In Loving Memory of Anne Patricia Mills 1925-2024

Anne Patricia Mills outside Buckingham Palace in 1954 after attending a garden party to celebrate her father being Lord Mayor
Anne Patricia Mills outside Buckingham Palace in 1954 after attending a garden party to celebrate her father being Lord Mayor

Editor William Mills writes of his mother’s passing on Saturday 6th January 2024.

Anne Mills visits Beachy Head on a fun day out in-loving-memory-of-anne-patricia-mills-1925-2024
Anne Mills visits Beachy Head on a fun day out

In Loving Memory of Anne Patricia Mills 1925-2024

It is so sad to lose a loved one and  at times I feel I’m in a deep state of shock, yet other times I realise life must go on and a funeral is actually a celebration of the departed’s life and achievements.

Anne was born on 3rd July 1925 eldest daughter of Noel Bowater and his wife Conna. 

Noel worked for his family’s firm of prosperous paper merchants and went on to become Sir Noel Bowater inheriting his baronetcy in 1947 from his father Frank, and he received a G.B.E. in 1954 for being Lord Mayor of the City of London. He also won a Military Cross during 1916 while serving with the Royal Field Artillery in France.

Anne aged 13 with her father in St Moritz Switzerland 1938in-loving-memory-of-anne-patricia-mills-1925-2024
Anne aged 13 with her father in St Moritz Switzerland 1938

In 1921, some four years before Anne was born Noel and Conna bought their dream home, Conifers in St Georges Hill, Weybridge, Surrey.

In more recent years St George’s Hill has been associated with celebrity musicians and Russian oligarchs allegedly murdering one and another. But it wasn’t always like that as it only became famous in the 1960’s after Beatle George Harrison went to live there.

Anne loved gardening. Seen here at her home Burton Mill Cottage
Anne loved gardening. Seen here at her home Burton Mill Cottage

Before then there were no security gates- just winding lanes which made it easy to get completely lost. Back in 1921 is was a series of building plots of an acre each which were still unsold years later when Anne and her younger sister rode their ponies across what was then unspoilt woodland.

Anne was their first child born in 1925 and followed by a sister and brother in 1930 and 1935 respectively.

The house was newly built of mock Tudor design with all the latest mod cons which reflected  their changing times- the kitchen was built with a solid stone floor and north facing pantry, ideal for keeping food cool. It also had electricity points where one could plug in new fangled gadgets such as a refrigerator! 

Alas, from time to time the electricity didn’t work, enabling the older members of the household to revert back to normal, and I remember the kitchen having a huge old oil lamp hanging above the table which must have been in use in earlier times. 

A flower from Anne's garden
A flower from Anne’s garden

Anne attended a local day school in Weybridge and was undoubtedly spoilt at home by her adoring parents.  Sadly, all good things come to an end and in 1939 Anne aged 14 was sent to posh boarding school Westonbirt although I gather it was a bit of a challenge. Also in that year they rented a farmhouse near Exford in Somerset for the summer holidays.

When the war started they decided that Mum and the children would stay there for the duration rather than return to Surrey as Weybridge hosted Hawker Siddeley’s Hurricane factory which became a repeated German bombing target throughout the war. Noel as a former artillery officer went home to command the local AA batteries.

As a land girl the war years were bleak on Exmoor with never enough to eat and their house didn’t have electricity or central heating.

Worst still was going back to school to find they had been evacuated to an old stately home in Wales which neither had electricity nor running water so the girls were made to run between classrooms to keep them warm as well as winding up buckets of water from the well.

Anne developed an interest in farming during these difficult years and in 1944 went to Reading University to study a diploma in agriculture. This was a happy time that she reflected on fondly. After graduation she was sent to an agricultural research station near Newcastle which she remembers as being cold.

After the war finished her father, as Bowater Paper Company’s chief salesman was able to travel abroad regularly and Anne accompanied him to Sweden, where they got real steaks for the first time in years, and later a magnificent trip on the Queen Mary liner to New York, and from there by seaplane to Newfoundland to count the trees.

image of Sir Noel Bowater and Anne, Newfoundland 1947 in-loving-memory-of-anne-patricia-mills-1925-2024
Anne with her father Sir Noel Bowater visiting Newfoundland to see their new paper mill. They travelled by the Queen Mary to New York and then by flying boat narrowly missing a floating log on landing.

A formidable task given that Bowaters was now the world’s largest manufacturer of newsprint and their growing timber extended to some eight million acres.

She still got to see a show in Broadway on the way home.

In 1950 her father helped her get a job on Malta with Mable Strickland who had become famous as a newspaper proprietor maintaining moral during the great siege of 1942 after which King George VI awarded the island the George Cross. 

Anne remembered her time there as a world of parties onboard visiting naval ships with young officers anxious to please.

image of Anne Bowater afloat
Anne Bowater looks happy as she helms her windfall yacht

Back in London she flat shared in Knightsbridge, shopped in Harrods where she was allowed to use her mother’s account and worked for Farmers and Stockbreeders magazine where the editor kept complaining that her posh education hadn’t taught her to spell.

