|Crowborough and District Historical Society||
|Preacher Pratt by Malcolm Payne published 1996||Page 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 |
In June 1843, when the cottage could not have been more than two rooms, the family moved in. Richard knew the best crop to grow on such land was potatoes, and the four and a half acres of this crop yielded well. He sold some, used some, and bargained with the rest for seed for other crops. He continued to use a good part for potatoes, and was able to persuade a widow farmer to part with a horse she advertised for £4, for a load of potatoes; the date, 1843. This transaction took place at Michaelmas, a point in the farming year for such happenings. In December that year Richard's son, Jesse, was born. By 1845 Richard read in a local newspaper that the Black Mill was up for sale. In the interim he'd had a bad time with his small efforts at farming, and had little cash savings. His 1845 potato crop was blighted, leaving only one sack for sale. His little daughter had also died. Stoically Richard borrowed the money to buy the mill's lease. He must have been hankering after life as a miller, and in time he was able to pay back this loan.
By 1860 his cottage was much enlarged, and the little farm improved, having been subsidised by cash from his work at the Black Mill. Charlotte Howis died that year, and his lease ended. Although the mill was put up for sale Richard could not afford the asking price. In 1861 he was able to purchase a second-hand mill at Tunbridge Wells, carrying it to Crowborough on a borrowed four-horse timber tug, which cost him five sacks of potatoes, and the writing of an inventory for a farmer's will. He erected this mill next to his cottage, buying bricks and building the lower rounded section himself. This housed the machinery, and was capped and provided with sweeps from the Kentish mill.
Over the years this mill became a well-known part of Crowborough's sky-line, much photographed, drawn and written about. It is now made into a house, as is Richard Pratt's cottage, still known as Mill Cottage. According to the accounts the mill cost him £1,000 altogether; labour, which would have been his own and his family's, has no place in this total. The mill was working by February 1862, and Richard bought another 15 acres from his father to add to his farm by the mill. This area is still officially known as Pratt's Bottom, from the quality of the soil.