From the Mill at Wicken, Cambridgeshire

by Mike Browne

John HOW was born in Witchford, Cambridgeshire on November 1st 1795. His parents Thomas How and Elizabeth (nee PATMAN) were married at Grantchester near Cambridge in February 1793. We cannot find where Thomas originated from but the PATMAN family has been traced back to the early 1600s in Grantchester and Ely.

Why Thomas and Elizabeth were in Witchford for John's birth and/ or christening we have not as yet found out but it is known that later the family settled at Upware near Wicken in the Cambridgeshire fens and it is expected that they were farming.  John as a young man was employed in the Cambridge area as an agricultural salesman.

He married Elizabeth WHITE the daughter of a Soham farmer on July 20th 1819, and they had five children, born over the next 14 years. In 1838 John purchased Wicken Mill and after a few years owned or leased 100 acres of the local land. The 1851 census records him as a ďFarmer of 100 acres and 4 labourers and a Miller with 3 labourersĒ .

On Johns death in 1864, none of the family took on the mill. We have no actual knowledge of why but there are rumours of a family rift; the details of Johnís Will certainly meant that who ever did would needed to have bought out the rest of the family and provided for their mother.

Eldest son Alfred had married and with his four children emigrated to New Zealand in 1865 and the large family there have all been traced by our New Zealander family historian cousins.

Eldest daughter Elizabeth had also married, into the FISON family of Soham; where husband Richard began an Engineering Company which still exists in their family today but in the Automobile trade . A number of FISON descendants have been quite eminent members of the community and country, with politicians, religious leaders and socialites.

Middle son Ebeneezer was the only one to follow in his fathers footsteps becoming a Miller but not of his own mill. He is recorded as a Foreman Miller in Soham where he met and married Caroline SINDALL. They raised a family of eight known children. So far only the eldest sonís family has been wholly traced being the writers, as freely available church records and I.G.I data for the area cease and registry office records etc. will need to be used to progress further.  William Sindall HOW continued in the Millers trade becoming a Journeyman Miller and setting up by buying Freckenham Mill just over the county border in Suffolk. Williamís descendants have all been traced and are all documented where ever they have moved to throughout the world. But the millers trade in the family died with him in 1922.

Sadly Freckenham Mill is no more having been derelict since the late 30ís it was demolished in the 60ís, but Wicken Mill has had a reprieve and itís resurrection is almost completed, once again itís sails stand proudly over the village. It is hoped that soon the mill will become a working mill and sell Wicken flour to its visitors.

Full details about the mill can be obtained on the following Web Sites 

WICKEN MILL

Picture taken after re-erection of the sails in October 1997 from the footpath along the rear.

The family tree is being maintained on a Broderbund Family Tree Maker programme and would be made available to interested parties

M. A. Browne, 38, Brunel Drive, Preston. Weymouth. Dorset.   DT3 6N

E-mail: Mike Browne

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