Changes at or near Venn Mill

A letter from Ian Smith – recent owner of Venn Mill.


Just to keep you in touch.  I have sold  Venn to the farmer*  who has the land all around the mill.His Father used the mill, to mill feed for the animals, about the early 30’s  The big thing for the Wests is, I recently found a wooden name plaque with the the name of Percy West very primitively carved on it.

The enclosed I took yesterday of the mill looking very tidy, with all my bits removed. Unfortunately I didn’t get a full frontal of your predecessor’s handiwork.  The chap reading the history at the end is the new owner.  Still have a key and will take another full shot. It is well displayed for all to see on entering.

Hope everything OK out in the Wild! — Winters on it’s way! — Altho’ don’t think you get so cold as my friend with his -30!

Regards to all,

Ian — Venn.

* “The farmer” is Neil Walker, a major land-owner and pig farmer in Oxfordshire and current owner and occupant of Garford Manor (location of the historic chapel and Long Family gravesites.)

In a subsequent phone call I learned from Ian that a large solar farm is being erected on neighbouring properties.  Also, just north of Venn Mill a large new crematorium is being built.  The following is an e-mail exchange on the subject with our cousin Colin Smith, whose family is also contructing a solar field on one of their fields.

From Bruce to Colin:

I’m fascinated by your activities with solar power, remembering that you had mentioned the possibility during an earlier visit.  We actually knew about that since Ian Smith (former owner of Venn Mill) told us about it.  We didn’t realize that it was your property that was involved, just that it was south (adjacent) of Venn Mill House property.  He also announced that he had sold Venn Mill to Neil Walker (Pig Farmer extraordinaire and current owner of Garford Manor House), also that there is a large funeral home going in directly north of Venn Mill.  Could you give me an idea what remote properties are the Smith’s and what adjacent properties the Cotterells?  I’m trying to piece together the latter’s activities since the Cotterells were at Venn Mill from 1907.

Colin responds:

We certainly are in the process of setting up the solar park but it is on part of our existing farm.  The one over by Venn Mill is actually on land owned by the Walker family.  Their’s is huge – 500 acres as against ours only 130 acres (still pretty big though).  So Neil Walker has bought the Mill!  He’s certainly a ‘big player’ in the area.  The funeral home is actually a Crematorium and will serve the area between Abingdon, Wantage and the villages around.  It will most likely increase the traffic along the road that goes by the mill so it will not be very good for them.

You also ask about the Cottrells.  I didn’t know they had once owned the Mill.  They were/are a big family.  The current situation is that there are three brothers, all in their 80’s.  There was a major breakdown in relationships after their father died as they fought over the inheritance. They all live in the Grove/Denchworth villages.  Two brothers work together and their farm land is East of Wantage whereas the other brother – or at least his two sons – farm quite a large area between Grove, Denchworth and Hanney.  One of the two sons is a very progressive farmer.  In terms of ownership of Venn Mill it must have been one of the previous generations.  I’ll try and remember to ask Roger when we get back, and see if he knows any more.