Bob Morse (1924 - 2007)

Bob Morse, 9th May 1924 - 2nd January 2007

It is with great sadness that I bring to you the news that Bob Morse has passed away.

Bob quietly fell asleep in the early hours of Tuesday morning January 2nd 2007, in the James Paget Hospital, Lowestoft. The engineering and windmill worlds will miss him greatly, as will all the people who got to know this very quiet, private and unassuming gentleman. Rather than dwell on the loss of Bob I would like to share and celebrate some of the many achievements he made during his life. Bob was born in Steyning, Sussex in his grandparent's house, where he spent the first few years of his life. Soon the family moved to Henfield and it was here that Bob became fascinated with windmills. At the tender age of seven Bob was given the choice of three writing pads, one a castle, one a sailing ship and the other a windmill. Yes, you guessed correctly he chose the windmill and the writing pad cover still remains intact to this day.

The old cover of Bob's writing pad.

The start of his interest at such an early age meant that he began to collect and store pictures, photographs, postcards and many other types of memorabilia. Soon this would not be enough to keep his active mind engrossed, so he decided to build a model of the 'Old Mill'. A drawing was the first thing he required to find the proportions for the height and width of the model and these were scaled up from the original pad. Work was now ready to begin and Bob told me that the base which was the first part of the structure proved to be quite a problem! Obviously he required a sturdy, well seasoned piece of timber that was thick enough and wide enough for him to cut out the required hexagonal shape. Having looked throughout his father's workshop such a piece was not to be found. This is when he turned his sights indoors, where in one of the bedrooms stood a piece of furniture similar to an ottoman. The lid was perfect for the job as it was the right width and thickness. I understand that persuading his mother to part with the lid did not prove to be an easy task. However, his mother was left with a topless ottoman so it is fair to say that his persuasive powers were pretty good. With the base underway the rest of the construction took place with plywood. The little frames for the windows were inserted and the doors were made to open and close. Cloth adhesive tape was used to make a continuous hinge for the doors. When complete the structure stood two feet tall. The sails were constructed from solid plywood and have a span of thirty-eight inches. However, the motionless sails did not seem good enough, so to elaborate on the model Bob inserted a small motor which powered the sails.

The model made so many years ago still survives. When Bob's family moved from Sussex to Norfolk in 1947 the model was transported too. It has sat in the timber shed untouched for several years. However, three years ago much to our great surprise the model was to be used again when a swarm of hornets decided that it would be the perfect nesting place. Here is a section of the nest, which in itself is fascinating.

It was not until very recent years that Vincent Parageter conveyed to Bob that this was not just any old picture on a pad it was in fact a photograph of the 'Old Mill' at Northbourne near Deal in Kent. This delighted Bob and Vincent gave him a photograph of himself only just visible, on a very misty morning in 1951, outside the mill itself.

Thurne Mill was to benefit from Bob's move from Sussex to Norfolk in 1947. Bob still mad on windmills and having by now measured, recorded, modeled and drawn many derelict mills finally purchased his own mill from the Internal Drainage Board. This indeed was the lovely Thurne Mill, described once by Rex Wailes as an English Gentleman in a stiff white collar. Most windmills around this time were being demolished for the scrap value but fortunately Thurne was not to suffer the same fate. Bob employed the help of Albert England in order to restore the mill. Albert was a direct descendant of the builders England's of Ludham who had built the mill in 1820. Several years of maintaining the mill were to follow until Bob finally engaged the assistance of the Norfolk Mills Trust. They have now leased the mill for several years and to their credit have achieved a wonderful amount, including the funding of the installation of a third of the shutters in 2002. This was enough to allow the mill to turn in the wind for the first time since 1936. The celebrations that we held in September 2002 remained a very happy time for Bob and I recall tears running down both our cheeks when we together saw Thurne turn under her own 'wind' for the first time in our lifetime. Not satisfied with his achievements so far, Bob decided that he would begin the restoration of wind pumps from both the UK and abroad.

This achievement has left Norfolk with the only comparable collection of wind pumps within the United Kingdom. Quite a legacy for a quiet man. A legacy that must continue long into the future... a legacy that must teach children... a legacy that should encourage others... a legacy for enthusiasts to enjoy... a legacy that we must preserve.

Bob Morse thank you.

Debra Nicholson, February 2007.

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Last updated 03/03/2017 Text and images © Mark Berry, 1997-2017 -
© Debra Nicholson, 2007