My first phase research is bringing me to a summary of topics that will form the planning of an event for National Mills Day in May 2015. There is no doubt that the mechanical engineering of the Mill is fascinating, but for me the interest lies in the social and economic history of the Mill and what that means today in it’s present form as a heritage site.
To locate my work in the period of the First World War, Gertrude was my starting point – a woman born in 1909 growing up during the Great War and the impact on her life and that of her family (her two brothers Albert and Lewis and her father George).
The recurring seem to be; the domestic lives of people left at home during WW1 shown in the Millers cottage that displays artifacts of domestic life, baking, sewing, mending shoes, homemaking. The function of the Mill as a producer of flour, feed and cereals used in bread, biscuits and beer and the wider impact of the war on Britain at home; the Home Front, women working in munitions factories, on farms, laboratories, in schools, tyre factories, on the railways, on buses and in hospitals; rationing in 1917, a severe shortage of food; the Land Army and the 90,000 volunteers at home and abroad working through the Red Cross, not to mention the biggest ever recruitment of volunteer soldiers through conscription.
A common thread that runs through to today is the volunteers. White Mill exists and so does the Sandwich Guildhall Archive because of the volunteers who run it, mend it, open it, staff it and love it. Without them it wouldn’t exist as it does today.
The word volunteer derives from the Middle French word ‘voluntaire’ (1600) to mean “one who offers himself for military service.” (http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=volunteer)
Image credit: Exhibit in the Millers cottage of White Mill, Sandwich.