Heritage & Culture

Meet the characters behind Sacrewell Mill 

↑ Cecil the miller, and other characters from Sacrewell's history

‘Let me tell you my story…’ are the first words you’ll come across as you walk into Sacrewell’s 18th Century grade II watermill

Sacrewell’s is a story that spans thousands of years, from the Romans – who founded the farm and mill in Thornhaugh around 43AD – through to the recent £1.8m Heritage Lottery Funded project to restore the watermill and its associated buildings.

‘The first written record of there being a mill at Sacrewell is in the Domesday Book of 1086,’ explains learning and interpretation officer, Nikki Cherry. ‘It lists three mills in the Wittering area, of which Sacrewell would have almost certainly been one. It was a working mill in the area right up until the 1960s, when it was decommissioned.’

The current mill building was built in 1775, with various alterations throughout the years. Now, with the help of the William Scott Abbott Trust, which runs Sacrewell, and the Heritage Lottery Fund, the watermill has been restored to its former glory with full interpretation, and will begin to grind wheat into flour once more.

The centre, near Wansford, has been run as an agricultural education charity for 51 years, following the death of former owner William Scott Abbott. Abbott and his wife Mary had no children of their own, and so founded the Trust to retain his legacy and continue his work of educating people about food and farming. William Scott Abbott ran Sacrewell from 1917 until 1959 and during that time embraced experimental farming, retained traditional methods and even turned to the Land Army during the Second World War to help run the farm. In fact, the mill house will be set-dressed to represent the Land Army girls who ran the farm in the early 1940s, and volunteers dressed as the girls will bring the interpretation to life.

‘We’ve been very fortunate in that some of the Land Army girls who ran Sacrewell still live in the area,’ Mrs Cherry disclosed. ‘They have been extremely useful in helping us to understand what life at Sacrewell was like during that time and their stories will be included here.’

Once such person is Mary Watson from Wansford who arrived at Sacrewell aged 18 and worked there from 1939 to 1943, living in the farm house with William and Mary Abbott. Mrs Watson recalls Mr Abbott being very particular, calling them out if they were late for duty at 7am every day and ensuring those on ‘spudding’ (weeding) duty got all the stray weeds, whether they were in the crops or elsewhere. ‘He didn’t want any nettles, thistles or brambles in the hedgerow!’ Mary remembers. Cecil Robinson was the miller at Sacrewell during the 1940s and among her many memories, Mary remembers him standing in the doorway of the mill with flour caught in his bushy eyebrows.

During your journey around the mill at Sacrewell, you’ll come across the character of the miller and his young apprentice, Jack. Working from dawn until dusk, both would be tuned into the mill’s every movement, ensuring it all ran smoothly and tackling any problems that cropped up, including a constant battle with their arch nemeses: rats! The work to the mill has been carried out by Stamford firm, Messenger Construction, which has been on site for almost a year and as part of the project have installed a hydro-electric generator, completing the interpretation by including green energy and waterpower to finally bring the mill into the 21st Century.

While the building work is over, the project continues, as Mill project officer Jane Harrison explains. ‘We’re recruiting 75 volunteers over the three years of the project to really involve the community in what we’re doing here. From gardening and milling to dressing up in character and bringing the mill to life, this project will very much remain a story of the people. Who knows – in 1,000 years they might be writing about us!’

About Sacrewell The mill is open from 9.30am – 5pm. Sacrewell is open all year. More information and a full history of Sacrewell can be read at www.sacrewell.org.uk

Anyone who would like to volunteer at Sacrewell Mill can contact Jane on 01780 782254 or e-mail

Leave a Reply

Comments are closed.

Register an Account