A few days ago a lovely photo of a watercolour painting popped into our Curator’s in-box. Actually, it wasn’t captioned and Carey, who sent it, wasn’t sure where it was but Russell Mill is well known at the museum and it was recognised immediately. Here is that image.
The painting is dated at 1921 but we can’t yet make out the artist’s name. Can anybody help there?
Let’s deal with a bit of history. In 1961 Russell Mill was ‘transferred’ from Market Lavington to West Lavington. The picture shows the house from the West Lavington side and we can see a decent level route way leading to it. The track from the mill into Market Lavington is deep, rutted and muddy – not usable by motor vehicles and in the 50s residents spoke of the absurdity of having to go past the West Lavington polling station on their way to vote in Market Lavington. Eventually, the residents won and the parish boundary was altered.
On our 1926 electoral roll, close in time to the painting, Ruth and Herbert Draper, William and Mabel Helps, Tom Lye and Thomas and Emily Matthews all lived at properties at Russell Mill. James Topp owned land there and was qualified to vote in Market Lavington.
But back now to the nineteenth century. The most famous residents were the Saunders family for whom this was home and also one of many business interests. Amram Saunders, the head of the family, was very active in local affairs and also nationally. He was non-conformist in religion and very much on side with working people. Amongst his children, raised at the mill, one became a British MP and one a member of the New Zealand Parliament. All of the children were full of radical and reforming zeal. They had quite an impact in the Lavingtons as well as further afield.
Many thanks to Carey for sending us this wonderful image.