crabble corn mill


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Crabble Corn Mill - Dover

To investigate possible paranormal phenomenon at Crabble Corn Mill.

Owned, operated and maintained by Crabble Corn Mill Trust, the mill was rescued from demolition and opened to the public in 1990. It can now boast to be one of the most complete and working examples of a Georgian watermill in Europe.1
A mill has stood on this site for 750 years - the first mill was built by the monks of St. Radigund's Abbey in the 13th century. The ruins of the Abbey can still be seen up on the hills to the west of the Mill.
In 1812, John Pilcher owned a small country mill at Crabble. He built a huge new mill beside it, so he could get profitable government contracts to mill flour for the troops guarding Dover against Napoleon's threat of invasion.

This sketch shows the new 6-storey mill behind the old one, which was kept working for about 30 years. The new mill had "state-of-the-art" technology, based on ideas from millwrights in the U.S.A. There they had developed the "automatic mill" - where once the grain was unloaded into the grain bins, it was untouched by human hand until it was bagged up into flour at the other end.

The material was carried from one machine to the next by means of conveyors, elevators and chutes.
Many of the machines could adjust themselves automatically to changing conditions - a remarkable degree of automation for the early 19th century! This was necessary because there were so many mills on the river.
In its Victorian hey-day, Crabble was one of over a dozen watermills along the short River Dour - which is only 5 km long from its source to where it flows out into the Harbour.
Seven of these were flour mills like Crabble; processing the wheat grain from local farms all over the North Downs. Of the others, five made paper, and one crushed oilseed.

There were 4 mills upstream of Crabble, which meant that the flow of water in the river was greatly affected by what the other millers were doing - each mill passed its water down to the next one downstream.
When the wars against Napoleon finished in 1815, the Pilcher family took advantage of the slump in trade to buy up several other mills in Dover. There is documentary evidence that they bought a steam engine from Boulton & Watt, and opened

Dover's first steam-powered mills down by the harbour.
But by the 1840's they ran into difficulties: their bankers were pressing for loans to be repaid, and all their mills were sold.

Crabble Mill was bought by Willsher Mannering, a young miller who already had two other watermills in Dover. He made major improvements, demolishing the old mill and adding 2 extra pairs of millstones to the new one, making five in total.

He built up good trade shipping flour by sea up to London, which was then growing fast. Dover too was growing more prosperous - after major harbour improvements in the 1850s, the town's cross-Channel trade was booming. This was helped by the opening of the London to Dover railway in 1844.
In the last quarter of the 19th century several changes combined to drive the old watermills like Crabble out of business:

New methods of milling by rollers were perfected in Austria. Roller milling produced the finer, whiter flour that customers wanted.
Coal was cheaper, making steam power an economic alternative to water-power.
The British government dropped the "Corn Laws", which put heavy taxes on imported grain.
Big new steamships imported foreign grain from eastern Europe and across the Atlantic at cheaper prices than locally-grown wheat. Many English farmers stopped ploughing their fields and kept dairy cattle instead.
Big new roller mills powered by tireless steam-engines began to open up in the ports like London, Hull, and Liverpool.

By 1893 the Mannerings decided to close Crabble Corn Mill, and concentrate all their flour production in another mill downstream - which they had recently re-equipped with rollers and a steam engine. Crabble's millstones and waterwheel had become out-dated.

Fortunately, the Mill was not dismantled - none of its machinery was sold for scrap. In fact, the Mannerings kept it well-maintained until their flour business went bankrupt in 1957.
After that, ruin set in. Twenty years ago, Crabble was on the verge of collapse. Local enthusiasts set up a charitable trust to save this unique mill, which is possibly the last of its kind in Europe.
It was a minor miracle that the mill survived intact. After restoration costing over £500,000, we can again see the millers at work.
The collection of unique automatic flour making machines give an insight into the ingenuity required to feed our great-great grandparents in the days of the industrial revolution.2

Reported paranormal activity

Over the years there have been several sightings at the Mill. On our site visit several of these were recounted to us.

Edward and William Cruft

Edward and William Cruft were brothers and apprentice millers at Crabble Mill in the 1800's. Edward was 4 years old when he met his demise at the mill on level 5, where he fell into the hopper and drowned in the flour, 1814.

William, met his death 4 years later on level 2 when he fell into the gear workings, 1822.

