Tuesday 12 August 2014

Some Celebrations at the Mill

Our Tudor Festival this year was as much fun as ever.  Tunes from the era were performed throughout the day adding period feel as the music drifted across the site.  We're lucky to have amongst our millers the very talented Chris Hocking, part of the duo, (occasionally trio), FayrePlay who perform music from medieval to Victorian and incidentally have a great new CD out (gratuitous plug from a supportive colleague!). 
We enjoyed stories from Tudor times from Tom,
We got visitors trying dances from Arbeau's 'Orchesographie' of 1589,
And we turned a lot of wheat into flour too!
Our next events are Heritage Open Days on Saturday 13th and Sunday 14th September, when we will be free for the weekend in support of this national event celebrating historic and architectural treasures.
Then on Saturday 27th and Sunday 28th September we have our ever-popular Victorian Harvest event with butter making, apple pressing, cake tasting (!) and corn grinding as well as music, games and demonstrations of Victorian cycles!
Do come along and help us to celebrate!

Wednesday 11 September 2013

Get exploring some building treasures...

As we've done for several years now, we'll be getting the mill ready to support Heritage Open Days which takes place this weekend.  This is a national celebration of historic buildings and architectural treasures, many of which aren't often open to the public and doors will be open free of charge to encourage people to explore the treasures on their doorstep.

So Stretton Watermill will be giving guided tours of the working watermill with admission being completely free this coming weekend Saturday 14th and Sunday 15th September, doors open from 1-5pm.  If you know someone who has never been, do give them the encouragement to come along.

And if you're heading out to the mill there are some lovely historic churches very near to us which are taking part in Heritage Open Days and are well worth visiting, including the charming St Edith's at Shocklach, with it's Romanesque doorway, Viking carved stone and sheela-na-gig, St Oswald's at Malpas with its medieval gargoyles and ancient oak chest, and St Chad's at Farndon, with its Restoration period stained glass window depicting the Royalist characters, weapons and equipment of the Civil War.

So, lots to see.  You can find a pdf of the brochure for the Chester area by this link.

Sunday 23 June 2013

Oyez! Come ye to Stretton Fair!

The annual Tudor Festival is coming up soon at Stretton Watermill.  This is where we take the mill back to 1596 when the lease of the mill was taken over by Ursula Leche of nearby Carden Hall.  At that time the mill would have been a thriving business and we try to recreate some of that atmosphere.

There will be Tudor tunes played on period instruments, a storyteller sharing curious happenings and folk tales of millers, a herbalist preparing country cures, along with demonstrations of the ancient machinery as Elizabethan millers grind wheat into flour.

The sergeant of the local militia will also be on the look out for troublemakers, with offenders being placed in the stocks.

Here's the list of offences as fixed to the mill...

The event takes place on Saturday 6th and Sunday 7th July, from 12 noon to 5pm each day.  There will be plenty to keep you fascinated.  And best of all, the event is completely free!   Hope to see you there...

The Witches' Piper

Our mill is full of stories and quite often we have storytelling at our events, there will be some at our Tudor Festival coming soon.  This folk tale isn't really about mills at all, but after discovering this Bulgarian story and telling it in the original form a few times I decided to change it a bit and create a version set in my native Cheshire.  Visitors to Stretton will recognise quite a few names and places in the locality...

You’ve hear how my elder brother plays the bagpipes?  Well, he was called to play for a party at Carden Hall, it must’ve been the day before Ash Wednesday.  And another feller from aback o’ Malpas was called to play his pipes for the children, Uncle Diccen his name is, he still lives in that village.

Now, at around eleven o’clock, Uncle Diccen was paid for his troubles and set off home.  But he was only betwixt Barton and Stretton when he was met by three women, all dressed in grey they were, and they said “Uncle Diccen, Uncle Diccen, come to play for us!” and dragged him away to a house at the end of the lane and set him on a bench there to play.  Well, other folk kept coming in and soon enough the place was thrunk and coins came crashing at Uncle Diccen’s feet until he thought it was as if he had the rent of the Dee Mills, until it turned midnight. 

Then, with a crash, Uncle Diccen found himself at the top of the poplar by Tilston stocks, and the night as black as a bag.  “Odd rot it! How did I get here?” thought Uncle Diccen.  On the lane below there was a chap coming from Shocklach way, and Uncle Diccen called to him to fetch him down, but this feller took boggart at some devil atop a tree at midnight and rushed off.  Soon enough though, there was a horse and cart coming from the Leche’s place and in it was Thomas Hulme.  “Is that you Uncle Diccen?” says Thomas.  “Damn it, of course it’s me! Now help me down.”

