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It is difficult to present topics specifically about Henfield or it's people, as limited reseach has been done to date, but this talk by Don Cox (Vice Chairman, Sussex Industrial Archaeological Society; Chairman, Sussex Mills) was particularly relevant and involved a fair amount of animated participation from the audience.

Cooper's Yard, c1966

William Cooper was born in Hertingfordbury, Hertford, in 1824 to William Cooper Snr and Mary Cobham (married 1820). In 1845 he married Harriet Lutman (whose father had a mill in the area) in Shedfield, Hampshire, where their first four children (William, Mary Ann, Henry and Emily) were born. By 1854 William and Harriet were living in Henfield where the following five children were born: Caroline, Isabella, Ashleigh, Beulah, and Lorna. No accurate reason can be given as to why they moved to Sussex.

Coopers Yard in the High Street was used to produce iron castings out of cast iron, sometimes structural supports (as in the case of Horsham Town Mill) but mainly engineering components for the mill itself. The first mill to bear his name was Woods Mill at Small Dole (Neal & Cooper, 1854), and other mills which show evidence of his work include Ruckford, Ashurst, West Chiltington, Jack at Clayton, Cobbs, Hammonds, Steyning and Cuckfield.

In 1871 an incident occured in which Henry Cooper shot his father, and was subsequently sentenced to 20 years penal servitude. William never regained full health and died in 1876.

With the help of Robert Fowler (Manager), Harriet continued the business for some years, until eventually returning to Hampshire, where she is buried. Robert Fowler took over from her when she left Henfield. In 1905 the buildings were sold to Mr. Tobitt, who used them for storage, and they were finally knocked down in the 1950s.

Don Cox kindly offered to Henfield Museum part of the rim of a water wheel bearing Cooper's name (originally from Hammonds), together with several photographs of the High Street Yard.


A search on the internet indicates that William Cooper was also active outside of Sussex. He was involved in the building or restoration of BUCKLAND WINDMILL, near Reigate, Surrey, and there are possibly others.

Other related sites include the Mills Section of THE SOCIETY FOR THE PROTECTION OF ANCIENT BUILDINGS; and a site on JACK MILL at Clayton.


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