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Syston Mill

March 25th 2018


Sir Neville 'Kim' Hall's Childhood Memoirs Chapter 3

I have posted Uncle Kim's third chapter of his childhood memoirs on the Went the Day Well articles page (click here to read it) in which he describes his family's move to a rented Victorian house in Newstead, Lincolnshire, just a few miles from Queniborough.

My attention has been drawn to several subjects in this chapter – Fosse Way; Magic Lanterns; the windmill; and the Mad Hatter – and I have spent some time looking them up. 

Fosse Way
Mary remembers learning something about the Fosse Way during history lessons when a child.  I have no such recollection which most likely reflects a failing of memory rather than of schooling.  It was the 230-mile-long Roman road running between Exeter and Lincoln which represented the western frontier of Roman rule during the first few decades following the Roman invasion of Britain.  Interestingly a portion of the original alignment of this route remains as an unclassified road called Fosse Way as it passes through Syston where uncle Kim lived.     

Magic Lanterns
These I have heard about, but I have learnt considerably more from the excellent Magic Lantern Society website.  They were the forerunner of the slide projector although it appears that they could provide much greater entertainment than the family slide shows I remember in my childhood during which sunsets, family members and pets were projected onto a screen or wall. 

Syston wind-powered corn mill
I am feeling very pleased with myself as I believe that I have managed to not only name the windmill facing uncle Kim’s house, but have also found a couple of photographs of it before it was destroyed by the storm he mentions in this chapter.  It was a post mill, as shown in the image here, and it is this post that uncle Kim describes as having snapped at its base.

Mad Hatter
I have been less successful in my research into uncle Kim’s comment about the Mad Hatter.  He has written: ‘It was here that my mother first read ‘Alice in Wonderland’ to us from the old illustrated edition printed in script, and some years later we used to see the original ‘Mad Hatter’ who was then a very old Canon of Lichfield Cathedral.’  My assumption from this passage was that uncle Kim knew who Lewis Carroll used as his inspiration for the Mad Hatter, but I have not been able to confirm this. 

It is not clear if Lewis Carroll did base this character on any of his acquaintances but in their book, The Red King’s Dream, Jo Elwyn-Jones and J Francis Gladstone are in no doubt that the Mad Hatter was Sir Charles Kingsley (of Water-babies fame) who was Professor of Modern History in Cambridge.  I was excited to find out that Kingsley did pursue a church ministry and became a Canon at Chester Cathedral after resigning his Professorship and thought, therefore, that this must be the owner of the ‘thin, rather nasal but lovely chanting voice floated through the nave like a thread of silver’ that uncle Kim describes as hearing ‘some years later’.  Unfortunately, I can find no evidence that he was ever a Canon at Lichfield Cathedral and, what is more, he died in 1875, which was many years before uncle Kim was born.  I have given up.


  © Copyright Thomas Jackson 2010