to the eighteenth century and were a direct result of the work of Newcomen and James Watt. The first flour Steam Mill in Great Britain opened in 1786 at the southern end of Blackfriars Bridge in Bermondsey. Known as Albion Mills[xi], it was a huge undertaking, comprising a purpose-built building with twenty pairs of stones. It was capable of processing far more than the single wind mills in London and had the potential to put all of them out of business. It was a short-lived enterprise as in 1791 it was destroyed by fire, the origins of which remain obscure. Steam flour mills developed in popularity in the first half of the nineteenth century.

 It was Charles Posford, who alerted me to the intervention of one of his family connections, John Ruffles, as the man who initiated the Steam Mill construction. The first mention of the Steam Mill[xii] appeared in June 1859 when John Ruffles posted an advert:

TO MILLERS. -Wanted immediately, a Married

Man, thoroughly honest, steady and industrious,

a good Stoneman, and competent to take charge of

a Steam Flour Mill. – Apply personally to John Ruffles,


The Ipswich Journal 11th June 1859[xiii]

No details of the construction or constructor are supplied in the 1859 snippet. Why would they be? However, a later advertisement in the Suffolk Chronicle on 21st March 1863 advertising Trimley Mills, the property of the late John Ruffles, conveniently lead to this information. The Trimley Mills,

‘…situate in a good Corn District…’

were to be let on lease for 18 years. It stated there were.


Tellingly, interested parties are requested to approach, ‘… Mr. Daniel, a Solicitor of 4 Elm Street or Messrs. Whitmore and Son, Millwrights, Wickham Market.’  Whitmore and Son[xiv] were important manufacturers of mills and mill equipment, and were responsible for the construction of the steam mill. In an undated ‘Employer Lists’[xv]   Mr John Ruffles of the Steam Mills, Trimley St. Martin was cited as one who could be approached for references. This confirms Whitmore’s were the Millwrights responsible for the whole project and their construction probably included the millstones, steam engine and boiler. Whitmore’s[xvi]  were based in Wickham Market and enjoyed an excellent reputation and dated back to 1780. in winning an international medal at the Great International Exhibition of 1857[xvii]. More can be read about them in ‘Whitmore and Binyon, Engineers and Millwrights of Wickham Market’ by Phyllis Cockburn[xviii].

In 1890[xix] and again in 1893[xx], the Trimley Mills business was put up for sale; its commercial disposal doesn’t appear to have been easy. The advertisement in ‘The Ipswich Journal’ provides insight into the technical capacity of the Mills. The Steam Mill was a three-storey building which held a 10-horse power engine, a 12-horse power boiler and three pairs of stones. This appears modest when compared with Albion Mills but probably more than adequate for processing local grain.

The Trimley St. Martin Mill Lane Millers and some of their employees 1851 to 1911

The man who responded to the 1859 advertisement for a Miller was John Todd. Born in Saxtead, his experience was as a Journeyman Miller and Miller in Parham. He was called as a witness in March 1860 to a Mill tragedy which occurred a couple of months after the Steam Mill opened. (Details are included at the end of this article.) John Todd left sometime before 1871, for in the same Census year, the only mention of a Miller working at the Mill Lane site, was a young John Flatman of Trimley St. Martin[xxi]

However, by 1879 Daniel Slemack Miller and Corn merchant of Nacton also leased Trimley St. Martin Mills as evidenced in Kelly’s 1879 Directory. He was not a local man but the son of a farmer in Thames Ditton who arrived in Nacton sometime in the late 1860s. He remained responsible for the Mills, paying a lease of £94 a year, until his death in March 1892, at which period the Mills were being advertised for sale in ‘The Ipswich Journal’[xxii]

As mentioned above Samuel Scarfe arrived is described is living in Trimley Mills in Kelly’s Suffolk Directory[xxiii] for 1912. In a letter sent to Rosemary Gitsham, the previous Village Recorder, Samuel’s grandson Norman Scarfe, wrote that the post belonging to the Post Mill in Trimley St. Martin was sold sometime after the outbreak of the First World War in 1914. The large milling firms of Rank, McDougall and Hovis appear to have been extending and solidifying their share of the market. It was Mr Chris Hullcoop, an expert on Suffolk Mills, who told me the fate of the Post Mills. The one on the right with just two sales was in disuse by 1902. The larger one on the left was completely dismantled in 1918.


Trimley Mills tragedy

This relates to a tragic accident at the steam mill which occurred on 20th August 1859, whose poignancy echoes down the years. The  inquest was not held until March 1860[xxiv]The tragedy involved two young men, John Henry Cook and William Rushbrook and their youthful contemporary, Lucy Lankester. I have found numerous instances of mill fatalities occurring due to accidents with sails, machinery or other equipment. This one however, occurred through human ignorance. Lucy and her parents lived next by the mills and on the morning in question, was ‘playing’ with the two young men, who were apprentices in the mill. It involved much laughter, chasing and snatching of bonnets and caps. It could be said they were just larking around in a flirtatious manner. A chase ensued and all three ended up in one of the mills. The miller’s son, 9-year old Daniel Todd watched the two young men seize Lucy around the waist. William took hold of her legs and together with John dipped her head into the meal trough.

