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Holman Bros., Millwrights of Canterbury: A history

Drapers Mill, Margate

Drapers and Little Drapers Mills, Margate
Drapers and Little Drapers Mill, Margate. Unknown photographer

Drapers Old Mill was built in 1845 by John Holman who then lived in the adjacent mill house. He ran the mill himself at times and also leased it out to various millers. By this time the Canterbury millwrighting business was being run by his son.

One long term tenant was John Banks who ran the mill from 1847. After John Holman’s death in 1855, John Banks continued running the mill, but in the late 1860s F. & E. Darby were the millers, followed by Frederick Ind up to 1902.

Drapers Mill advertisement in The Kentish Gazette, 12 August 1862
Drapers Mill advertisement in the Kentish Gazette, 12 August 1862. Source: British Newspaper Archive. Image (c) British Library Board. All rights reserved

30 August 1870

Estimate of new work and repairs required at Drapers Mill, Margate:


2 new patent sweeps with framed and canvassed shutters of the same length as the old ones lately blown off the mill and 5’ 9” wide, shutters to lead side of ditto and fitted complete with cleated bearings for carrying shutters, 1 best quality Red Pine or Dantzig Fir midling not less than 44ft long, 2 new cheek pieces and bolts fitted to midling, 2 new spring backs with couplings fitted with new cross for striking or clothing sails, two for the new sweeps and two to be fitted with fork ends and adjusting screws and guide irons for ditto. The new sweeps, midling etc. to have 3 coats of genuine white paint.

The whole of the above to be fitted and fixed to mill in a substantial and workmanlike manner complete and fit for work for the sum of sixty five pounds ten shillings.

The above sum includes taking down the old sweeps etc. from the mill.

Without cheeks and harps – £12 less.


Estimate for 2 pairs of stones and driving tackle at Drapers Mill Margate [for Mr. Fred Darby].


2 pairs best quality French burr stones, 3ft 8 ins diameter, to take out the present length of upright shaft in bottom floor & replace the same with 1 3in diameter wroughtt shaft with 1 pr flange couplings bored, faced & fitted for do.

2 – 3ft 4in diameter flange pulleys, turned, bored & keyed on shaft

2 stone spindles with 2 – 2ft diameter flange pullies, bored & keyed on do. fitted with stone boxes, cross back? & driving boxes to do., 2 cast iron bridge trees, poppets, bolts, steel yard tackle. Lighter screw? & 1 pair governors fitted to do. complete.

2 sets of tuns, horsings & hoppers. 1 gxxxx trough & spouts fixed in bottom floor & spouts for conveying wheat from bins & to supply all timber requisite for the same & to new gear the present bevel wheel under bottom floor.

The whole of the above to be new, & of the best respective materials (with the exception of the tuns, hoppers & horsings which have been in use a few months, but are perfect and sound) & to be completed & fixed in mill for the sum of one hundred & fifteen pounds & ten shillings

Holman & Collard


Canterbury July 4th 1870

Dear Sir,

We herewith enclose an estimate for 2 new pairs of stones, & tackle for driving by the engine, should we have it to do, you may depend on having a good substantial job made of it, we have not including driving straps to the stones as our man tells me you have some by you.

We could put the job in hand at once & give it our immediate attention. The cost of 2 iron pullies for driving 1 pair of the wind mill stones would be £5-10-0 for cutt??(cutting or dressing?), quant & refixing stone nuts we should have to charge extra, we think it would cost altogether with pullies & fixing about £15-0-0 but we could not recommend you to have it done, as the new stones would be decidedly the best job.

We remain sir,
Yours truly
Holman & Collard
Mr. Ind


New 44’ outer midling. Repair sweeps.

Thomas Messiter Ind, miller and corn merchant died on 24 August 1900. Thomas left his estate to his three sons Frederick Ind, miller; and Herbert Ind, miller and baker and Charles Ind, medical student. Frederick emigrated to Canada in 1905. Herbert died at Steyning in 1909 aged 43.


Kelly’s Directory for Kent, p.430: Ind Brothers, bakers & millers (wind and steam), 8 Trinity hill & Drapers mills.


Fix tail carriage. Repair sweeps for Mr. Ind.


Measure for sweeps & striking gear for Mr. Ind.