As soon as he was on the ground, Uncle Diccen began to look in the hem of his cloak where he’d hidden the coins he’d gathered, but it was full of nothing but broken crockery and chips of glass.  Such strange things sometimes still happen.

Thursday 25 April 2013

The Cow Is A Mamal

We were just doing the last bits of preparation for our 'Wartime Mill' event this coming weekend - Saturday 27th and Sunday 28th April, 12 noon to 5pm as you're asking - and were looking for something to set our (wooden) cow in context when we came across the following piece in a book about life on the Home Front.  It is so wonderful it just had to be shared...

Many evacuees were seeing the country for the first time.  The nine o'clock news on 29th October 1939 ended with an essay by a ten-year-old East London evacuee:

"The cow is a mamal.  It has six sides, right, left, an upper and below.  At the back it has a tail, on which hangs a brush.  With this it sends the flies away so they do not fall into the milk.  The head is for the purpose of growing horns and so that the mouth can be somewhere.  The horns are to butt with, and the mouth is to moo with.

Under the cow hangs the milk.  It is arranged for milking.  When people milk, the milk comes and there is never an end to the supply.  How the cow does it, I have not yet realized but it makes more and more.

The cow has a fine sense of smell, one can smell it far away.  This is the reason for the fresh air in the country.

The man cow is called an ox.  It is not a mamal.  The cow does not eat much but what it eats it eats twice so that it gets enough.  When it is hungry it moos and when it says nothing it is because all its inside is full up with grass."

So, if you're nearby, do come along and have a try at milking Blossom, our wooden cow, (in the background of the picture above), or Dig for Victory, work a stirrup pump or the air raid siren, practice a gas mask drill, taste some ration book recipes, be recruited to the Home Guard, handle wartime artefacts, take a tour and see wheat being ground into flour and discover how our little rural mill played an important part in the war effort.

Tuesday 26 March 2013

Mistletoe at the Mill

Regular readers of this blog will know how important our apple trees are to the history and folklore of the mill.  Last autumn we spotted the plentiful balls of mistletoe in the orchard at Norton Priory and wondered whether we could try to get some growing on our trees.  Apple is the preferred host tree for mistletoe, so when the Paul Quigley from NP offered us the chance to plant some mistletoe of their mistletoe upon our trees we seized this gladly. 

Stretton Watermill is located at the northern end of the Marches betwixt England and Wales, whereas the wonderful land of mistletoe is in the southern Marches.  One of the issues in getting mistletoe to establish itself is to obtain the berries from a local plant, mistletoe from Gloucestershire would be unlikely to take well in Cheshire.  Norton Priory had taken berries from a walled garden on the Wirral and now established it in their own walled garden orchard near Runcorn, so these was some of the nearest established plants we could get berries from.

Paul turned up with a plenty of berries, and the clever tips on how to plant them, ignoring the RHS instructions of nicking the bark and trying to wedge the berry underneath. Instead we were to mimic nature and the actions of a mistle thrush rubbing its beak against the tree to remove the sticky inside of the berry, and also to carry out the job in early March, when the berries are ripe, rather than at the end of the Christmas festivities.

The berries are squeezed to get the sticky centre and seeds out.  We gathered these along the edge of our hands, then placed several on a branch, hopefully getting a mix of male and female plants.  We were advised to avoid the older branches with thicker bark.

Paul was happily in tune with our feelings at the mill, that anything we introduce should be done not for purely for beauty, but that it should become a part of the stories of the site, fitting in with its history and legend.  As we worked, we shared tales and folklore of the mistletoe and the trees around our the mill.  If you would like to find out more then travel no further than this excellent mistletoe website.

Mistletoe is slow to establish, in a year we will know whether it has taken at all, but in three or four years we will hopefully see the plant itself on the trees.  Patience is required for this magical plant.

Sunday 10 February 2013

National Mills Weekend

Each May there is a celebration of mills across the country.  This year we've got some special happenings for mill enthusiasts on Sunday 12th and Monday 13th May.  There'll be stone dressing demonstrations, slide shows on mill heritage presented by millwright Malcolm Cooper, and specialist tours.

The intention is to tailor it to the interests of those attending to make it a very special event.  If you'd like more information or would like to book a place, contact Kate Harland at Cheshire West Museums, 01244 972066 or email kate.harland@cheshirewestandchester.gov.uk