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The Smock Mill at Clymping

The Smock Mill at Clymping

smock mill at climpingIf I were a Briton, I’d likely know a good deal more about windmills. So when the architectural drawings for adaptation of the smock mill at Clymping on the Sussex coastline appeared at the on-line auction site that dare not speak its name, my ignorance made manifest encouraged an immediate need to know.

Hayter Preston wrote an accessible study of windmills in 1923, directed more toward a popular audience, I suspect, than a scholarly one, so ideal as an introduction for someone like myself. Today, however, it may be more collectible for its illustrations by Frank Brangwyn than the text by Preston–though he was certainly my sort of writer, or the writer I might prefer to become. An Anglo-Welsh artist of Belgian birth, Brangwyn is known for his loose aggressive style often employed in the service of working-class topics of the early 20th century: shipbuilding, steel manufacturing, and other industrial topics and of those who laboured among them. There is more than a hint of Socialist Realism represented here. Which makes perfect sense, since Belgium’s early industrialization may have been in advance of Briatin’s, and its labour movement at least as well organized and comparably Socialist. A romanticized presentation of 19th century milling in Britain and on the continent seems in keeping with Brangwyn’s artistic and inferred point of view.

Preston’s examples were chosen from many countries with coastline and their reliable supply of wind energy. Britain’s Channel coast was dense with them at one time, but the survivors today are substantially picturesque tourist destinations where more selfies than informational brochures are taken. Who chose which mills would be illustrated is unremarked, though Preston does get second billing, which may be a clue to the book’s origin. Nor does it say how Brangwyn worked; from photographs or actual site visits. By the time my secondhand copy arrived, the architectural drawings had come and I knew a bit more than the auction description provided.

The mill’s location was given as Littlehampton, a coastal town with a small harbor on the River Arun which might have served a modest fishing fleet in the 18th and early 19th centuries but which had become a resort by the time the mill was converted as a weekend retreat. The names both of the architect and the client are noted on the drawings; they were contract drawings after all, intended for construction and elegantly informational, as working drawings once were. These two were acquired for a collection driven by precisely that point of view: that the representation of beauty and knowledge are not mutually exclusive. [There had been an exhibition of the older collection (numbering close to forty) some years ago, but the beauty of these mill drawings encourages me to propose another based on recent additions.]

The client was Sir Richard Garton, who I learned had been a key figure in creation of the League of Nations. Surely somewhere in Britain there is a blue medallion on one of his residences; otherwise I wonder if his name would register at all on history’s Richter Scale. Finding him took little effort; finding out about him has proved more challenging. Likewise for his architect, one of the also-rans of architectural history who’ve been lost in the shadows. 

John H. Howard practiced from the Surrey town of Haslemere at the time of the Garton commission. But so far the internet has yielded very little biographical material about him, other than his death in January 1940. The client may have known him through a business or family connection, or as someone recommend by another client as a specialist in country house design.

An aerial view of the Clymping mill shows the current state of affairs, very sad, and not boding well for its future. Soon our drawings may be its only record.

So why do I bring any of this up, you ask. There’s no easy answer to this. There rarely is.

First, there is my ongoing interest in architectural drawings, a rarer commodity these days than it was in the early days of on-line auctions. But there are other more obtuse intentions at work. Windmills, for example, and the likelihood that there are multiple examples in the Agincourt story: one on the grounds of the Fennimore county courthouse, for example, converted from pumping water to the nobler purpose of “Memorial”. There is also likely to be a genuine windmill out at Grou, the Dutch settlement ten or twelve miles northeast of Agincourt.

No, the real underlying motive for this post is the Preston-Brangwyn book of 1923, and its connection with my ongoing interest in series designs—Sullivan’s banks, for example; Richardson’s railroad depots in suburban Boston; or the 18th century churches of Nicholas Hawksmoor. Clusters of a particular building type in an architect’s oeuvre interest me greatly, to the extent that I want to add my own to each category, a “what if” exercise. In this case, it’s Frank Brangwyn’s windmill illustrations: The mill at Clymping, for example, is discussed in the Hayter Preston text, yet it is one of very few that were not illustrated. Given that Brangwyn painted a dozen others, might it be possible to render the Clymping mill in Brangwynian style? Would that I were such a one.

 

The play’s still the thing.

Ideas for the Project come thick and fast. Then there are those long dry spells, probably linked with my bouts of depression, when an old notion comes back to haunt me, cries out for attention, and I discover its been eight years since I last engaged with it! That’s the case with Seamus Tierney and his theatrical career in Agincourt.

I last wrote about Seamus in 2011—at any length, that is, though tangentially—but hadn’t realized that when I started writing something today about Reinhold Kölb’s fusion of Japanese Noh theatre and Austrian psycho-drama, a therapeutic technique he used at his clinic out on Thoreau Avenue.