Both the boys are buried in the local churchyard St.Peter & St.Pauls.

There have been several reported sightings of children in the mill over the years, visitors to the mill have commented on occasions as to the “Victorian children running around, a nice touch!”

George Daynes

George Daynes was married to Phoebe and they bore 18 children. George and Phoebe resided in one of the millers cottages sited next to the mill.

George, born in 1851 became a miller at Crabble in 1883 until 1892. George contracted millers lung and died in 1907.

Several people have reported respiratory difficulties whilst in the Mill.

Miller's lung: A type of allergic inflammation of the lungs (hypersensitivity pneumonitis) in people who are hypersensitive to the granary weevil (the wheat weevil or Sitophilus granarius). People who work with grains or flours contaminated with this weevil are at especially high risk for this disease. Hence, the name miller's lung.
Persons who have developed a hypersensitive to the granary weevil typically have an acute reaction including fever, cough, chills, and shortness of breath within hours of reexposure to the weevil. Given no further contact with the evil weevil, the person's symptoms typically improve over a day or two, but weeks may be need for full recovery.
In the subacute form of miller's lung, a cough and shortness of breath develop over days or weeks and may be so severe as to require hospitalization. With chronic miller's lung from contact with the weevil over months to years, there may be scarring (fibrosis) of the lung with increasing shortness of breath and a cough productive of sputum, progressing over months or years to respiratory failure.

Previous investigation has taken place at this site by Kent Paranormal Group and we will be taking this into account when undertaking our investigation.

Camera) Nikon Coolpix 3100
Fuji Finepix S9500
Kodak Easyshare cx7310
Sony DCSV1
Olympus Camedia C160
Fuji Finepix S550
Camcorder) Sony DCR- H30E
Samsung VP-D351
Sony DCR-HC19
Sony Hi-8
EVP) Olympus DM-20 (x3)
Sony VOR tape
Sony Digital Recorder
Cassette Recorder
Tomy Walkabout Digital Monitors
Whisper 2000 Super Sensitive Sound Modulator
EMF) Spectral Electronics EMF Meter
Gauss EMF Meter
Spectral Electronics 2G EMF Meter
Gauss Master
ElectroSensor EMF Detector
Cellsensor EMF Meter
Trifield Natural EMF Meter
CCTV) IR Nightvision Wireless CCTV Cameras (x2)
Monitor / Receiver (x2)
Mini CCTV Colour Cameras + Receivers (x2)
VCR (x3)
DVD Recorder
Thermometer) Laser Thermometer Maplin 610C
IR Laser Thermometer Model 110CE (x2)
Environment Meter
Digital Probe Thermometer
Inside / Outside Digital Air temp. Thermometer
Other) Data Logger EL-USB2 (x3)
IR Emitter Sony HVL-IRM (x2)
Binatone MR200 2-Way Radios (x4)
Binatone MR610 2-Way Radios (x2)
Metek Laser Measure
Timeguard Passive IR Motion Sensors (x3)
Active IR Beam Doorway Sensors
Cable Detector
Tapes (VHS/DVD/Hi-8/MiniDV/Cassette)
Trigger Objects




At no time during this investigation were the team privy to prior reports or information given to Dean, Kim and Ian on their site visit.


Investigation Times 2100hrs-0600hrs

Areas to be investigated

Crabble Corn Mill
Cottage number 2
Cottage number 4

There were three teams for the evening.

Dean and Kim joined each group in turn throughout the night, as well as monitoring equipment and taking measurements.

2100hr Start

All group members offloaded their equipment into the designated base camp area, (Main Reception)
A member of staff or one of the team then gave a brief on the building. Toilets and smoking areas etc, this was followed by a guided tour of the building and the two cottages so everyone was familiar of the layout.
There were a few danger points to watch out for at this location, and noted.

2130hr Back to base where the selected equipment was set up around the building:

Datalogger (Kim) Level 5
Datalogger (Paddy) Level 6
Datalogger(Dean) Level 4
CCTV Cottage 4
CCTV Level 2
Camcorder/ Dvd Recorder Level 3
Camcorder Level 6
Voice Recorder (Dean) Level 4
Voice Recorder (Rick) Cottage 2
Trigger Objects Level 6
Camcorder Mobile

Dean and Kim also recorded the whole evenings investigation on their digital voice recorders.