In 1908, Holmans made a thorough examination of the mill for Thomas Robert Laidlaw, the miller at the time. They found the curb at the top of the tower & the cap of the mill were in a very bad condition so much so that they advised him not to work the mill as they did not consider it safe either for him or for any of the public who may be passing. Their report:

The only thing to be done to put it in good order is to take down the sweeps, take off the old cap & curb & replace them with a new cap & curb using in any of the old gearing that is in good order & re-fix the present windshaft, brake wheel & sweeps. We cannot tell the exact cost of this work as it is uncertain how much of the present gear can be used in again but if you reckon on an outlay of £220 you will not be far out,

The work should be started at once as everything would have to be made & fixed before the end of the summer as it is not possible to do this class of work in bad weather.

We have done all the windmill work in East Kent for many years & if you put the job in our hands we will see that it is done as well & as cheaply as possible

Yours faithfully Holman Bros.

The mill stopped working by wind in 1916 when a 20hp gas engine was installed to drive it.

Margate Bakery Co. owned the mill in 1925.

In 1927 the sweeps and fantail were removed and up until 1933 the mill was being worked with a 20hp gas engine. A system for manufacturing coal gas on the site was also available.

Then the mill and its outbuildings became storage for a corn merchant’s business.

The Drapers Mill Trust was set up under the leadership of a local headmaster, the late Mr. R.M. Towes, in order to save the windmill from demolition and to achieve its full restoration. The Kent County Council acquired the mill in 1968 and the Trust set about raising funds and organising the restoration. Work was done by volunteers, local builders and millwrights Philip Lennard and Vincent Pargeter. Whilst the framework was largely sound, the entire smock had to be reclad, the cap reconstructed and new flooring laid throughout the mill.

A new fan was fitted in 1970 and after much effort by many people, a pair of sweeps was fitted in 1973 allowing the mill to grind again. The other pair of sweeps was added two years later. The staging was originally made for Barham Mill but that burnt down before it was fitted so it was adapted to fit this mill.

But by 1988 more repairs were needed. Rotten timber under the cap together with problems with the worm drive and cogs prevented the cap turning the sweeps to face the wind.

It was observed in 1994 that there was rot in the middle of the stock of the outer sweeps and the storm hatch. Messrs. Hole, the millwrights, came to assess what was needed. Replacement with steel stocks was recommended but it was thought that the weight would be too much. The storm hatch was repaired.

A novel method of fund raising was introduced when money was needed for wooden cogs to be fitted in the two newly cast wheels. Sponsorship was offered at £5 per cog with the names of the sponsors written on the reverse of each cog with a receipt certificate being sent to all donors.

A storm on the 21 November 1997 caused the cap to turn though the fantail was not turning. The mill was tail winded and, with an ineffective brake, the sweeps turned backwards. There was a strong smell of burning and the fire brigade was called, arriving just in time to save the mill from being set on fire. In spite of recent repairs, the shutters did not operate properly and the fantail was rotting and the curb teeth were so worn they had sharp edges.

Funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund and KCC, Dorothea Restoration Ltd. carried out restoration work in 2001. The work started in January with the removal of the cap and sweeps. Four new sweeps were made, back to the Kentish style, new weatherboarding was added to the smock and cap, the fan mechanism overhauled and work done to the cast iron curb.

The official opening of the mill took place on 8 May 2002, attended by the local Mayor, Peter Cobley from KCC, friends of the mill, local school children from across the road, and representatives from the Heritage Lottery Fund. Everyone gathered by the mill and once the speeches were over, the sweeps turned once more. 

A small museum has been added. A gas engine, given to the mill by the Science Museum, was installed and now runs the mill.

Today, the Trust opens Drapers Mill to many visitors each year, including parties of schoolchildren. The Trust’s volunteers continue to maintain the mill and are restoring the interior to full working order. A reproduction wire machine, designed by Vincent Pargeter was built and installed in the mill by volunteers.

The location of the mill was once completely rural but it is now part of Margate, with housing developments on some sides. However open land still exists, with a school and its playground to the South and a field, owned by the Council to the North. This allows sufficient wind flow for the mill to turn.

No record of what happened to the original gas engine.

