End of the Miller’s Tale

Graham James will be retiring from Marsh Mill after over a decade there
Graham James will be retiring from Marsh Mill after over a decade there
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ONE of England’s last remaining millers will leave his “castle” after over a decade of caring for its upkeep.

Graham James has looked after Marsh Mill since the millennium when he took on the role of miller for the first time in his life.

But his passion for the Fylde coast’s coat of arms goes right back to the days he spent gazing out of the classroom window at the windmill’s unmistakable silhouette.

Graham, 67, from Thornton, said: “I was fascinated by it, it was such a beautiful structure with great big sails.”

The former builder, whose responsibilities as a miller have included greasing the machinery, patching up water leaks, cleaning and reporting disrepair, describes the mill as in a “sorry state”.

He said: “I love the mill, it’s a fascinating and awesome machine which I’ve become very protective of but it needs thousands of pounds of repairs.

“When I did a few hours volunteering in the 70s it was in a bad way but in 1989 it underwent a major refit and the sales finally turned for the first time in 60 years. Sadly, six years ago, we had to lock the sails as they were deemed too old to turn.”

Built by Ralph Slater in 1794, Marsh Mill was commissioned by the then local Squire, Bold Fleetwood Hesketh.

Villagers from Little Thornton and Thornton Marsh used it to grind their corn and it became an essential part of daily life from its birth in the late 1700s.

But from the tiny to the tall - Marsh Mill is still one of the largest mills in Europe standing at more 20 metres - the winds of change blew across the county leaving many windmills obsolete by the advent of new technologies, firstly steam then electricity.

However, some remain as beacons of our heritage and despite the work required, Graham still describes Marsh Mill as a “national treasure”.

He added: “It was built to be the flagship mill in the area and enthusiasts and experts who visit today still recognise it as one of the finest around.

“I will be sad to go, you become that way when you have cared for something for so long, but I don’t want to be around when something goes wrong.

“It needs a lot of work and there are no sign of improvements on the horizon at the moment.”

Graham will be the last person to hold this position under the employment of Wyre Council which is hoping to surrender its 20 year lease after seven years, and hand the mill back to owners Melrose Investments Ltd.