Thursday, 9 January 2014

The Mill That Made Melbourne

See you that little mill that clacks,
So busy by the brook?
She has ground her corn and paid her tax
Ever since Domesday Book.
        Rudyard Kipling, Puck of Pook's Hill
     Well, here is a mill that should warm the heart of Puck, for it was also mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086. Or, at least, it is on the site of the original, for no building is going to remain completely intact for nearly 1,000 years.
     It stands in Derbyshire, in the north of England, and was originally so important to the local economy that the stream, or "burn" which serviced it was known simply as the "mill-burn". Then the settlement which grew up around it took on the same name. In the Domesday Book it is recorded as "Mileburne", but the modern spelling is "Melbourne".
      Despite a population of just over 5,000, it was once the centre of a castle, Melbourne Castle, and still boasts a stately home, Melbourne Hall. This latter property had been inherited by Sir Peniston Lamb, so when he was raised from the baronetage to the peerage, he took the title, Viscount Melbourne.
      Then, when his son, the second Lord Melbourne, became Prime Minister, it seemed appropriate to name after him the new settlement at Port Phillip, which would later become the capital of Victoria.
     In the generations of cities, sometimes the daughter becomes greater than the mother. Most Americans, for example, are probably unaware that there is an older Boston back in England. Likewise, when most people think of Melbourne, it will be almost always the big city in the Southern Hemisphere. If the Australian Melbournians ever consider the name of their home town, they have probably heard that it was named after a British Prime Minister. But common sense should have told them that a nobleman always takes his title from his manor, and so there must be an original Melbourne somewhere.
     And it all started with a not-so-humble mill.

Reference: 'A Mill With a History', The Wide World, October 1945, p 311. (In the United Kingdom this issue would be September 1945.)

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