My central character was given her name, Eden, early on, but it was some time before she gained a surname, not long after a visit to a minor architectural treasure, Shirley Windmill, in Shirley Hills, and so Eden became Eden Miller.
‘I haven’t read anything by Cervantes but I know a lot about windmills. My maiden name is Miller, when I was a child my dad used to tell me a lot about different types of mills and stories about them.’
‘But he wasn’t actually a miller himself, was he? Here the working mills almost disappeared at the beginning of this century.’
‘He wasn’t a miller, no, but when he was a schoolboy, he and all the other children in his school were sent from London to the countryside, to avoid the bombing in the war, the blitz kids. He was living on a farm in a big family and there was actually a working mill in the village. He spent hours there with the miller and learned how mills work, there are different types of mills but the same basic principles are involved. After school dad became a car mechanic and had the same job all his working life. But being an old style mechanic is becoming a thing of the past because everything is going digital, he hates electronics and he was happy to retire. He keeps saying he is too old to get digitalised.’
I have visited the mill and talked to The Friends of Shirley Windmill, they organize very informative tours around the mill as well as looking after and maintaining this splendid piece of Croydon’s heritage.
One of only four windmills open to the public in Greater London, Shirley Windmill is a Tower Mill, built in 1854 by Richard Alwen to replace an earlier (1808) timber post-mill on this site, lost by fire. It ceased working in about 1890, but most of the original machinery, including its two pairs of millstones, is still in place, and has recently been restored, so there is a lot to see.
If you would like to find out more about this historic place, please visit Shirley Windmill, maybe you might join the great team of The Friends of Shirley Windmill enthusiasts.