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Historical biographies

Charlotte Tuffnell, Miller of Chesham, Bucks 1796-1879 Part:2

(Credit: Jennie Butler, volunteer for the Mills Archive)

Aged 56 in 1851 all but one of her daughters, Martha, had left home (or possibly died) and Charlotte was back at Lord’s Mill. She was running a full time business describing herself as a miller and farmer of 56 acres employing two men, two agricultural labourers and a boy. Although Martha was 27 she didn’t specifically describe herself as a miller or miller’s assistant, just as ‘at home’.

Within the next ten years after a life of milling Charlotte decided to retire and moved to a private house in New Road, Chesham Bois. Jumping forward to 1871 it is clear that this was Amy Mill cottage which makes great sense as her daughter Charlotte and son in law George Rose were running Amy Mill just two doors away, in fact it was later known as Rose’s Mill. This was the most northerly mill on the Chess. Martha married William Payne in 1870 who was 14 years her senior and a retired dissenting minister. He must have been a long term family friend as he was the minister at the Old Meeting House when all the girls were registered. They continued to live with her mother but William died just five years after their marriage.

Charlotte remained a widow after the death of her husband and brief glimpses in records suggest she was a capable determined woman with strong family values bringing up her children in the Baptist belief and an employer who carried on the milling business until her retirement. She died in 1879 in Chesham Bois aged 82. If she left a will it has not survived.

Pictures of the lives of Charlotte’s daughters are far from complete but evidence suggests that she set them up well in life and the milling business was handed down the generations through one daughter and grandsons.

Her daughter Charlotte married George Rose in 1848 the son of one of the trustees mentioned in her father’s will, so again a long term family friend. George became a mealman master and miller at Amy Mill where Charlotte Jnr lived until her death in 1890, so like her mother was immersed in the milling business. Charlotte and George evidently made a good living as two of their sons George Fox Rose and Henry John Fox Rose attended Frogmore House boarding school in Rickmansworth. Again, their names reflect the importance to their mother of carrying on her maiden name.

The Rose family were well established residents of Waterside. In the 1840s they installed an innovative steam-powered mill opposite Amy Mill on the other side of Amersham Road – the Bois Steam Mill (also known as Bois Saw Mill), but this was not without incident, as in January 1845, shortly after its opening George Rose was tragically killed following an accident with the steam machinery. Following the death of his father George Jnr, a trained mechanical engineer, carried on the business at Bois Mill and took over the occupancy of the mill house and was described as a corn miller in 1853. About ten years later he and his brothers added Lord’s Mill to their business. Henry Fox Rose also became an engineer and ran Lord’s Mill, changing the name to Canada Works following several years living in Manitoba. He designed poultry houses and open air shelters for tuberculosis patients. He suffered from asthma and died suddenly in 1919. This seems to be the end of the line of mill owners, descendants of the original Charlotte Tuffnell.
After the death of her minister husband and mother, Martha lived very comfortably on her own means as William left effects worth c. £800 (the equivalent of c. £95K today). Presumably she would have inherited a share of her mother’s wealth as well. She lived at different times with sisters Caroline and Sarah Rebecca. Elizabeth married a brewer; Kezia became a governess; Sarah married a draper and at one time Caroline lived with them in Berkhampstead assisting in the business before becoming a ladies outfitter in her own right in Acton, Middx and then head of her nephew’s boarding school in Hendon, Middx.

Sadly, none of the mills with which Charlotte née Tuffnell had any connection have survived.

Amy Mill ceased to work in 1880 and was demolished by the end of the 19th century. The miller’s house, known as Amy Mill house survived and was taken over as a sick bay during the Second World War. A lorry crashed into the house in 1970 making it unsafe. It was eventually demolished to make way for the Friedrichsdorf Corner roundabout at the bottom of Amersham Hill. The only remainder of the site’s milling heritage is the sluice gate. After Amy Mill ceased operating, the mill pond was replaced by watercress beds and then the Meades Water Gardens. Canon’s Mill last worked in 1937 and was then demolished. Lord’s Mill had a 30ft overshot wheel at the rear but was damaged by an earth tremor and after centuries of milling with water power it eventually converted to steam as the flow of the river had diminished and finally to electric. Flour milling ended in the 1920s but the buildings continued to be used until 1973 for other businesses, including preparation of animal feeds. The owner’s hopes to convert the site into accommodation, community centre or museum were rejected. In 1978 it was sold to a sheet metal company and 10 years after that was demolished.

Charlotte Tuffnell, Miller of Chesham, Bucks 1796-1879 Part:2

Amy Mill 1903 (Source: purchased by Jennie Butler, donated to Mills Archive Trust).

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