“They were not quarrelling but playing. They kept her head in the meal bin and then put her on her legs again.”

Another observer, William King, an officer in the merchant service noted that she:

“…came out alone after a few minutes. She had meal about her face and head…She walked across the front of the mill and then fell down…I sent for Mr Ruffles and he went on horseback after medical attendance.”

The surgeon John Elliott Snow from Walton found her dead upon his arrival.

“Her nostrils were plugged with flour. She died of suffocation. There was no mark of violence on her face. The flour had got into the organs of respiration and stopped breathing.”

When the case was heard at the Magistrates Court in March 1860, the two young men were charged with manslaughter. It was recognised the whole event was an accident brought about by ‘idle and foolish frolicking’ and although they were sentenced, the punishment was light: two weeks confinement without hard labour.

It’s impossible to gauge the impact this event had on a small community. John Todd, the Miller, remained in Trimley St. Martin with his family. But the John Henry and William went in different directions.  For John Henry Cook the sorrow was perhaps mitigated by his success. From 1861 onwards he was working as a Journeyman Miller in Rushmere. He remained there after his marriage wife Caroline and was still their after 1871 with their two young children. Ten years later he was the Miller in Eyke, Suffolk.  But his success did not prove to be of a long duration. He, in his turn, died young. In 30th April 1887, he was killed jumping from a moving wagon. As the Death Certificate explained,

‘Accidental death from injuries caused by wagon wheels passing over his body.’On the 2nd May 1887, The East Anglian Daily Times[xxv] posted a short report which included the following:

“…Was returning from Melton Station with a waggon loaded

with oilcake, and  gave Mr. Cook a “lift” on the road.

When getting near to Eyke, Mr. Cook signalled his inten-

tion of getting down, but before the man could stop the

horses Mr. Cook fell down from the wagon, both wheels passing

over his body.   Dr. E. Hollis, of Woodbridge, was

immediately fetched and he attended to the unfortunate

man, who lingered on in great agony until eleven o’clock

on Saturday morning, when he expired. An  inquest will

be held to-day (Monday). Deceased who was much

respected, leaves a wife and four children.”

As for William Rushbrook, he moved to Harwich within the year. In 1871 he married Naomi Newman the mother of his child, also called Naomi. From thereon in there he appears never to have worked in mills again but moved around the county.  He predeceased Naomi, who died in Mere Cottage Almshouses in Aldringham, near Thorpness.

*************************************************************************************One question continues to puzzle me. Where did the water supply for the Steam Mill originate? Any answers?

If you have any comments or would like to be part of the ongoing  Trimley St. Martin Village Recorder’s project, please contact me at:

LR 14/11/2020


[i] 1901 Census, Trimley St. Martin. RG13; Piece: 1783; Folio: 103; Page: 12

[ii] 1891 Census East Bergholt. RG12; Piece: 1446

[iii] 1939 Register RG 101/6630H

[iv] 1911 Census for Trimley St. Martin. RG14; Piece: 10877; Schedule Number: 104

[v] 1871 Census for Capel St. Mary, Suffolk, page 11 Class: RG10; Piece: 1746; Folio: 102; Page: 11; GSU roll: 830778

[vi] A1925/9  Capel St Mary  School admission register  Suffolk Record Office

[vii] 1891 Census Trimley St. Martin Class: RG12; Piece: 1476; Folio: 8; Page: 9





[xii] Ipswich Journal

[xiii] ‘To Millers” Col.4 11th June 1859 The Ipswich Journal




[xvii] The Farmer’s Magazine Vol 22. July – December 1862. Rogerson and Tuxford.


[xix] Trimley St. Martin Milling Property   Col.6 6th September 1890 The Ipswich Journal

[xx] For Let or Sold   Col.5  The East Anglian Daily Times 5th May 1893

[xxi] 1871 Census Trimley St. Martin RG 10; Piece 1758

[xxii] “Trimley St. Martin Milling Property’ Col.6   6th September  The Ipswich Journal

[xxiii] Kelly’s Directory for Suffolk 1912

[xxiv]  ‘Manslaughter at Trimley St. Martin’ Col. 5. 24th March 1860  Suffolk Chronicle

[xxv] ‘Fatal accident at Eyke’ Col. 1. 2nd May 1872

9 thoughts on “Millers’ Tales

  1. Another most interesting read. Now I have some research to do, i.e. Martha Jolly is a relative, Churchyard is too. Note to self – Must buy Sweffling Mills booklet from IRO. Lucy Lankester possibly related to WW1 casualty?


    1. Thank you, Barbara. I am delighted to think you are being kept on your toes. And yes, I wondered about the connection between Lucy and WW1 casualty. Will investigate.


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