Rex makes front page news
by Mildred Cookson, The Mills Archive, UK
When Rex started as the Technical Adviser to the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings (SPAB) in 1929, he needed to gather information on the state of British windmills. Concern about their fate had been highlighted in the national press, particularly The Daily Mail, but most of the detailed accounts were published in local newspapers. Not surprisingly, he created a library of press cuttings.
These cuttings were carefully selected for their relevance to the state of British mills and were pasted into a series of large scrapbooks, which are now cared for by The Mills Archive. Until the start of Second World War, they show how many mills had been left to decay, while others were maintained by a dedicated volunteer or owner. They underline the impact of the series of surveys and appeals launched with Rex's help during that decade.
On Rex's visits to mills he is often caught on camera, not his own, but by the local newspaper reporter who was always looking for an unusual story to write up. They could feature Rex presenting a certificate to a miller who has looked after and maintained his mill with great care. One such was John Bryant, whose family had owned Pakenham Windmill in Suffolk since 1885.
Rex's international influence is well-recorded. In Virginia, USA, he is captured in an article in 'The Virginia Gazette' on May 5th, 1957, where he oversaw the planning and construction of the Robertson's windmill at Colonial Williamsburg, based on the UK post mill at Bourn in Cambridgeshire. This mill was chosen as a model as it was one of the oldest in the UK, and closest in design to a mill that could have been built in Virginia when the early settlers arrived.
Rex's pre-war work in Finland continued to be recognised many years later, as evidenced by the 1974 front page coverage by Vasabladet, a Swedish language regional daily newspaper in Ostrobothnia, Finland.
Work is still continuing at the Archive on Rex's collection even during the 'lockdown' with Nathanael, our Archivist, working from home on the digital files.