The Flack Connection

Topcliffe Mill in the 1920s
Bell's Postcard
The advertisement detailing the sale of John Flack's goods when he left Topcliffe Mill
The inscription on John and Elizabeth Flack's gravestone in Holy Trinity churchyard is now virtually illegible
Photographed by Kathryn Betts, 23 June 2011


The Flack family’s connection with Topcliffe Mill began in 1778 when John Flack, yeoman, of “Mildrith otherwise Meldreth, Cambs.” took a lease to the mill.

Four years earlier, St. Thomas’s Hospital in London, which owned the mill from 1553 to 1948, had carried out a survey into the mill and buildings.  Mr Yeldham, a surveyor, wrote a report on the property.  He found it to be an unproductive holding.  The buildings were in need of repair and “so mean it is not worth while to lay any money out upon them”.

The millstream, however, was found to give a good and plentiful flow of water.  The tenant was paying only £4 10s 0d p.a.  The land alone was thought to be worth £8 p.a. and the mill, let on a building lease, would bring in £10 p.a. ground rent.  Mr Yeldham thought that he could find a man to lay out three or four hundred pounds and take a lease at £18 p.a.

The Flack family held the lease of Topcliffe Mill from 1778 until 1814.

John Flack’s Family

On 24th October 1782, John Flack married Elizabeth Wallis of Barrington.  The witnesses were Joshua Fitch (Lord of Sheene Manor, Meldreth) and John Wallis.

Elizabeth and John had ten children, all but three of whom died in infancy.  Meldreth Parish Registers list no baptisms and seven burials of their children.  Elizabeth herself was buried on 8th July 1798 in Holy Trinity churchyard, Meldreth.  This left John, a widower aged about 43, with three children: John (12 years), Elizabeth (11 years) and Charlotte (about 5 years).

John Flack died seven years later and was buried on 10th November 1805.  A gravestone in Holy Trinity churchyard reads, “In memory of John Flack who died Nov 10th 1805 aged 50 years also Elizabeth wife of John Flack who died July (?) 1798 aged 42 years”.  (Click on the photograph of the gravestone on the right to enlarge the image.)

On 10th March 1810, almost five years after his death, the administration of the estate of John Flack senior, miller, of Meldreth was granted to his son, John Flack, miller, of Meldreth.  John’s goods and chattels were worth less than £450.

In 1812, John and Elizabeth’s daughter, also Elizabeth, married Elias Bland of The Green Man, Trumpington in Holy Trinity Church, Meldreth.

The End of the Flack Connection

Two years later, John Flack (junior) who had taken over the running of the mill from his father, decided to leave the mill and sold much of his property by auction.  The sale included, “household furniture, brewing and dairy utensils, beer casks, two carts, harness implements, two stacks of hay, two young cows forward in calf, a fat hog, ten fine white cock turkeys of a peculiar breed, fowls, ducks and effects”.  The sale was held on 17th January 1814, with a viewing the previous Saturday.  Catalogues were available from “inns in the neighbourhood”, at the place of sale and from Thomas Cockett in Royston, Hertfordshire.

Following his departure from Meldreth, John became the landlord of the Half Moon Public House on Trumpington Street, Cambridge.  He died in 1849, aged 63 years.

Thomas Wallis and Son

John sub-let the mill to Thomas Wallis and son.  By 1819, they wished to lay out £500 to repair the mill and the lease (which at that time still had ten years to run) was extended by 21 years, commencing on Lady Day (25th March) 1830.

To view an extract from the Flack family tree, please click on the download link below.  The tree has been compiled using the Meldreth and Barrington Parish Registers, as transcribed by Cambridgeshire Family History Society.


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