A windmill among Delce’s back gardens

Before this age of centralisation, most people worked near their homes. You shopped at the corner store in the same street, going into the town only if you needed something specialist.

These were the days before easy transport. You drank beer that was brewed nearby and milk from a local dairy herd. You also baked with local flour. A farmer’s corn was milled on your patch — even in The Delce, Rochester. The view above is of the Delce Mill in Cossack Street , taken from Delce Road. It was demolished after the war to make way for new council houses, which were also built on the allotments nearby.

Frank Wright, of nearby May Road, says the mill was built by the Dutch and worked until the outbreak of the Second World War, two new sails having been fitted in the 1930s.

“Delce Mill was owned by a Mr Glover, who lived in Mill House in Burritt Street opposite the mill and was similar to, but smaller than, the mill house on New Road at the top of Star Hill which became the Good Companions Club. He also had a shop lower down, selling corn and dog biscuits, etc.

“It was my job on a Saturday afternoon (after my morning lessons at the Math) to visit the mill to buy maize and pollard for my parents’ chickens and ducks which we had on our piece of land at 31 May Road (the only open space still left in the area today). We had to make sure we closed the gates at the mill because they had free-range chickens.” Mr Wright’s excellent memory also extended to the mill’s operators.

“The manager was Mr Humphrey, who lived in City Way and was also part-time secretary of the local branch of the National Deposit Friendly Society with an office next to the Post Office in Burritt Street . His deputy was Mr Lower, who carried out various duties at the mill. Mr Best the greengrocer stabled his horse within the grounds. One of his daughters married a son of Buckett’s the bakers. [Who apart from me recalls their superb cakes? A real Saturday morning treat! – SR]

“During its later life, it ground chaff and not flour. Then another local greengrocer, Mr Ambrose, bought the mill and had most of it demolished and garages built on the site. A great pity and a sad loss to the city.” I wonder if this Mr Ambrose was a relative of Bill Ambrose, who kept a greengrocer’s in Borstal Street when I was a lad?

Little remains of this interesting landmark. But an intriguing connection is still there. The kebab shop in Cossack Street was once a pub called the Windmill. It shut many years ago but its frosted and etched pub windows were saved — and stored in the basement of Cookís hardware store nearby, says Mr Wright.

What happened to them? Cook’s — now that was a fascinating shop. Whenever I smell paraffin (and that’s not often nowadays) I think of Cook’s. Who else has memories of this bygone hardware world? Mr Wright says the allotments near the mill were replaced with council houses – Longley Road and Princes Street – in 1927.

A thriving trade community in the shadow of the mill

Talk of the windmill brought a response from Mrs Margaret Clarke, of Beresford Avenue, Rochester.

Mrs Clarke, nee Hill, writes: “In 1929 my parents moved into Burritt Street [this view of the windmill is taking along Burritt Street] and took over the drapery shop — numbers 30 and 32 — on the corner of Cross Street, this being the road through to Princes Street.

“On the left hand side was the Friends Mission and directly opposite two small houses, the Barber family in one and the Wells family in the other. They were lovely people and both had many children.

“I attended Troy Town until 1931 when I went to Rochester Grammar School . The post office and general stores opposite our shop was run by Mr Hunnisett and later by Mr Packman with Doris Packman in the post office section. I well remember the windmill and Mr Grover, whose corner shop was managed by May Jordan. At the Delce end of Burritt Street was Mr Bert Johnson — a superb barber who cut hair for 6d.

“On the opposite side was Stockleys the butchers and next door was Plesters the newsagents, then Mr Cole’s seed and corn shop, then the sweet shop run by Mr Wood. He made ice cream and cornets were a halfpenny and a penny — difficult to believe now.

“I can well remember helping in our draper’s ship after school and during holidays — and the prices, too! Men’s cotton socks were three pairs for a shilling, boys’ school caps a shilling and men’s half a crown. Reels of cotton cost three-halfpence for 100 yards of fourpence-halfpenny for 400 yards.

