2: Key to caption credits and abbreviations in text
4: Watermill gazetteer A-D
5: Watermill gazetteer E
6: Watermill gazetteer F
7: Watermill gazetteer H
8: Watermill gazetteer I-R
9: Watermill gazetteer S
10: Watermill gazetteer T-Y
12: Windmill gazetteer A-C
13: Windmill gazetteer E-G
14: Windmill gazetteer H
15: Windmill gazetteer I-N
16: Windmill gazetteer P
17: Windmill gazetteer R-S
18: Windmill gazetteer T-Y
19: Unidentified mills
Originally this book was to be about windmills only. They had long held a certain fascination for me, and it seemed appropriate I should one day write a book about them. Watermills, to my mind, had none of their distinctive character, and therefore to be honest weren’t quite so attractive to me, although I nevertheless appreciated them as one should all historic buildings.
There having already been many windmill books of a general nature, I wanted to tackle the mills of a particular region. Middlesex was chosen for two reasons. Firstly, no comprehensive account of its windmills had previously been written. Some, in particular Denis Sanders of Feltham and Kenneth Farries, two molinologists(1) of repute who are regrettably no longer with us, had had plans for one, but these sadly failed to reach fruition in their lifetimes. Kenneth Farries had only begun preliminary research into the subject at the time of his death in 1986, but it is fairly obvious he had a book in mind. It would have been a logical corollary to his and Martin T Mason’s Windmills of Surrey and London (1966). This dealt mainly with the former county and only sketchily with Middlesex, confining itself where the latter was concerned to those areas eventually absorbed into what is more often thought of as London; but it is hard to believe that having comprehensively done both Surrey and another neighbouring region, Essex (Essex Windmills, Millers and Millwrights), he did not intend to remedy this deficiency at some point. I doubt if I have achieved the same literary standard as he – probably the best ever writer on windmills so far – undoubtedly did, but nonetheless like to think of my own book as a companion to his.
Secondly, I could say Middlesex was my home county(2). I was born in Hampton and lived there until we moved to Twickenham in 1971. In 1976 we left the county for Frimley in Surrey, remaining there for eleven years before returning to Middlesex, where I have been ever since, to take up residence at Sunbury-on-Thames (I relocated to Stanwell in 1996 and Shepperton ten years after that).
I had always been frustrated by the virtual absence of windmills in the area. The windmill enthusiast living in the former county of Middlesex suffers acutely from “mill starvation”, needing to travel quite a distance to find the nearest specimen. In other parts of London windmills can still be found, for example at Upminster (formerly Essex), Arkley (Hertfordshire), Keston (Kent), Brixton, Shirley, Wandsworth Common and Wimbledon (Surrey), but no windmill sails may be seen peeping above the rooftops of Hounslow, Twickenham, Ealing, Harrow, Hackney, Fulham, Hampstead, Hendon or Enfield. This is probably because only a couple of mills survived into an age when the need to preserve industrial monuments was becoming accepted, the rest having disappeared with the rapid growth of the metropolis during the nineteenth century. Windmills belong to an essentially rural environment which in Middlesex disappeared so long ago that it is hard to believe any ever existed there. But exist they did, and the dearth of physical remains, which lent to the subject an air of mystery, only made me more determined to write a book on it.
While regrettable, the fact that most of the mills had vanished well before the start of the twentieth century made my task a lot easier. It meant there was no fieldwork to be done, no fighting your way through mud and clinging vegetation to photograph what might be little more than a few crumbling bricks (for to the student of mills, whatever remains however sparse must be recorded, if the owner of the property allows it). My research was largely a matter of paperwork. The collection of notes on British windmills and watermills compiled between 1932 and 1973 by H E S Simmons, and currently held at the Science Museum Library, and the Victoria County History proved valuable starting points. I went on to visit all the major public libraries in the former county, along with several museums and the Greater London and Public Record Offices (now the London and National Archives respectively), in search of the information required, which was to be obtained from a variety of sources; books, photographs and other illustrations, maps, deeds, newspaper extracts and trade directories being the main ones. I chose to hire Record Agents to translate documents written in Latin or Norman French – manorial records and the like – since it would have been a time-consuming, though no doubt profitable, venture to attempt to learn these languages myself.
Correspondence with officers of local history societies proved fruitful, as did appeals to the general public for information through local papers. The research was carried out as time and money permitted, and took five years, from 1988 to 1993, to complete.
The decision to include watermills in the book was taken comparatively late in the day. I felt it would add considerably to its interest of the book, especially as several examples were actually still in existence, which was more than could be said for the windmills. I have to say that they proved in the end quite as fascinating to research.
Some years after the publication of the first edition I began to make plans for a second, since more information had come to light in the meantime. I also wanted to put right one glaring omission which had marred the original. It was part of my publisher’s editorial policy that the text should include no footnotes. This of course does not help those who might quite rightly wish to check the accuracy of the statements made in it or carry out further research. Unfortunately, in the intervening sixteen years some notes had been lost and so it is not always possible to establish the grounds for a particular assertion. However the fact that this revised version of the book is only available online due to the cost of producing a paper copy, especially in these times of hardship – though it is still my intention to produce one at some point – has certain benefits; as further research clarifies points and gathers additional information, the new material can simply be added on, and be viewed at any time along with the rest of the document, without having to wait ten years or so for a whole new edition to make its appearance.
No doubt there is still a lot out there remaining to be discovered. In the meantime I hope I have managed to produce something of interest to both the student of mills and the general reader, to Middlesexians and non-Middlesexians, and to shed light on an aspect of the county’s history that often tends to be forgotten.
Due to the mills having vanished so long ago, grid references in many cases can only be approximate. I should be grateful if the reader would bear this in mind.
(1) “Molinologist” being the term used to describe a student and lover of windmills and watermills.
(2) If one thinks of it as still being a “county”; strictly speaking it is not, at least in an adminstrative sense, although there are some who passionately regard it as such.