Investigation readings were taken throughout the night by all core team members, Dean and Kim recording the majority of readings.

Team 1 ( Ian ) First location was Level 5
Team 2 (Rick ) First location Level 2
Team 3 (Paddy) First locations will be Cottage number 2 and 4

This was team quiet time, taking photos, and asking for communication for 1 hour.

2300hrs Break twenty Minutes


All groups switched locations Team 1 to the cottage, Team 2 to Level 5, Team 3 to Level 2 again the same as before 45 minutes to an hour.


Break 20mins


All teams swaped for the last time Team one to Level 2,Team 2 to the Cottage, Team 3 to Level 5, again up to an hour

0140hrs Break 10 mins


The groups then merged and split into two

Team leader Ian (Team 1 ) Ian Sarah Rachel and Sharon Paddy (Dean)

Team leader Paddy ( Team 2 )Rick Richard Tracy and Sharon (Kim)

The first séance of the night took place, no glass or Ouija boards were used on this investigation; one team was in the cottage and one in the mill.

0250 hrs
The first of the night’s lone vigils began

Team de- briefing of this investigation which closed around 0515

Time variance allowed and noted due to team change round and placing of equipment.


23.00pm: Dean and Kim enter Cottage 4 to install equipment: Temperature recorded 0ºc inside cottage, outside temperature 2ºc. The coldness in the cottage was noted by them both. Dean also comments that as leaving the mill to install equipment in the cottage that he heard whistling behind him in the basement.

23.20pm: Team 2 on Level 2, Sharon saw the alarm sensor light flash blue twice. Also on this vigil Sarah saw a shadow of what she describes as a small child possibly 4 or 5 years old.

23.35pm: Team 1 on Level 5, Tracy has a sense of “playfulness”

23.35pm: Team 3 in Cottage, Paddy calls to teams in Mill as several flashes were noted in the courtyard in front of the cottage. Possible camera flashes from the Mill were discounted and light was investigated.

00.20am: Dean and Kim enter Cottage 2, the atmosphere is noted as very still and oppressive, temperature drop noted from 5ºc to 2ºc in 20 minutes.

00.20am: Team 1, Cottage 4, repeated bumps heard, Tracy had a feeling of “irritation”.

00.20am: Team 3, Level 2, Whistling heard by team on several occasions, heard again at 00.54am

Team 2, Level 5, Sarah and Sharon felt uneasy. Sarah feels as though someone has died on this level.

01.10am: Team 2, Cottage 4, each team member undertook a loan walk through the cottage. An uneasy feeling was noted by them all in the upstairs rooms. Rick had the impression of children being there.

01.35am: Above team still at Cottage 4, Sarah notes a shadow on the door, either a child or small adult. At 01.40am Sarah feels a breath on her face several times.

02.40am: Teams merge, Level 2, Whistling heard by team during vigil.

02.40am: Other team venture back to Cottage 4, the rest of the evening was spent between the two locations and no other phenomena was recorded on our investigation logs.

The rest of the evenings vigils passed without any futher points of interest.

Equipment Results

CCTV, Cottage 4 Nothing detected on tape
CCTV, Level 2 Nothing detected on tape
Camcorder/ Dvd Recorder, Nothing detected on tape
Camcorder, Level 6 Nothing detected on tapes
Voice Recorder (Dean) Nothing detected on tape
Voice Recorder (Rick) Nothing detected
Camcorder (Ian, Mobile) Various sounds detected, inconclusive
Personal voice recorder Dean Nothing detected on tape
Personal voice recorder Kim Nothing detected

Datalogger Level 5 No unusual temperature readings noted

DataloggerLevel 6 = Error on data

Datalogger Level 4 No unusual temperature readings noted


This is a timber structure and sounds of any variance travel considerably, therefore we cannot rule out the buildings natural movements; expanding and contracting, and other factors causing noises detected on our equipment.

The flashes seen by Paddy were investigated and no cause could be found. The mill does have security lighting but upon investigation was too low to have been the light that was seen. We do not know where the light source came from!

The whistling which was noted by several of the team throughout the evening in various parts of the mill can not be accounted for. We were told later in the evening that a previous employee at the mill did have a tendency to whistle a great deal and used to mimic bird song.

Our findings on the evening are inconclusive.

References / Thanks to:


Ghost Connections would like to thank Crabble Corn Mill staff for accompanying them on their investigation



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