A History of Gower & The Mill

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The Peninsula of Gower is only 15 miles long (east to west) by about 6 miles wide (north to south), although the historic region of Gower also included a lot of land inland to the north-east. While many people have heard of the little England beyond England in South Pembrokeshire, Gower remains an enigma. Until the outbreak of the 2nd world war, it was still largely a region of small farming communities with its own dialect and traditions. Its unique character was forged from its mix of Welsh, Somerset/North Devon and Norman ancestry.

Many words of the dialect were similar to those found in the West Country. Gower can be divided into the “Welsherie” in the north, where Welsh was spoken – the communities of Penclawdd and Llanrhidian for example – and the English or “Gower” speaking districts – the south of Gower and Llangennith in the north-west.

A Corn Mill was established on this site sometime during the 12th century, as part of the estate belonging to the powerful Le Breos family, who were granted sovereignty of Gower by King John in 1203. The first written references to the Mill appear in government records from about 1300 onwards.

The Le Breos hold over Gower was under constant threat both from rebellion and lawsuits, in particular from the de Newburg family of Warwick, whose predecessors had controlled Gower after the Norman conquest, but lost their land and estates to King John when he asserted his power as a guardian to a minor of the family. Incidentally, when the Norman Lords took over this part of Gower, apart from building Pennard Castle, they shipped in farmers from North Devon and Somerset to replace the Welsh inhabitants. Thus began the close links between Gower and the other side of the Bristol Channel, links that can be traced through place names (Pennard), family names and especially the old Gower dialect, which contained many words also found in Somerset and Devon dialects, with an accent not unlike that of those counties.

The links continued through the centuries, with the limestone trade in the 18th & 19th centuries (Gower/North Devon) and the copper ore ship trade in the 19th century (Devon/Swansea/Prince Edward Island/South America). The Le Breos family established Parc Le Breos, a deer park of about 500 acres on land to the west of Parkmill, used for both deer hunting and military training. Significant parts of the park can still be found today. It is likely that the Mill was established as part of the park development serving the needs of the locality, grinding oats for animal meal and barley for daily bread. The Mill was a “custom” or “toll” mill. Local farmers were compelled to bring their corn to the Mill for grinding and pay proper dues to the estate; failure to do so would mean being fined at the sessional court.

 If you want to find out more about the history of this fascinating region, there are some great publications available, many by the Gower Society.

Present Day: Producing flour at the start of lockdown 2020

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