Later in life, after twenty years of living in London, he still made frequent
visits to Brighton and as a passionate natural historian longed
for the Downland air of his Sussex boyhood. When, in 1908, he heard
that Jack was standing idle, Mr. Martin took the opportunity of
renewing his acquaintance by renting the mill. He, his wife and
son together with their cat used the ground floor of the tower and
the adjoining roundhouse of the old Duncton mill as a holiday residence
during the summers of 1908, 1909 and 1910. The first was glorious:
"From starry night to rose-coloured dawn we lived upon the
Downs. We breathed the downland air, and when in themorning we awakened refreshed, we pushed open the door and stepped straight out on to the open Down."
"It was a grand sight last evening as I climbed the hill
from Clayton Court Farm. When I left the station at
Hassocks, it was what is known to gentlemen of the road as
lighting-up time, and as I traversed the path through the
fields to Clayton the moon was gaining greater and greater
power. But on reaching Clayton it had set, so far as I was
concerned, as I had passed into the shadow of the hills.
Then as I commenced the ascent of the 300 feet between me
and my mill, I watched the skyline grow brighter. The
darkness of the downs was absent tonight. All around was
wrapped in the snowy glow of the moon. The higher ground to
the east, where it rises another 150 feet, showed clear out
against the skyline, like the hump-back of a great sheep.
The Mill was bathed in silver light. Where the chalk showed
through the grass it shone as though incandescent, and the
light was such that the lights of Brighton in the southern
distance was a lost thing. It was a grand sight."
During his stay at the mills Edward Martin made a study of
downland life in all its forms and meticulously recorded
his findings in diaries. These later formed the basis of
three books:'Dew Ponds', 'Life in a Sussex Windmill', and
'Sussex Geology And Other Essays'. His work on dew ponds
led him to encounter sheep frequently drinking freely at
their rims, and caused him to remark on the knowledge of a
Yorkshireman: "Sheep never drink out of a pond, they take
all the drink they require from the moist grass that they
eat." When Edward Martin explained that he had often seen
them drinking from a pond, the Yorkshireman coolly replied
that the reason that he had remembered it was "because it
was so exceptional."
The results of Mr. Martin's experiments showed that the dew
ponds were filled with rainfall and that dew made little,
if any contribution. Oxen were used to puddle the bottom of
the ponds by crushing wet chalk into a thick impervious mud
which then remained watertight as long as it was under
water. He recalled seeing oxen ploughing in the area as
late as 1908. Mr. Martin's books show considerable interest
in the local Sarson stones also known as "Greyweathers". As
a tribute to him a number of these stones have been
acquired and placed in Jill's grounds. His works are full
of nostalgic information related to this time and studies
and are of particular interest in connection with Jill's
new lease of life. In his book 'Life in A Sussex Windmill'
(published in 1920) he made this observation in 1909:
"Will the Mills ever be set working again. It does not pay
to work them, I am told. Most of the floors contain
machinery, wonderful testimony to the power of the wind in
this exposed position. It is all silent. Cogs are locked,
but do not shift. Leather bands are slipped off their
running wheels. The dust of flour covers all the cracks and
crevices, and some corn in one place lies on the floor
tipped there probably by the last workman, when he was
called away at the last moment to work no more in the mill.
The grindstones, with their hidden power, are silent. Will
they speak again? The wind as a source of energy seems condemned in our country. Power can
be obtained more cheaply elsewhere. Cartage up the hill
runs away with the profits."
"The mill had not ceased working many months when we first took possession of it. The furnishing of the mill was no easy problem. As I expected to make a good deal of use of it, I desired to make it fairly comfortable, and a place where I could settle down to thinking and writing. But when the furniture arrived, it seemed to be lost in the vast expanse of floor to be covered. The carpet that I hoped would cover the sitting room floor occupied a ridiculously small portion. So I put it on one side of the room, and waited until I could get another to cover the other half. As it turned out, this was the better plan, for in the centre of the room there was a thick steel post which ran from the ground up to the next floor, and no one carpet could have been spread over the floor without cutting, so as to make a place for the post.
Of all the variously shaped rooms that I have ever seen, a circular one is the most awkward to arrange with furniture. There are no recesses, as are to be found in most rooms, and everything had to be placed against a wall, or else simply placed out in the open. We placed several pictures on the walls, but as the walls all sloped inwards, and the pictures of course hung vertically, they flapped about with every gust of wind. And they were not mere gusts that we had there. Nearly always the wind blew from the south-west, and when we opened the front door the wind circled round the walls as it might round the whispering gallery of St. Paul's Cathedral. But it was not a mere whisper. Sometimes we had to cling on to the tablecloth in desperation, whilst various articles enjoyed themselves as they careered round the room.
Our bedroom, formerly the base of Duncton Windmill, was wainscoted round with
plain wood, and when this was perfect it kept the place clean and
sweet. But the woodwork was not perfect, and all sorts of zoological
creatures found a home in the cracks and crevices thereof. The worst
of these were the earwigs, and I soon found that they liked the
cover afforded by the bedclothes. Not a night did we dare to go
to bed without turning over everything on the bed in order to get
rid of any and all that had during the day taken up their abode
The Mill is a weird place in which to spend the nights. The silence is such that it has invited mice to make it their place of residence, so at night they make havoc with our provisions. The silence has invited birds to build in the topmost storey. Occasionally a stray starling loses its way amongst the many floors, and flying from side to side, and round and round the walls, becomes completely confused. It finally reaches the ground floor, quivering with fear and terrorised with its confinement.
The silence is not complete. There are quaint noises peculiar to the Mill. In certain positions which the sweeps assume as they swing round to face the changing wind, a strange doleful yet musical note gradually rises, to die away as the wind decreases in strength. Then it rises again, and as the wind increases in strength the note moves upward one complete tone. Then back again to its first note, and then to pass away altogether.
So far as I can judge it seems to be caused by the impinging of the moving air on the steel rods which form a kind of raised star in the centre where the four great sweeps meet. The arrangement of the rods seems at a distance to resemble the raised centre of the complicated passion flower.
But the musical tone sometimes gave rise to others which were not so musical. On two or three occasions the wind has almost approached a hurricane. Then the shutters have shivered and rattled in their settings in the great sweeps, and it has seemed as though the sweeps must be wrenched out of their fastenings, but the smaller fan has answered to the wind, and has swayed the sweeps round to meet it. Nevertheless, on one occasion I deemed it advisable to move the bed and other furniture as far away as possible from the probable direction which the sweeps would take, supposing they were no longer able to stand against the force of the wind.
Our bedroom was the lower room of an earlier mill which had long since been done away with, which, however, communicated by a short passage with the stone Mill. The bedroom was covered apparently with a wooden roof, protected from the weather by sheet lead and zinc. On a piece of old plaster-wall inside there was carved in quaint figures the date 1793. According to eighteenth century maps, this was formerly known as Duncton Mill.
In consequence of the frailty of the roof of the adjacent bedroom, it was extremely probable that if one of the sweeps worked loose in a storm and fell on the roof, it would cut through, and it behoved us to act according to possibilities on stormy nights"