Canterbury May 1st 1871

Dear Sir

Mr. Ind from Margate was here on Saturday and has ordered us to get a new stone for him to fix in the old mill. He also spoke to us about putting in another pair of barley stones to the other mill and has asked us to give you our opinion respecting it. When we put up the mill for Messrs Darby it was contemplated to put in another pair of stones as the present number in the mill is not sufficient to keep the sails steady in high winds, we left a place to fix in the extra pair but this has never been done, & what we should recommend would be to put in a pair of 4ft diameter Peak stones, fitted with iron stone box, iron governors & all driving gear fitted up in a substantial manner with meal trough, spout & all necessary apparatus to do. The price of which, fitted and fixed in mill complete for works & inclusive of every expense would be £45.

We remain Sir,

Yours respectfully

Holman & Collard

G Burgess Esq.


A single mill could have been in existence before 1800, although it is not shown on Andrews and Dury maps of 1769, nor listed in the 1796 directory of trades; only Captain Hooper’s horizontal mill in Zion Place is mentioned. Dr.Arthur Rowe, in his notes on local windmills, tells us that both Hooper’s and the three Margate mills were built by a Mr. Pilcher.

The first Ordnance Survey maps, 1801 – 1819, show two mills on the site. Another engraving of Margate seafront in Oulton’s Margate (1820) illustrates the three mills clearly outlined on the skyline. They were advertised for sale in the Kentish Gazette during 1821.

The first owner of these Margate mills was George Staner. They were sold to Daniel Gouger in 1825 and the mills became established under their new owner’s name. Daniel Gouger was born at St Nicholas-at-Wade on 13 January 1800, and died on 7 March 1886.

The westerly mill shown in the foreground of the picture was destroyed by fire on 15 February 1836. Some say it was deliberately fired by smugglers who wanted to draw attention away from their nefarious activities on the beach. The preventative officers left their post at Newgate Gap and the smugglers were able to get their contraband ashore without being seen. The Kentish Gazette reported the incident on 23 February:

Report on the fire at Drapers Mill
Report on the fire at Drapers Mill. Source: British Newspaper Archive. Image (c) British Library Board. All rights reserved

Daniel Gouger lost heavily as a result of the fire and offered a reward of £100 for the conviction of the offenders. A large number of local inhabitants attended a meeting at the White Hart Hotel on 12 March 1836, and a further reward of £500 was put up. There was still no response.

The two surviving mills were sold first to a Mr. Andrews, who allowed them to fall into disuse. Later they were bought by a Mr. Dawson. By this time Margate was increasing in size and the land on which the mills stood was coveted by the developers of the day.

They were put up for auction on 13 September 1875; the East mill went for £100 and the West for £55. The mills were taken down; the timber was sold locally, and their machinery taken to Holman’s works in Canterbury to be used in other mills.

The casual passer-by in busy Northdown Road is probably unaware that a link with these long departed mills of Margate still remains. Adjoining Peter Dominic’s wine shop on the Clarendon Road corner is a building of early 19th century vintage which was once the mill house servicing Gouger’s mills. Traces of a tiled yard and granary are still visible: historic evidence of the once thriving miller’s trade in the Margate of a century and a half ago.

Gouger’s Mills Margate

The three mills here represented are objects of considerable attraction, and from standing on very high ground, are seen at a considerable distance by sea and land; they are situate near Dane or Hooper’s Hill, where once stood the horizontal mill invented by Captain Hooper, and called by his name. This mill was pulled down a few years ago (1828), and is now remembered only as an ingenious piece of machinery; and on account of the following curious occurrence, which, while it proves the extraordinary violence, and the irresistible power of the wind is deserving of relation from its singularity.

During the dreadful gale by which the old pier was destroyed, the top of this mill, with the upper tier of sweeps, fliers etc. weighing more than four tons, was torn from its iron fastenings; and later being blown a distance of several hundred feet, was lodged in a field near the present mills, without sustaining or doing any mischief.(source)

(From Picturesque Pocket Companion to Margate, Ramsgate, Broadstairs and Parts Adjacent by G.W. Bouver 2nd ed 1831 – Kent County Library.)

Town mill

E. A. Banks owner


Remaining East and West mills pulled down. Purchased by T.R. Holman who sold the timber on the spot. Machinery went into store in Canterbury.