This is another National Trust property that is just down the road from us and where we ended up on Sunday when I declared I was going out for an hour. Little did I know how steeped in history it was, and linked to one of my favourite children’s books of all time, thanks to E H Shepard. I wrote about him, and his drawing of the mill appearing in the book Now We Are Six by A A Milne yesterday. If you missed it, the link is here: E H Shepard and Shalford Mill
A mill has stood on the site since the Domesday Book with the current incarnation of Shalford Mill being constructed in 1750. There were two mills originally but one was removed and converted into a residence. The remaining mill was in operation until 1914 when the building then began to fall in to disrepair.
And this is where the story gets interesting for me.
A gang of ladies from London, known as Ferguson’s Gang, persuaded the then owners to donate the mill to the National Trust and promised to raise the money for its upkeep. The gang consisted of six women, all from the east end, who then used Shalford Mill as their headquarters, hiding themselves in a secret room on the second floor. They formed in 1927 with the intention of raising money for the National Trust and saving various buildings from being demolished and their parts sold off. Shalford Mill is just one of the buildings they saved.
We aint so many, We aint so few,
All of us has this end in view,
National Trust to work for you.
The girls kept their true identities secret, always wore masks and whilst some of them did eventually “reveal themselves” they are still known as the National Trust’s Gangsters.
The repairs were overseen by an architect called John Macgregor, whose daughter now lives in the house converted from the original mill housing. Macgregor was known as the Artichoke by the Gang, and used to come down to the mill with his family at the weekends so the family connection and history for this mill is amazing.
And I had no idea about any of this, yet this mill is ten miles down the road.
For a mill I was amazed at how many windows it had, making it remarkably light. Though when it was in full flow as a mill I suspect the amount of dust created would have still made it hard to see. Or to navigate the steep staircases up the four floors.
These are inside the gang’s secret room. Probably in what was originally the miller’s bedroom, step out of it and there was a trap door that opened directly onto the river so was likely to have been his loo. Sadly the boards have recently been replaced due to age, and all that remains is evidence of a broken hinge.
Is the below really grafitti from 1935?
This puzzled me too! One tiny corner on the staircase that has been wallpapered. Why? When? By whom?
This piece of sacking is the last remaining from the millers that worked the mill
This is at the back of the mill, where you would need to seek permission to stand (unless you are accompanied by the very kind National Trust Volunteer who escorted us.
If you ever find yourself in Surrey, then it is well worth a visit. There isnt any parking but if you go at the weekend a very kind office down the road allows you to park on their forecourt.