The Barson or Barfreston mills.

The location of the oldest recorded mill in the old parish of  Nonington was most probably on the site occupied by two wind mills in the late 18th and early 19th centuries  just inside the  parish of Nonington right on its eastern boundary with the parish of Barfreston near the  Barfreston crossroads. There are references to a windmill on the manor of Soles in a 1227 settlement  between William de Soles and  Cecily de Dovre over ownership of the single knight’s fee of Soles, and the 1349 Post Mortem Inquisition of Richard de Retlyng’, whose property included Esol, has a reference to his owning a windmill worth 53 shillings [£2 65p] at Barfreston. 

A 14th century post mill

Further reference to an early windmill in Barfreston can be found in a grant by King Richard III of land and property confiscated from Sir George Brown of Betchworth Castle in Surrey who had been executed in late 1483 for his part in the Kentish Rebellion against the Crown earlier that year. The confiscated property was granted to Sir William Malyverer in August of 1484 as a reward for  Malyverer’s service against the Kent rebels and included the manor of Hertang or Hartanger, [now Church Farm in Barfreston], Paratt’s landis in the parish of Berston (Barfreston) and a windmill called Berston Mylle [Barfreston mill]. These early references to a mill at Barfreston appear to refer to the site later known to be occupied by two wind mills in the late 18th and early 19th centuries

The Barfeston site was an ideal situation for a windmill, being on some of the highest ground in the area, and was therefore also the most likely site  of two much later mills which appear in parish tax records from 1765 and on a map  in 1769.  Evidence of other earlier use of this site may appear in a deed of 1700 which mentions an eight and a half acres toft of land that was part in Nonington, part in Barson (Barfreston) where a malt house had stood. A toft was the previous or abandoned site of a house or building. A John Knott held a victualler’s license in Barson in 1715 although the name and whereabouts of the ale-house he ran is unknown, it was not The Yew Tree at Barfeston, now sadly closed,  as this did not become a beer shop until the end of the 1800’s or later. The Knotts lived in Barson Parish and were listed as out-dwellers, or non-resident land-holders, in Nonington Parish tax records.

Mrs. John Knott, probably the daughter-in-law of the above John Knott was the occupier of the two windmills on the site in 1765 but her length of tenure prior to this is unknown as large sections of mid-18th century parish records have been lost. The parish tax records continued to list the two mills as having a rent, or rateable value, of £15.10.0 p.a. until late 1821 when William Spanton, the then occupier, moved to the apparently newly built Easole corn mill down the road at the top of Mill Lane.

Finch Coles wrote in his book on Kent mills that a pair of mills appeared on 1819-43 maps but only one appears on the 1858-72 maps, the later map appearing to show the remains of one of the mills.

He also reported that: ”From a correspondent I have found a person who, seventy years ago, lived in the base of a mill which was converted into a cottage at Barfreston, and from information gleaned I think there was a smock mill there over eighty years ago (1852), said to have been pulled down because a plantation of trees grew and obstructed the wind”. Both mills seemed to have closed at the same time and they may have become obsolete or expensive to repair resulting in a move to Easole. It seems strange that the mills owner, Mr Plumptre of Fredville, would allow trees to grow on his own land and interfere with the working of two perfectly good mills. Both the Barfreston mills and the new Easole mill belonged to the Fredville estate.  The 1839 Nonington tithe map does not record of any mills here but the larger scale and properly surveyed 1859 tithe map shows a round building which is recorded in the 1859  tithe apportionment ledger and the censuses of 1851, 1861 and 1871 records as the “Mill or Round House”.

The 1861 census records several railway labourers working on the construction through the parish of Nonington of the London, Chatham and Dover railway line through the parish as lodging at the Round House.

The Round House, Frogham. 

GILHAM     George       Head         Marr  68     Ag Labourer        Nonington

GILHAM     Frances      Wife  Marr  68     Labourers wife         Nonington

GILHAM     Sarah Ann Niece Single        9       Scholar         Nonington

JACKSON George       Lodger       Single        47     Railway Labourer    Blandford Dorset

SEAL         William       Lodger       Single        20     Railway Labourer    Northampton

BETTRIDGE       William       Lodger       Single        55         Ag Labourer        Southampton

MILES       James        Lodger       Single        24     Railway Labourer    Northampton

The Round House near Barfeston circa 1900
The Round House near Barfeston circa 1900

At the time of the 1881 return the Round House as an uninhabited dwelling but by the time of the 1891 return Mary Ann and Margaret Wood, spinsters aged 55 and 53 respectively, lived in the Roundhouse. The 1901 census records Annie M. Wood (sic), a 59 (sic) year old spinster living on her own means as being the sole occupier. Sadly the Roundhouse was destroyed by a fire in about 1905 which was supposedly caused when the old lady who lived there, presumably still Miss Wood, cleaned out her fire grate and put the still hot ashes in her lodge which started a fire that destroyed the cottage.  A lodge is a still used East Kent dialect word for an out-building or store house. A pair of cottages were built to replace the lost “Round House”, these cottages are now a single dwelling.


The Barson Millers.
1227 A mill was recorded at Barfreston, no record of the miller.

1349 A mill was recorded at Barfreston, no record of the miller.

1483 A mill was recorded at Barfreston, no record of the miller.

There are then no known records of any mills until:
1765 Mrs. John Knott,   John Knott.  Jnr., James Knott.

1815 William Spanton is listed as the miller and he continued to work the two windmills on the site until 1821 when the mills were closed and Wm. Spanton moved to the Easole corn mill.

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