Geo. Thos. Murrow’s Lichen Mill
The building pictured above is all that remains of what was arguably the the most important industry the village has ever known. Although the majority of the mill buildings and wheel were torn down shortly after its closure, Murrow’s house survived and is now leased from the family estate for use as community meeting rooms.
Pure Soddenham lichen was ground to a fine powder as the primary ingredient in the manufacture of high grade spume for use all over the British coast for a truly unique seaside experience. (There is more to come on the subject of lichen another time)
Murrow originally built a mule powered mill on this site in 1792 but this was burned down after a particularly rowdy Oppen Eve went out of control in 1829. Its replacement was built around a horizontal water wheel, fed from a millpond purposefully directed from the Leam, which was at the cutting edge of technology at the time and increased production drastically. Sadly, the mules were deemed useless and being of the inedible Spanish variety and not particularly pleasing to look at, they were turned out to fend for themselves in the wild.
Fire visited the mill again in 1877 after it was struck by lightening under very strange circumstances. The fire was quickly extinguished before any structural damage occurred and was rebuilt and fully operational before the year was out.
As Britons became more enamoured with the white beaches and clear blue waters of the Mediterranean during the 1970’s, the demand for high quality spume dropped dramatically, and Murrows Mill, like many others around the country were finding it difficult to continue. By 1997 the mill was one of only three working lichen mills left in the UK, and in 2001 the mill made its last delivery and closed down in the face of increasing competition from Indian and Chinese lichen suppliers (whose product produces a noticeably inferior quality of spume and has none of the longevity) and the inevitable lack of government support.
Sightings of “Murrow’s Mules” are frequently recorded to this very day, and have long passed into folklore as children of the village are told that if one of Murrow’s Mules shows itself to you (it chooses who it wishes to be seen by) then you will be free of earache for a year!