Dave King Writes

On Monday October 18th, I attended the re-launch of Pevner’s Architectural Guides (Cumbria), held at Holker Hall. All the great and the good were present ~ with the notable exception of Roger Putnam; Matthew Hyde, the author, Professor Simon Bradley, editor ~ who had forwarded the invitation to me, Sir Simon Jenkins, Guardian journalist and Chairman of the Pevsner Trust, and of course, Lord and Lady Cavendish, owners of the stately pile. Eskdale Mill is featured in the Guide, and is a particular favourite of Simon and Sarah Bradley, who are regular visitors and friends.

Hugh ~ Lord C to you ~ and I chatted at quiet some length about our former acquaintance before afternoon tea was taken by all; I sat with fellow minion Andy Lowe, former LDNP officer, who was able to point out other dignitaries over the cream scones. I took my leave of the Lord, having at first purchased a signed copy of the said Guide on behalf of the Mill Trust.

After that, it was off to Sproxton (pronounced Sproaston), halfway between Grantham and Melton Mowbray, to contemplate millstones. I was met at the Crown Inn, one of the many possessions of Barry Spencer, by Colin, one of his employees; Barry was in the south of France, doing up a property there. Colin drove me to a remote field several miles away, where many salvaged items lay strewn about. We eventually came across the much discussed items and these are my thoughts.

The two stones, which are obviously a pair, each measure 54 inches by 11, virtually unused, each stone weighs over a ton. The hole in the bedstone has been filled with cement with a metal pipe to support a parasol in the centre. They have been ‘dressed’ and so were used for milling grain. There is a possibility that they are composites (man made) and not grits, somehow they look too perfect, cast rather than hewn and both exactly the same; I have never come across artificial stones, so cannot be sure, but I’m fairly confident that they are the real thing; probably stones were machine cut in later years.

The present stones in use at Eskdale are 58 in. diameter, but this 2 in. smaller radius would not present too great a problem, and searching for a stone of the correct span might be like looking for the proverbial needle in a haystack. My advice is to purchase them (Barry might be prepared to sell only the runner stone, but I doubt it). Even if they were never used, they would always be there.

October 25th 2010