“On the corner of Princes Street and Delce Road was Mr Ambrose the greengrocer, next door Crowhurst the fresh fish shop. Mrs Crowhurst delivered to customers by horse and cart.

“The people around us had little money but were happy with their lot and seldom complained. I often wonder even now how they coped. Many were large families but mainly they grew up to be good citizens and lived near their parents. These days have changed so much — and not always for the better.”

* There was another windmill in the field next to Fort Borstal. I have no idea when it was demolished, but recall the site being excavated in the late 1960s, when I was told that it had been built by Napoleonic prisoners-of-war who had to haul the stone up the hill from the river. Any more info? Please let me know.

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25 Responses to A windmill among Delce’s back gardens

  1. Mrs P says:

    It is so lovely to hear what the area was like years ago. I haven’t lived in Rochester for long and am trying to find out what the building on the corner of May and Cecil roads used to be? Many of these buildings appear to be converted shops but I’d love to know more, if anyone remembers?

    • SteveR says:

      Thanks for writing, Mrs P. I’ll have a look next time I’m in Rochester.

    • Hugh Panting says:

      The house on the corner of May and Cecil Road was a sweet shop run buy the family Hildebrand (not sure if that’s spelt correctly). I recall it was filled with jars of different types on shelves high up the walls. They also sold biscuits, and leading up to November the fifth a selection of fireworks.

      Nearby on waste ground in Cavendish Road there was a large bonfire where large crowds gathered to enjoy the evening with baked potatoes and beans provided by houses nearby.

      On the corner of Thomas Street was another sweet shop run by the Lecore family. It didn’t have such a selection, as I recall, but they were nice people and their family also had the model shop on St Margaret’s Banks in Rochester next to Medway Little Theatre. In fact every road in the Delce area had one or two shops selling sweets etc.

  2. louise.dyke says:

    I was interested in this as my husband’s mum’s family, the Rowdens, lived in Burritt Street in the 1930s and 1940s at No 65. If anyone has any pictures or memories of them I would love to hear from you. Her name was Joyce Rowden and had an older brother, Reg, and four sisters – Edith, Avis, Doreen and Phyllis.

    • Linda says:

      Hello lovely to hear all the memories, please does anyone remember mygranfather fred Gage, or father Ron Gage they lived in princess st Delce no 7next to mrs Seamark , i lived there until 1949 when we left my granfars and moved to strood ,i visited my granfar Fred for years after , anyone remember them x Linda nee Gage.

      • dave laraman says:

        Linda
        my name is dave laraman
        can’t really help a great deal but I do remember your mum Josie and your dad ron. My mum and dad often went over to strood to visit, your dad was always working on repairing TV and radios.
        I know they went to Devon then came back and then back to Devon
        I don’t know your grand grandad but it’s possible my elder brother john might remember them, I will try,
        I have been trying to put together some family history but left it too late for most, do you have a picture of your gran rosie, my aunt. If you think of anything that I might help with let me know

        • Linda Smeed says:

          Sorry Dave after all this time have just come back to this site and saw your message. Yes mum is still in Devon. Dad passed away in 2003, so nice to hear from you. I’m really interested in Fred my granfar and Rosie have gone right back in the family .i so remember Joe and your mum I use to come up and see you great tall boys you were. If you or your family have any photos I’d be so grateful you can find me as Lin Smeed on Facebook I take photos of photos and then put them on there. I hope you are well and do remember you so well. Take care x

    • Maggie Nelson says:

      Hi Louise. I was born at 67, Burritt St in1949 Joyce was my cousin , her mother was Lucy and she was my fathers.( Edward Hurst ) sister.My mothers name is Margaret same as me, I have a sister Irene.We lived there until 1968

  3. Becky says:

    I love reading about the history of Medway and have been desperately searching for information on the house I live in but stumbled across this instead! My Great Grandmother Kathleen Glover owned the sweet shop on the corner of Holcombe Road and Cecil Road. My Great-Grandfather Alfred Glover used to deliver coal and kept his horse and cart in the back garden of the house. There seems to have been lots of little shops at different times.