In 1952 she met her future husband Stuart Mills, a serving RAF officer, at a party in London, and as keen sailors their romance moved to the river Hamble in Hampshire staying at the RAF yacht club situated there.

Stuart and Anne sailing together 1952
Stuart and Anne happily rigging a boat together 1952

It was undoubtedly a happy time and they married in 1954 holding their reception at the Mansion House as Noel was Lord Mayor that year. 

image of wedding 1954 in-loving-memory-of-anne-patricia-mills-1925-2024
Wing Commander Stuart and Anne Mills April 1954 London

Anne’s first child, Philip was born in March 1956 and I was born in August 1957.

William with his father and brother Kingston upon Thames 1958
William(right, fair haired) with his father and brother Philip Kingston upon Thames 1958

Alas the marriage was not to last. Stuart was 15 years older and had fought a tough war including being Exeter’s sector commander during the Battle of Britain. In 1956 he retired from the air force, which had been his life since joining up as a teenager in 1928,  and by 1959 he was still unemployed going on farming courses which his heart wasn’t in, although his young wife had made clear that owning a farm was her ambition.

In October 1959 she, with Philip and me moved into Homelands Farm, Partridge Green, West Sussex. It was a 150 acre mixed arable and livestock farm which was a wonderful place for a child to grow up and were undoubtedly halcyon days of my own life.

Homelands Farm West Sussex. Anne's farm and a fabulous place to grow up
Homelands Farm West Sussex. Anne’s farm and a fabulous place to grow up

Anne recounted how during the snow blizzards of 1963’s cold winter she loaded a couple of full milk churns into her car and drove them to the depot when the lorries couldn’t get through.

The march of time relentlessly moved on and in the spring of 1965 my brother was sent away to boarding school with me following on later. Anne’s divorce had come through, and the realisation that the farm would never make a fortune but always be very muddy led her to decide to sell up in December 1966.

Anne Mills on board Info in the shipping lanes English Channel
Anne Mills on board Info in the English channel

We moved to a pleasant modern house in West Chiltington, near Storrington, but it was somewhat bland after the rigours of the farm.

Anne took up clay pottery as a paying hobby becoming quite artistic with herself and me renting a stall at a fayre in Worthing once to sell her pots. Our house had an unused granny annex which housed a pottery wheel and a full sized kiln in the spare kitchen.

More years passed and Philip moved up to London and Anne sold up once more and had a new idea. We all missed the farm so why not buy a watermill and run it as a working flour mill.

After much searching she located Burton Mill near Petworth in 1977 which was owned by the Council and completely rundown. We were able to buy a nearby cottage where Anne finally settled remaining there for the rest of her life.

With the help of retired millwright Charles Muddle of Ashington we were able to lease and completely restore the mill to working order.

It was a great privilege for me to run it for seven years showing tourists around whilst grinding milling wheat into stoneground flour and delivering it in my pickup truck to local bakeries including Forfars in Brighton.

By 1986 I had a child on the way and felt the need to move on to my own house in Brighton, which resulted in the mill becoming increasingly part time before its eventual sale.

Anne, although now in her sixties was still far from defeated. She took up painting and joined various local art groups which she greatly enjoyed and appreciated. Even in her last years their members would come paint in her garden which was her pride and joy.

Anne’s main hobby, after gardening, was sailing. My first nautical picture of her dates to 1930’s Woodbridge at the home of her grandfather, Sir Frank Bowater Bt. 

image of Anne Bowater 1934
Felixstowe 1934 Anne Bowater aged 9

Her parents bought her a National 12 sailing dinghy which she kept at Kingston upon Thames at the end of WW2, near their Weybridge home.

image of National 12 sailing dinghy
Anne Bowater’s National 12 sailing dinghy on the river at Kingston upon Thames. 1950

She discovered yacht sailing with my father in captured German yachts known as ‘windfall’ in the early 1950’s. During the 1960’s onwards we sailed dinghies principally from Chichester harbour until 1991 when Anne finally bought her own yacht, dear ‘Info’

image of Info sailing yacht
image of Info sailing yacht

It was a 31ft UFO single masted Bermuda rigged sloop, which I had crewed on for a couple of years before the previous owner decided to sell up.

For the next 14 summers, and winters, Anne aged between 66 and 80, drove into Brighton to sail her yacht moored in the marina there.

image of Anne MIlls Info
Anne Mills sailing on her yacht ‘Info’ off Brighton 2000

And during this time it won no less than eight trophies! Anne sailed across the Channel on numerous occasions to Dieppe, Fecamp, St Valery en Ceux, Honfleur, Le Havre and Deauville to name some of the many ports we visited.

Chichester harbour was also a great favourite with her. One year we laid up the boat in Dell Quay and another summer she kept it in Chichester yacht basin. I always remember anchoring off East Head and paddling our dinghy ashore to the sandy beach there. Happy memories.

She suffered a stroke during Thursday night 4th January 2024 dying in the early hours in St Richard’s hospital Chichester on Saturday 6th January aged 98.

She had a long, eventful and for the most part, happy life. I’ll miss her dreadfully.

Mother dear, rest in peace

William’s Biography

In Loving Memory of Anne Patricia Mills 1925-2024


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