Early windmills in Nonington: Soles, 1227 and Ackholt, 1309

A post mill, taken from a King's Lynn, Norfolk, funeral brass, 1349
A post mill, taken from a King’s Lynn, Norfolk, funeral brass, 1349

The earliest windmills in Europe had a post-mill structure where the main structure sits on a post, usually a wooden post, that allowed the entire structure to be turned turn to face the wind by a long beam attached horizontally to the body of the mill. The mills usually sat upon a tripod made of two crossed beams resting on the ground and four angled beams coming up to support the post, these cross beams were often buried stop the mill blowing away in a storm. Often the windmills were built on a specially constructed mound, although sometimes an existing barrow was used, to increase exposure to the wind. The sails on the early mills were sometimes on six or seven feet high, much smaller than those on later mills.

Recently,  records of windmills in Nonington going back to the early 1200’s have come to light. Soles manor appears to have been the site of the earliest mill most likely located on a site that is just inside the  parish of Nonington right on its eastern boundary with the parish of Barfeston. This early mill appears in a record of a knight’s fee for the manor of Soles of 1227  which mentions a capital messuage cum grana and a half site of a windmill, which was presumably on the same site as the much later 18th century Barfreston mills. The other half of the mill may have been owned by the manor of Fredville, although there is no presently known record from the time to confirm this.  A later windmill at Barfreston, almost certainly built on or very near the site of the early 13th century mill, is mentioned in a “Grant in tail male to William Malyverer, esq., for services against the rebels, of the lands called Hertang (Hartanger) , and Paratt’s landis, in the parish of Berston (Barfreston, Kent); also a windmill called Berston Mylle………”  made by King Richard III in 1483.

It is also most likely that the wind mill mentioned in the 1548 will of John Boys of Fredville, of which he left a half share of the profits to his wife possibly indicating that ownership of the mill was still shared, was also on or near the Barfreston site.  However, it may be an early record of the mill site at the top of Mill Lane in Easole, where a mill was recorded in a Boys family document in 1626.

A mile and a half or so from the manor of Soles is the manor of Ackholt where another early windmill was mentioned in a transfer of property written in  Latin in 1309.  The  document recorded the transfer by John, the son of Stephen de Akolte (Acholt) to John, the son of Thomas de Akholte, and Lucia, his mother, of a windmill (unum molendinum ventifluim) in the parish of Nonington near Holestrete (Holt Street) on Freydviles (Fredville’s) land and two shillings and two hens free rent (duos solidos et duas gallinas de libere redditu)  from Thomas le Kete of Holestrete, presumably the miller. To confirm the grant John, son of Stephen de Akolte, was to receive 20 marks sterling (£.12 13s 4d) gersuman (payment-it literally means treasure or riches in Old English, and often appears in documents of this period and earlier). The charter also noted that because he was under age and did not have his own seal, he had signed under the seal of John de Grenchelle, a local land-owner who appears to have held land in or near Bekesbourne, and may have been a relative or guardian of the young John.
In 1341  John de Acholte, probably the son of the John de Akholte mentioned above,  granted the mill along with other property and rents in Nonyngton, Rollynge (Rolling) and Wimelyngewelde (Womenswold) near Crodewode (Crudeswood or Curleswood) to Peter Heyward.

The most likely location of this windmill would  be on or near the car-park and pit-head baths of the now closed Snowdown Colliery where it would have been on the junction of roads from Ackholt and Ratling, Holt Street, and Woolege and Womenswold, although grain from Fredville  manor lands would have gone to the Soles mill if it was half owned by the manor of Fredville.


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