Thursday, 10 March 2016

On the Essex Coast

I inherited a bound set of The War Illustrated from my paternal grandparents. One hundred years after publication I'm exploring its pages to discover the people and their times.
"The Modern Coastguard Goes Awheel"
The caption under the photograph's title continues "The breezy East Coast, so long the rendezvous of holiday enthusiasts, is now the scene of serious military activity.  A German raid upon the shores of |East Anglia is still possible, though highly improbable, but nothing has been left undone to defeat such attempt.  The extremely picturesque study shows a body of |Essex Cycle Scouts riding along one of the coast roads, which they patrol day and night, to give warning of any enemy approach by sea or air" 
I tried to identify where the 'river' and windmill was but despite a virtual roam along the East Anglia coast I could find no post mill that fitted its geographical location but did enjoy some stunning photographs.  The windmill made another appearance in publicity about the Essex Cycling Scouts but this time in a Cycling magazine (and it was this article that gave me another clue)
"The Essex cycling Battalion Guarding Our Coast"
Interestingly the War Illustrated image is from the 1st May 1915 and the Cycling image is from the issue 22nd April 1915. I imagine from this that the photographer enjoyed his day out with the Essex Cycling Scouts. The caption on the Cycling paper continues "It is impossible to exaggerate the importance of the work entrusted to the cyclist in the home defence scheme.  The full scope of their duties cannot be disclosed - for obvious reasons - but upon their vigilance and resource much depends.  Our photographs show 1) the special kind of training the new battalions undergo; 2) lookout observation post manned by trained cyclists (yes that is our windmill ladder); and 3) a coast patrol at work,  A glance at the latter photograph enables one to appreciate the hazardous nature of this work at night when, of course, every light is extinguished and the precipitous paths on the cliffs are difficult to negotiate"   and you can also hazily see a windmill.

The story of the Cycling Battalions appears on the BSA and Military Bicycle Museum here.  Who knew there was a BSA museum, well not quite, its a virtual museum but a fascinating resource.  My first bicycle, and the one I learnt to ride on with my father running behind, was a BSA, I vividly remember its badge. Did I love my first bike and I don't remember bothering that it had no gears although I couldn't do without them now!  Money was tight so it was bought at a second hand shop for £5 but the pleasure and freedom to roam was without price.

But enough of my reminiscences, the 'Cycling' article mentioned cliffs so combining that with my search terms meant I stumbled across this
Old Windmill 1908

Yay. Unfortunately the windmill no longer exists but the Walton and Frinton Yacht Club who featured the postcard, built their club house (which opened in July 1920) on the foundations of the old windmill , this is Walton Creek. The windmill location -  Walton on the Naze - was built in 1846 for grinding cereal,by 1892 it was disused
Windmill at Walton, Essex AA78_01450
English Heritage say they do not know when the above photograph was taken but point out the costumes are Edwardian but wonder why there was a trip to a disused windmill..  Both the above photograph and the War Illustrated one make it look as though the post mill was on a river or creek.. But everything is in the crop because actually the
Walton Windmill and Boating Lake
view looked like this. The photograph appears on the Walton History Trail page of the 'Visit' site.  The Mill Pond or 'Mere' was converted to a boating lake.  "In its heyday it offered 250 small rowing, sailing and paddle boats".  They go on to say "Mill lane is the site of the former windmill and watermill (tide mill,) grinding locally-grown corn until 1922. Flour was then shipped from Halls Quay dock, and coals from Newcastle arrived on the return journey to supply the foundry and the former gas works near the station".  Other sources say that both the water mill and the windmill ceased working around 1900 and were demolished in 1920, or rather the tidal mill was demolished and the windmill collapsed.

I hope our Essex Cycle Scouts enjoyed a sail on the Walton Mere (as it was renamed) in more peaceful times.

Walton on the Naze Old Mill Pond 1920

More Walton on Naze windmill photographs at Windmill World   
BSA and Military Cycle Museum page - Cyclists Your King and Country Need You
Visit Walton On The Naze site - History Trails. (The cliffs also played more wartime roles in WW2)
Walton and Frinton Yacht Club - History
English Heritage photo on Flickr
Walton Archive (Putnam Photographers) - The Windmill and The Watermill 

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