|Crowborough and District Historical Society||
|Preacher Pratt by Malcolm Payne published 1996||Page 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 |
By the December of 1841 Richard and his family were back in Crowborough, and in January of the following year he had been offered a partnership in Crowborough Black Mill. This is the mill that stood to the east of Mill Lane, to which it gave its name. The site was just about where the road goes into Pine Grove. Richard borrowed the money to become a partner, and by March of 1842 a daughter was born to Richard and Hannah, who most certainly brought them joy, but also added expense to the family, who were always short of cash.
By October of that same year Richard, a very religious and honest man, found himself unable to work with his more mercenary partner. There were a lot of problems, and on top of these a terrible accident occurred when a bullock from the farm next door scrambled through a gap in the fence. It was decapitated as the sweeps descended, driven by a strong wind.
The partner could not make a go of the mill on his own, and in January 1843 he sold out to Edward Howis, the son of the late Edward Frisby Howis, and his wife Charlotte, who was then working the family mill at the foot of St.John's Common. Richard Pratt was employed by Howis to work the Crowborough Black Mill. All went well for a while as Richard worked up a fine business for his employer. Then came a demand for extra flour, and Howis asked Richard to work on a Sunday. This he refused to do because of his beliefs, and so was sacked.
This appears as a very dark time in the Pratt family's life, but Richard took a step which marks him down as one of the men to whom Crowborough owes much. He was one of the entrepreneurs that boosted the growth of the area. Although he had only meagre savings, Richard rented a 4.5 acre field from his father James. Being very rough and covered in lumps of sandstone, the field was just about worth the £7 annual rent. This parcel of land was just off Crowborough Hill, and this site is now occupied by the Mill House and cottage, plus part of Mill Drive. Richard used the stones, cleared before he could grow crops, to build the basis of the cottage, to which he added over the years as money and materials became available.