It’s a goodly distance from ancient Delphi and Agincourt’s Commons. About as far culturally as it is from Kyoto to Vienna. And goodness knows I have no business trying to imagine what Kölb had concocted and how Tierney might have been exposed to it as a young boy and what that could mean for the Project’s future.

Probably nothing.

Epistle to the Alexandrians

APOCRYPHA

The “Epistle to the Alexandrians” is a second century text of curious origin and doubtful authenticity. Its author unknown, the text is found in just one source, an unverified manuscript fragment, part of a private collection in Alexandria, Egypt. The text has been understood to be of Gnostic origins.

Greetings to you, brothers and sisters in the Spirit. All of you are never far from my thoughts, especially in these days of strife and struggle. I write you today in brotherhood as one who shares your passionate quest for Truth and your concern about those who would remove the liberty we enjoy. Remain firm in your path toward Justice in this life and Fulfillment in the life that awaits. The path I tread is not yours but our goal is the same: return to our origin, the perfect place from whence we have come.

Do not be led like sheep. They will take you to slaughter, disguised as the comforting reward of green pastures and full bellies. Nourishment of that sort is easy enough and those who would lead us there are wolves, killers of the mind who offer the easy downward path. They will numb your senses with platitudes, confuse you with simple convenient answers to those questions which require a lifetime, nay sometimes multiple lives, to find Truth. The keys to the Pleroma are not to be found there.

Do not settle for the comfort of the valley, when Truth can only be found on the steepest and most inaccessible slopes and in the most rugged of storms, where only goats are able to thrive. Be of good cheer for it is in such storms that bolts of understanding and insight will illumine your steps. Be firm in the quest for Justice in this life and Fulfillment in the next. Recall and be strengthened by the words of the One who has gone before us: The journey ahead lies within. And the road may be crooked, but the path is straight.

A clumsy translation in contemporary Greek reads thus:

Χαιρετισμούς σε εσάς, αδελφούς και αδελφές στο πνεύμα. Όλοι δεν είστε ποτέ μακριά από τις σκέψεις μου, ειδικά σε αυτές τις ημέρες διαμάχης και αγώνα. Σας γράφω σήμερα στην αδελφοσύνη σαν κάποιος που μοιράζεται την παθιασμένη αναζήτηση της αλήθειας και την ανησυχία σας για εκείνους που θα εξαλείψουν την ελευθερία που μας αρέσει. Παραμείνετε σταθεροί στο δρόμο σας προς τη δικαιοσύνη σε αυτή τη ζωή και την εκπλήρωση στη ζωή που πρόκειται να έρθει. Το μονοπάτι που τρέχω δεν είναι δικός σας αλλά ο στόχος μας είναι ο ίδιος: επιστρέψτε στην καταγωγή μας, τον τέλειο τόπο από όπου έχουμε έρθει.

Μην οδηγείτε σαν πρόβατα. Θα σας οδηγήσουν στη σφαγή, μεταμφιεσμένοι ως την ανακουφιστική ανταμοιβή των πράσινων βοσκοτόπων και των πλήρων κοιλιών. Η διατροφή αυτού του είδους είναι αρκετά εύκολη και εκείνοι που θα μας οδηγήσουν εκεί είναι λύκοι, δολοφόνοι του μυαλού που προσφέρουν την καθοδική πορεία. Θα μπερδέψουν τις αισθήσεις σας με φαντασιώσεις, θα σας συγχέουν με βολικές απαντήσεις σε εκείνες τις ερωτήσεις που απαιτούν διάρκεια ζωής, μερικές φορές πολλές ζωές για να βρείτε την Αλήθεια. Δεν υπάρχουν τα κλειδιά στο πρηνρόμα.

Μην εγκαταλείπετε την άνεση της κοιλάδας, όταν η Αλήθεια μπορεί να βρεθεί μόνο στις πιο απότομες και δυσπρόσιτες πλαγιές και στις πιο ανθεκτικές καταιγίδες, όπου μόνο οι κατσίκες είναι σε θέση να ευδοκιμήσουν. Να είστε ευτυχισμένοι για να είναι σε τέτοιες καταιγίδες ότι τα μπουλόνια της κατανόησης και της διορατικότητας θα φωτίζουν τα βήματά σας. Να είστε σταθεροί στην αναζήτηση της δικαιοσύνης σε αυτή τη ζωή και εκπλήρωση στο επόμενο. Θυμηθείτε και ενισχύστε με τα λόγια του Εκείνον που μας πέρασε: η πορεία μπροστά βρίσκεται μέσα μας.