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City Mill

Page updated 25 August 2009

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The City Mill was on the south side of the Higher Leat in Ewing Street. City Mill is thought to be one of the two mills granted by Nicholas de Courtenay to Nicholas Gervase in the late 12th century. The mill was engaged in fulling in 17th century, and in 1802, it was sold along with three other fulling mills on the same site (which were eventually merged to create Surridge's mill) to new owners. By 1815 it was corn milling with Mr Adams. The mill was left to James Upright by the previous mill owner, probably Adams, and worked by himself, and later his youngest son.

The Flying Post recorded an accident at Upright's City Mill in 1825 when a journeyman slipped and fell, severely injuring his ankle. The Special Corporation of the Poor awarded Upright's Mill the contract to supply it with flour at £1 19s per sack, and in the same year, a run of adverts for Pates Lozenges used a letter of recommendation from Thomas Upright, perhaps indicating the flour dust in the air affected the workers adversely. James Upright died at the age of 65 in July 1851, so he had obviously not been using Pates lozenges.

In April 1857 the Millers and Cornworkers Sack Protection Society (you couldn't make it up) was formed, and the young James, was one of the founder members. The aim of the society was to protect the interests of the millers, and prevent sacks from one mill being purloined by another. A case of adulteration of flour with alum, was dismissed, against Mr Upright in February 1858 and then in January 1862, James Upright was involved in one of several cases of arbitration against Mr Surridge regarding water flow, which was decided in Surridge's favour.

A dead horse

An odd little story appeared in the Flying Post, in July 1859, about the strange death of a horse belonging to Mr Upright the miller, of the West Quarter. The horse died suddenly and was examined to determine the cause; a stone weighing 26½ lbs with a circumference of twenty-three inches was found in its stomach. There was no explanation as to how the stone got into the horse's stomach. A month later, the stone was put on display, alongside pictures and photographs of butterflies, at a fête for the Working Men's Improvement Society at Duryard. This resulted in a letter appearing on the Flying Post in which it was stated that a similar, if smaller stone had been found in a horse's stomach three years previously, and it was thought to be caused by feeding the animal bran.

James Upright was married in 1860 to Elizabeth Morgan, daughter of the late William Morgan, who was a former sword bearer for the city, became the father of a son in the November, and then his wife died at the age of 38 in 1863. He married for a second time in 1865.

Through all these years James Upright was an active City Councillor, who was not afraid to speak his mind, and seemed to have an opinion on everything. Time passed and in March 1895, James Upright, miller died at the age of 79. His son, R C Upright, in February 1897, and still working the City Mill, was nominated for the Board of Guardians for Trinity Ward.

The mill became Hellier's City Roller Mill the next year, and won a tender to supply flour to the Exeter Board of Guardians in December 1898 at a cost of 20s 10d per sack. French's, who owned several mills in Exeter including Cricklepit, took on both Surridge and City Mill, and amalgamated them, sometime after the First War. The mill had an auxiliary electric motor to supplement the wheel; when the water was high, the wheel would drive the motor in reverse to produce electricity, that was fed back into the grid. The mill continued to produce flour up until it closed, and sold to the City Council, for the building of Western Way, in the early 1960's, and which now runs straight over the site of the mill.

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