Mill memories: Debby Brown

Debby Brown, a textiles tutor at Morley College in Lambeth, remembers getting locked in Brixton Windmill

“I was about to start at Camberwell  Art  School (1975), and decided to draw the mechanism in the windmill as part of my preparation. There was a little hut next to the mill where you paid your money (I think it was something like 20p ) and I went in, pleased to have the place to myself.

Provender mill cogs

Debby was sketching the mill machinery when she got locked in (photo by Owen Llewellyn)

“Having settled down to draw, I was about halfway through my sketch when I heard the door being bolted. I climbed down, shouted and banged on the door. I couldn’t believe I was shut in. As I couldn’t think of anything else I went back up and finished the drawing before panicking.

“I hadn’t expected the custodians to come back , so you can imagine how relieved I was when they opened up again about an hour and a half later. Apparently they got a lot of bother from schoolchildren at the end of the afternoon, so simply closed up and went for a cup of tea until the children had all gone home.They found it very amusing that they had shut me in and enjoyed telling me about the rats which they claimed ran riot at night!”

Racing down Brixton Hill
“My father was living in Leander Road from the 1920s, and I remember a number of his naughty schoolboy stories involving local establishments, eg ‘borrowing’ the red wicker parcel delivery carts from the postal sorting office yard, getting inside and racing them down Brixton Hill, whilst being chased of course by postmen! But nothing involving the windmill, which I suppose would have been working then.”

Elizabeth I and Walter Raleigh

Oak tree

Did Elizabeth I sit underneath this oak tree on Josephine Avenue? (photo by Kim Winter)

“Ye ancient oake tree in Josephine Avenue (nearly opposite the end of Leander Road): according to my grandma and other old ladies this had the reputation of being a shady picnic stop for Queen Elizabeth I on a visit to Sir Walter Raleigh via the River Effra. I have Google Earthed it but too leafy to see.

“The last time I saw it there was a fence around it, as it had sadly suffered some sort of fire. In my day it was a popular parking spot for dustbins and old bikes, but it was certainly very old, with enormous girth and some dead branches, though still alive and healthy. It was the only old tree, certainly predating the houses, and one imagines must have been retained for a reason.

“Queen Elizabeth seems to have had a fondness  for sitting about under oaks – I now live near another at Honor Oak. Of course, it may all be tosh!”


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