  4. Robert Humphrey says:

    My Grandfather BA (Bert) Humphrey (1883-1964) was the miller at Delce mill from the age of 12. The mill was built in 1830 and was used for milling corn until about 1930, thereafter used for crushing animal feed. Bert carried on until 1943 when he retired. Mr Glover and Mr Lower, the cart driver, carried on until 1945.

    In 1955, the sweeps were taken down and in 1959 the wooden smock was removed. The brick base was converted into a vegetable store for Mr Ambrose. Finally in 1965, the brick base was demolished to make way for the building of some flats.

    It’s interesting to note that steel rollers and a steam plant (saddle boiler by Spenclay & Archer?) were bought for the mill which was a one-third scale model made by Simms of Manchester for Arthur Ranks mills in Liverpool. Spent steam was used to cook up fruit jam.

  5. STEVE SALTER says:

    My mum Lyn Woollett lived in Burritt Street until 1967 with her sister Carole and brothers Roger and Bob. Her mum (my Nan) was called Annie Woollett and died aged 92 in 2002.

    Sadly, my mum now has dementia but I recall her telling me that she worked for Ambrose in Delce Road and there were gravestones out the back which gave staff the creeps. There was a girl there called Tilly who allegedly used to pee in the bowl they kept the beetroot in!

    I believe there was shop called Christophers and Mum first worked in the chemists and then worked for EC Cutler with his sons Barry and Brian. Think Mum lived at 76 Burritt Street and knew the Ironmonger family, Len Baker etc.

  6. pat bridges says:

    my mum and dad lived both lived all there life on the delce my mum Hilda dip rose was born in burrit St her dad had the fish shop in Cossack St I can remember as a child when staying with my nan in burrit St her name Kate dip rose going to the shop and post office opened by Mrs Sutton I also remember the green grocers in Cossack street owned by the does my nan use to take me to the don Cossack pub in Cossack St with her jug to get her mild beer sadly my mum died last year she worked in oldies the cake shop on the delce when she left school her sister was killed aged 5 going to St. Peter’s school on delce road .IHave such happy memories of the delce I’m now 63 and remember so many people who lived in burrit St I think my nan lived at no 23 my dad was born in Rochester ave and I remember going to burns to get the coal with my dad

  7. pat bridges says:

    I remember the windmill so well the top of Cossack St my nan and grandad had the fish and chip in Cossack St Alf and Kate dip rose my mum worked in the cake shop oldies on the delve her name was Hilda dip rose .My mans back gate was opposite the bell pub in Cossack St I remember the sweet shop on corner of rose St I would go and buy my bag of sherbert all diffirant colours and make my lemonade once a week I would be taken to doe,s the green grocers in Cossack St Mr doe would always give me a bit of Apple .Ican remember Alfie the milkman who worked for Jordan’s delivering the milk.my nan Kate dip rose in her later years worked for Mrs Sutton in burrit St who had shop and post office I can remember many people who lived in burrit St I think my nan lived at 45 burrit St my mum passed away last year but my dad is 95 and is still with me he came from Rochester ave they lived in Rochester all there lives

    • Barry Skinner says:

      I lived at No 32 Burritt Street, opposite Mrs Sutton’s shop with my mum, dad and two brothers. I can remember my mum mentioning the name of Diprose on several occasions. Burritt Street was a very friendly place to grow up in. Everyone knew each other and your doors were never locked, I can remember neighbours would just knock or call out and just walk in.

  8. James Barber says:

    Just found this website and what memories it brought back. My father Jim Barber was born in Cross Street and yes it was a large family. My grandparents had 5 boys and 4 girls, not too sure if they were all born there because they later moved to Holcombe Road.

    My Great Aunt Annie, a rosy-cheeked old lady worked at Abroses. I was born at 42 Castle Avenue. In 1936 in a converted cellar we were not there long, my brother Ken was born in Clarence Avenue.

