The inscription at the bottom reads "In memory of Peter John Miller 1924-1998. A life of dedicated service to this parish.".
"One is nearer to God's heart in a garden than anywhere else on earth". Dorothy Francis Gurney, 1913.
Among Peldon folk, Ethel and Alan Miller are famous for their cheese straws, sausage rolls, fruit pies and Dundee cake. Users of St Mary's Church, Peldon, will also be familiar with the memorial window to Ethel's husband, Peter. The Millers were also renowned vegetable growers and until a few years ago regularly provided their neighbours with produce, Ethel still says there's nothing quite like fresh vegetables!
The Miller family are one of the oldest families in the village, Alan's great grandfather, George, moved with his family to Pantile Farm, Mersea Road, as an agricultural labourer between 1871 and 1881. By the start of the twentieth century George was living in the heart of the village in Barnards Cottage (where, in living memory, Mrs Tuppenny used to live before the house fell into disrepair - I remember a tree growing out of it! The house was eventually demolished and Bluebell Cottage built). George was to become quite a celebrity on account of his great age. His story is told through the Essex County Standard neighbourhood news columns submitted by Mrs Dansie from the Village Stores, in which, once George had reached 96 there were annual updates on his health, his philosophy and his birthday celebrations.
George was born in Fingringhoe in April 1835, the son of Samuel (an agricultural worker), and Elizabeth Miller.
He started work at eight years old and an 'acquaintance with horses began very early in life'
which could explain his deep suspicion of the motor car in later life!
One picture of his home life stands out in his memory; it is of the family, father, mother, and six children,
seated round the table engaged in the study of the New Testament. Essex County Standard 11.4.1936
From the censuses it is clear that George had a lifetime's employment as an agricultural worker, living with his
parents in Fingringhoe, then as a married man at Roman Hill, East Donyland, Pantile Farm in Abberton and
ending up by the turn of the twentieth century in Barnards Cottage, Mersea Road, Peldon. He had a family with his Peldon-born wife, Ellen, (née Mortlock) of four sons and two daughters. One of his sons, John (Alan's grandfather) who was the last to leave home in his late thirties, married Elsie Kathleen Ellen Ham in 1917 and stayed in the village at Tronoh Bungalow where three generations of the family have lived ever since. After 57 years of marriage George's wife Ellen died and he was cared for by his unmarried daughter, Elizabeth. George was to live to the grand old age of 102.
During George's retirement it's apparent he loved his garden and growing prize-winning fruit and vegetables.
HORTICULTURAL SHOW The oldest inhabitant, George Miller, aged 96, won first prize for blackcurrants in the
cottagers' class. Essex County Standard July 1931
'Five Parishes' Horticultural Show...a special prize...was presented to the oldest inhabitant, George Miller, whose
age is 97, and who also won 1st prize for beet in the cottagers' class Essex County Standard 22.7.1932
On Sundays he is a regular worshipper at the Methodist Chapel, and is frequently among the first to arrive
He has 'no use for motor cars' and refuses the offer of a ride. Essex County Standard 14.4.1933
George had an 'accustomed place' in the chapel which locals left vacant for him and it was a noteworthy day when he was able to attend as he got older.
Mr Miller is a lover of the open air, and is looking forward to a warm Sunday, when he can take a walk to the
Methodist Chapel, and resume the seat which has been vacant for some time. Essex County Standard 11.4.1936
His suspicion of motor cars was eventually overcome and he would accept a lift to visit relatives or to attend the chapel.
STILL CULTIVATES HIS GARDEN
The 'Grand Old Man' of Peldon, Mr George Miller of Barnards Cottages, celebrated his 100th birthday yesterday.
It was feared that the strain of receiving callers would be detrimental to his health so he went out for the day,
accompanied by his daughter, Miss E Miller, who keeps house for him, his wife having died in 1920.
Mr Miller was born at Fingringhoe and has lived the whole of his life within a short radius.
He started work at the age of 8, and is still working, his garden being an absorbing hobby.
A fortnight ago he was able to dig for two hours without a break. He has himself prepared the ground and sown
and planted several kinds of vegetables, and has no room for weeds. Except that his hearing is somewhat impaired,
he retains all his faculties, and reads without the aid of glasses. He enjoys excellent health, rises at 9 am,
retired at 6pm and sleeps well. He has received many messages of congratulation, including one signed by fellow
worshippers at the Methodist Chapel, which he attends on Sunday afternoons. Essex County Standard 12.4.1935
JUBILEE ...A tea for pensioners of 65 and over was served in the school. The centenarian inhabitant, Mr George
Miller, was presented with a 7-day oak clock, suitably inscribed, by Mr P G Fairhead, chairman of the parish
council. Mr Miller remarked that it was too good for him; he thanked the people of Peldon for the gift, and
was glad to say he had always enjoyed good health. The Rector the Rev A A Giles said they were proud to have
among them one who had passed his 100th birthday. Essex County Standard 10.5.1935
The clock, with an engraved brass plate, is a proud family heirloom of Ethel and Alan and still works - Alan proved it by winding it up for me!
At Peldon I met the oldest man I have ever met - Mr George Miller - a hundred and one years of age, and he told me
that he still worked in his garden. He was born at Ball Farm, Fingringhoe, and had lived at Peldon for 49 years.
Mr Miller had no recipe to offer for long life. As a child he attended a Dame School at his native place kept
by a Mrs Squirrel, and spoke of the days when he worked for Mr Alexander Eagle at Peat Hall. Tom Reynolds,
George Green and Bill Clark worked with him. In his time he had worked upon many local farms. Referring to
his activities, Mr Miller said 'I keep doing a little and I think it does me good'.
Your Essex No 30 At Peldon by Cyril R Jeffries 1935/36 Essex County Standard
Even at 101 George manages to cultivate his garden.
Throughout the winter he lived in retirement, rising in the early afternoon and going to bed about 6pm
but the recent warm spring days found him up and doing. He started work in his garden and has already sown
parsnips, beans, peas and carrots, and has planted potatoes. Essex County Standard 11.4.1936
DEATH OF REMARKABLE PELDON RESIDENT
The death occurred of Thursday May 13 of Mr George Miller of Bernards [sic] Cottages, Mersea Road, Peldon, who attained his 102nd birthday last month. Born at Fingringhoe, he had been a farm labourer all his life starting work when he was eight years of age. Until quite recently he had never had a day's illness, and had never had to seek medical aid. When he celebrated his 101st birthday he wore a new suit that he had been measured for in honour of the occasion.
He had some vivid memories of the earthquake over 50 years ago and a memorable snowstorm, and until two or three
years ago he often walked half a mile to chapel and worked in his garden.
He attributed his longevity to the goodness of God and to hard work. Essex County Standard 22.5.1937
Peldon History Project
Ethel and Alan
Essex County Standard