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Watermills and Windmills of Middlesex (Second Edition)

Windmill gazetteer H


(1) Mill at Stoke Newington

(2) Union Mill, Broad Street  341834

(3) Horizontal mill in Kingsland Road, near Regents Canal

At least three windmills are known to have existed in Hackney. The first site was on the Pulteney family estate at Stoke Newington, west of Green Lanes. There may possibly have been a mill there as early as 1735(1). When the estate was sold in 1810 on the death of Sir William Pulteney, details of the property circulated to prospective purchasers included “the valuable building materials of a large windmill, begun to be erected thereon by the late {Sir William} but not completed.” The purchaser of the property took the opportunity to proceed with the mill’s construction, finishing it by 1813(2), but it was to have a relatively short active life; it was in ruins by 1852(3) and nothing is heard of it after that date.

 Another windmill stood in the former Broad Street, off Hackney Road, and was known as the Union Mill. It is first encountered in 1833 when the partnership between Henry and John Harvey, described as millers and drug grinders, was dissolved. In 1838 Daniel Dale, who at some time had also worked the mill, was listed as an insolvent debtor in a notice in the London Gazette, which also describes him as baker and millwright. Another who may have operated the mill at or around this time was Joseph Jakens, miller and baker, who lived at No 29 Hackney Road and like Dale ended up insolvent and in debt. By 1846 the business had been expanded and improved by the addition of a steam mill. It was auctioned at Garraway’s coffee house, the notice for the sale describing it as a “leasehold windmill…with steam and drug mill, two cottages and ground adapted for erecting other buildings held for 60 years, at a low rent.”

 The next two partnerships were also dissolved. In February 1851 that between Thomas Rossetter and Samuel Gates of the Union Wind and Steam Mill, as it was by then known, was terminated by mutual consent. By March of the following year Rossetter was in a debtor’s prison. Samuel Gates then formed a partnership with his brother, also Samuel, and George Baker, described in the London Gazette as a “journeyman miller” (i.e. one who went around the country seeking employment at different mills). The Gates brothers later left, after which Baker ran the mill first in partnership with a Richard Bacon and then on his own account before ending up, by November 1851, “insolvent and in debt”. Yet another Hackney miller to suffer this fate, in 1853, was Joseph Bradstreet although there is no evidence that he worked at the Union Mills despite his having lived close by at No.20 Great Cambridge Street. This succession of dissolved partnerships and insolvent millers indicates that despite the improvements made to the business, such as the addition of the steam mill and drug mill, it was not really profitable. The mill had probably gone by 1856 when it is not shown on Crutchley’s map of the area.

 The third windmill to have stood in Hackney was of a type rarely encountered in the British Isles. It was situated near the Regent’s Canal, now the Grand Union Canal, in Kingsland Road, in 1828 and was a horizontal mill – that is, one where the sails are mounted horizontally on a vertical axis, as opposed to the other way round which is the usual practice (although it may be noted that windshafts are rarely truly horizontal but inclined at a slight angle). The very first windmills to be recorded anywhere in the world were of the horizontal type. They were to be found in what is now Iran, where some could still be seen at work in recent times. The horizontal windmill was widespread in the Middle East, but not so popular in Western Europe where it was confined largely to the Mediterranean countries. Apart from that at Hackney several examples made their appearance in England; at Margate, on Mitcham Common in Surrey, at Hounslow and at Battersea where stood a famous example built by Thomas Fowler in 1788. The Hackney mill was encased in shuttering and had a series of vanes, mounted on pivots and “so arranged that they presented a thin edge to the mill on one side of the main shaft and a resisting flat surface on the other”. The cost of the mill was said to have been comparatively light. It is believed to have been a small affair built by a local market gardener for watering his stock, like that at Twickenham. An American technical journal described it as “A very material improvement on those {windmills of this type} which have hitherto been erected in this country”.(4) In September 1837 the mill had been dismantled and the machinery and materials, including the upright shaft and the iron gearwheels it carried, were being offered for sale by a Mr Newton. The advert identifies the site as at Mill Row, near the bridge.(5)

 In 1806 a firm named Gibson and Jackson had a small portable windmill at their premises adjoining the King’s Head Inn in Kingsland Road, which they were offering for sale. It could drive simultaneously one pair of French stones and a wire machine.(6)

 The Derby Mercury of 16th November 1734 reports that a new windmill near Hackney Marsh, which cost the owner £400 to build and had only been at work for about three or four days, had been destroyed by fire(7). This must have been among the shortest active lives of any mill ever. It is possible that the site was in Essex. 