    Two years later, and in the same year 1938 we moved to 47 Dorrit Way. I went to Holcombe Road. School and then on to St Peter’s on the New Road. I went to school with Hilda Diprose, Bob Woollett, Brian Sutton, and Brian Evenden from Rose Street.

    John Ironmonger I last saw in the Naafi at Nicosia, Cyprus, in 1956. He was in the Parachute Regiment I was in the Royal Air Force; it was a couple of days before we went on to Suez. I think Brian Sutton had two sisters, the younger one I was sweet on at the time and I last saw her in the mid-1950s after a brief stay in St Bart’s Hospital. She was a nurse there – I believe she married another friend of mine, Bill Cook.

    • Barry Skinner says:

      Cross Street was my playground when I was a young boy, as I lived in Burritt Street. Everyone would meet up in Cross Street, friends from Princess Street, Castle Avenue, Thomas Street and Rose Street. I knew Phil Evenden from Rose Street. This area was a great place to grow up in.

  9. Bridget Battelle says:

    I lived in Burritt Street up until 1968. We lived at number 76 Burritt Street next door to
    Mr & Mrs Wollett. I recall sitting on the doorstep watching Bob washing his car.
    Mum and Dad – Freda and Tony Battelle – then had 5 children, Linda, Bridget,
    Gail, Sandra and Tony. We were moved to Strood in 1968 dad lost touch with the Wolletts
    when he stopped working at Rochester Airport.

  10. Barry Skinner says:

    I lived at 32 Burritt Street with my mum Irene, my dad George, and my 2 brothers Brian and Roger. My Nan and Granddad lived at No 36. Anne and Jack Holbrook.
    I also have very good memories growing up in this very friendly area. I went to school at Troy Town and then Highfields in Chatham. I was always told by my Mum that the old windmill was haunted and not to play there. I can remember a lot of the names mentioned. A great place.

  11. Angela Coombs says:

    I lived in Princes Street from a 1959 (was just a babe in arms) to 1969 when they moved us all out of the 2up 2downs to build flats. We were almost at the top (just before the newer houses), and I have lots of lovely memories of my childhood there. I still live in Rochester, but it doesn’t have the same appeal these days

  12. Sharon evenden says:

    Stirring up memories

  13. Les Williamson says:

    Angela

    I lived at 104 Princes Street from 1954 till they put that new estate there. i recall The Everdens, Glanvilles, Pococks, Mulcrows. Mrs Smith the Hoarder who wore thick socks and a woolly hat all the time. My grandparents lived 106 Princes Street. I had an aunt Daisy who lived in Princes Street, and a cousin, Pat Chidley. I recall a mrs Clark, a great old lady, also in the street. There was also a girl called Goosey Ganda – she is a Nurse now . The Bates family lived there for a long time .Great times , i recall going to tell my Grandfather William Stratford in the BELL pub for dinner on Christmas Day

    • Angela says:

      Les
      my family were great friends with the Glanville’s. Sadly both my parents have now passed away (as have the parents of the Glanville’s. The girl you call Goosey Ganda, her mum was one of my mum’s dearest friends (her name was Lil and Goosey’s name was Sue) I still see Sue from time to time, she’s a lovely person. I remember old Mrs Smith too, my mum called her “Socksy” because of her thick socks. Do you remember “Yorkie’s” the sweet shop halfway down ? Old Mr York was blind and used to feel his way around the coins, but he knew which ones were which. I remember mum sending me down to get her 10 Number 10 fags when I was little.

  14. Bob Batchelor says:

    My father, Ernest Batchelor, was brought up on Great Delce Farm in the 1920/30s. His father, also Ernest, was tenant farmer of the farm and later Delce Grange farm, leasing from the Bridge Trust which had many farms in the area. I remember just after the Second World War, the last of the fields near the farm being built on for housing. Ernest senior also had a milk round in Rochester and Chatham.

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