Mirror, mirror, like a wall

Fulwell, where I grew up, is dominated by the great white limestone guardian that is Fulwell Mill. It stands on a hill looking down the mile or so that runs down to the sea, a position it has held for over 200 years, though it is a long time since it has operated commercially.

In my youth it was already disused, making it and the land around it, which was a former quarry, was a frequent haunt for kids in the area. We would often climb up the outer wall to the first story platform, taking advantage of the well-worn mortar between the limestone blocks.

Nearby a short slope by the equally moribund lime kilns was our venue for sledging in what seemed like the everlasting winters of childhood. With a busy road at the foot and an adjacent car forecourt it isn’t the attraction that it once was. Just as well that we rarely get enough snow now.

There is a third industrial relic here, one that I only recently discovered, although it has been there for nearly a century. It stands dejectedly on a piece of waste ground behind some allotments, looking like nothing more than three concrete walls, yet it is an incredibly ingenious device. It’s a mirror.

Not a looking-glass, but a mirror nonetheless. The clue lies in the fact that the back wall is convex; this is an acoustic mirror, installed to detect approaching Zeppelins during the first world war. It deserves better treatment.

I’d approached  Alison near to the mill to be my portrait when a familiar face appeared. I worked with Carolyn about 20 years ago. Serendipitously she now works for the council and was able to add to my knowledge of the mill. Although fully restored to working order in the 1990’s, it was badly damaged in a storm a few years back and closed as it was unsafe. The good news is that repairs are planned which will see it open once more, though perhaps not fully functioning.

Carolyn’s clearly wearing well. It’ll be good to see the mill do the same, and how lucky to find two subjects with great smiles and great light in their eyes..

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