White Mill was owned and run by the Stanley family between 1860 and 1957, it was a home and rural business producing flour and animal feed. When the Mill closed in 1957 it sat empty until the late 1970s when a young Millwright Vincent Pargetar rescued it and with a group of volunteers turned into a Rural Heritage Centre.
Inspired by a photograph of Gertrude Stanley, the Millers daughter who was born in 1908 I began to wonder what a young girls’ life must have been like when WW1 broke out and in turn became interested in the dual daily activities at the mill; the domestic and the rural industry. This led me to the Women’s Land Army Movement and the role that women played at home during the Great War. It became impossible to ignore the symmetries of the incredible volunteer effort during WW1 and that of the group of volunteers at White Mill who keep this wonderful rural heritage site open and functioning.
My response to White Mill was two-fold; an event celebrating the Artisan both then and now and a series of photographic portraits of the volunteers alongside images of Women at Work during WW1 to be installed in the museum.
From the beginning I wanted to draw out the relevance of the past to the present, to get the public to look again and trace an invisible line of time between daily life then, the products the Mill produced, the domestic activities that took place to how we use and value those today especially seen in the revival of artisan (made by hand) products. Drawing upon the domestic industries in use at White Mill at the beginning of the 20th Century (sewing, knitting, cooking, baking) and the industrial production of flour and grain I developed a Bakers, Makers and Brewers Fair linking the renewed interest in all things handmade to a time when it was a necessary part of everyday life. There was a baking competition and craft, cider and ale stalls alongside weaving, spinning, brewing, stitching, knitting, singing, blacksmithing and woodworking demonstrations.
To celebrate the volunteer effort of the Women’s Land Army Movement which started in 1917 and the current work being carried out at the Mill, I took portraits of the volunteers performing their regular duties and paired them with selected images of Women at Work from the Imperial War Museum collection. These photographic pairings are now installed in White Mill Rural Heritage Museum. Cathy Rogers