When local B&B owner Chris Yates decided to buy a house history as a surprise gift for his wife Judy on her recent 60th birthday, he had to adopt some diversionary tactics to avoid giving the game away. House historian Jill Ming of Building Beginnings’ first visit to The Mill House had to be hastily rescheduled when some last minute B&B guests turned up, and Chris had to pretend to sell her some eggs when she arrived for their appointment with Judy still in the house. Having waited round the corner until the coast was clear, Jill could at last commence her study of the old mill.
The Yates family have lived at Ercall Mill for over 20 years and been curious about the building’s history. Chris Yates said ‘Judy has always wanted to know who lived and worked at the mill, particularly when it was a working mill’.
Jill’s research revealed that there had been a mill on the site for centuries and found the origins of the present building marked on a map drawn up in 1746. The survey showed that the tenants paid £2 a year rent together with two capons, two hens and a strike of oats to the Newport family who were lords of the manor of Ercall at that time. Jill also discovered records of tenants going back more than 300 years to 1621 when Charles Burrows was the miller at Ercall, and reports of a 19th century court case concerning the maintenance of Ercall Mill bridge.
Jill said ‘ You never know what you might uncover when you start investigating the history of a building. Ercall Mill was a fascinating property to work on. In addition to finding out the former owners and occupiers of the mill, I was able to show the land that once belonged to the mill and how it was used. I also discovered that a small cottage in its grounds had been the tollkeeper’s house during the 19th century.’
Judy Yates was delighted with her surprise gift saying ‘I shall enjoy learning about the history of the mill and will make a copy of the investigation available for my bed and breakfast guests to read’.