Slindon and Halnaker Mills

In 1913, George Wyndham MP visited his great friend Hilaire Belloc in Sussex and they travelled on to France. They talked about immortality while walking round woods at Bougival. Wyndham declared that the soul was immortal. Belloc agreed he shared this view, but only through the cold acceptance of authority. After they parted, Wyndham sent a letter:

Now I would not for the world – a phrase, but let it pass – have missed revisiting with you the woods that were part of your boyhood, and therefore – à ma guise – an index to Man’s Immortality.

Several days later, Belloc was walking with Maurice Baring in London when he saw the news that Wyndham had died, aged only 50. In a period of grief, he travelled to Lourdes where his wife Elodie and their two daughters were staying. On their return, he witnessed Halnaker Mill in ruins and this experience led to one of his most powerful and  poignant poems – one of mortality, decline and decay.

Spirits that call and no one answers –
Ha’nacker’s down and England’s done.
Wind and Thistle for pipe and dancers,
And never a ploughman under the Sun:
Never a ploughman. Never a one. 

Here is Belloc singing his Ha’nacker Mill:

(The next song is from the The Cruise of the Nona. Littlehampton was one of the places he kept his yacht the Nona from the early 1900s to 1927)

Mill 1778In 1778 a Slindon windmill was still present on the hillock that is approached by Mill Lane, to the west of Baycombe Wood – and above Courthill Farm. It was rebuilt in 1456, but it must have gone long before the young Belloc roamed the Northwood landscape around 1880. Perhaps someday it will be re-erected.

Halnaker Mill sits on a Scheduled Ancient Monument as it is the location of a Neolithic earthwork. It is in the care of West Sussex County Council.

Old Thunder: A Life of Hilaire Belloc By Joseph Pearce

other diverse renditions of Ha’nacker Mill:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dP11rvMIaZw Ha’nacker Mill performed by Ben Whalen
http://www.hyperion-records.co.uk/dw.asp?dc=W6057_66736&vw=dc (1 minute preview of Ha’nacker Mill song): composer Peter Warlock (father of art critic Brian Sewell)

2 thoughts on “Slindon and Halnaker Mills

  1. In c1813 the old Slindon Post Mill was moved from its original site (as shown on the map above) to a new site south of the village (beside Mill Road, just below the junction of Sunnybox Lane) where it was known as ‘Avisford’ Mill and stood there until 1898 when it was pulled down for its timber. It had been ordered to be removed by a Mr Fletcher as it frightened his horses when he drove past in his carriage. H.E.S. Simmons notes that nothing was left at the site but the stones could be seen in front of the stable doors at Dairy Farm, Walberton (presumably one of the properties in the present Dairy Lane?). Bob Potts: “At 44 Park Lane, Slindon is a cottage, where a lady lived, who at the start of the 19th Century, when mills were being demolished, would buy the stones. She amassed a large collection, of which a couple are propped against the wall of the entrance. The rest dotted around the grounds”.

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  2. What a great post! Fascinating – such evocative verse and I’ve heard that poem many times without ever being aware of the personal story behind it.

    There were windmills everywhere in this area – there was one on Sllndon Common – within living memory the building (or its ruin) was still there.

    Not surprising in some ways. When you get up onto the Downs, the prevailing wind hits you directly from the sea. The wind off the sea is such a characteristic of a walk on the Downs.

    The exhibition of Constable watercolours at Petworth House earlier this year included what seemed like a whole room-full of paintings he had done of windmills in this area.

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