(1)  John Nelson, History of Islington (1980)

(2)  Reference book to Wadmore Map (1813); Tithe map of 1848, no.727 (VCH)

(3)  LMA (M, C & P) 498/703

(4)  Martin T Mason, The Windmills of London, Middlesex Quarterly 1954

(5)  Source lost

(6)  Morning Post 26th August 1806, per B Reynolds, “Windmill Hoppers” 15th October 2013

(7)  B Reynolds, Windmill Hoppers 29th September 2013


(1) C17 mill, Beacon Hill

(2) C18 mill near the present Drury Road 247976

(3) Hadley Green 246976

(4) Hadley Green; successor to (3) 246976

In 1288 a windmill was the subject of a lawsuit brought by the Abbot and Convent of Walden against Isabella de Frowyk.

 In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries there were two windmills at Hadley, both within Enfield Chase and held by Enfield Manor. One was on Beacon Hill and is first recorded in 1629(1). By 1636 it had for some reason been pulled down and the wreckage removed by one Michael Grigge. At the time of its destruction it was tenanted by a man named Hudson.(2) However it was clearly replaced within a few years, for it is recorded again in 1649 when conveyed by Sir Thomas Allen of Finchley to Allen Brent of Friern Barnet, yeoman, along with the half an acre of land it stood on and a house and other buildings associated with it(3). It may have disappeared by 1698 for it is not shown on a survey of the Chase made in that year(4).

 The other, which gave its name to Mill Corner and the Windmill Inn, stood a little to the north of the modern Dury Road near the Great North Road, actually a few yards within Enfield parish. First recorded in 1635(5), it was standing in 1748 when there was a coffee house nearby(6), and in 1764 when it is shown on a map of Middlesex in an edition of the Gentleman’s Magazine, but had disappeared by 1777(7). In 1636 it was in the care of Thomas Coningsby, or his tenant. In 1686 William Clarke was in occupation; the following year a question arose as to whether he was liable to pay rates to Hadley on account of the mill. Evidence was adduced that Clarke and his two immediate predecessors, Crane and Reed, had done so, and it was decided that the mill and mill house lay within the bounds of the parish. Clarke, who seems to have been a formidable personality, contested this judgement and somehow managed to get the parish overseer arrested. This did him no good in the end for the records show that he continued to contribute to the poor rate, and at a higher level than before. He would seem to have been in the right though, for a survey of 1636 clearly indicates that the windmill was included within Enfield and in a perambulation of Hadley parish in 1772 the boundary line was distinctly drawn through a point facing the spot where the mill had stood.(8)

 By 1819, when it appears on Greenwood’s map, another windmill had made its appearance, this time at Hadley Green. Almost certainly the last corn windmill to be built in Middlesex, it had its origin in the desire by wealthier householders, who would have supplied the money for the project, to create employment and relieve hardship, so reducing parish expenditure, by providing cheap flour(9). The first miller may have been James Garratt, who was listed in a directory of 1823-4 but bankrupt by 1831(10). The mill, which was probably run by a consortium, seems to have proved unsatisfactory for it was replaced by a new one in 1827. This later came into private ownership(11). Its late appearance, which it owed largely to particular local circumstances, meant it had a very short life; it had disappeared by 1870 when a house was built on the site. The only photograph to feature the mill  unfortunately shows it as little more than an outline in the distance, and we cannot even say what type it was(12). John Mallett was the miller in 1852 and F Green Edwards in 1867.

(1)   Chanc.54/2850/20

(2)   F C Cass, Monken Hadley (Nichols 1880), p20-21

(3)   LMA Acc.351/682

(4)   A Survey of Enfield Chase by Hugh Westlake, Surveyor of the south part of the Duchy of Lancaster, 1698 (LMA Acc.350)

(5)   DOL 42/125

(6)   LMA 1748/3/76)

(7)   LMA 1740/4/878, 859; Barnet Museum L11 p91

(8)   Cass, Monken Hadley

(9)   Vestry Minute Books 1820-32

(10) London Gazette 11th October 1831

(11) Vestry Minute Books 1820-32

(12) Barnet Museum


(1) Early mill

(2) Coneyfield, on east side of Frognal; standing 1597, 1636

(3) Cloth Hill, 263861

(4) C17 mill, Highgate

A mill was standing on the demesne of Hampstead Manor in 1270 and was rented at £1 a year(1). The manorial accounts tell us it was fitted with a new oak post in 1273(2). At this time it was worth 24s; this figure had risen to 26s by 1288(3). It was blown down in 1294(4) but rebuilt soon after, the manorial accounts for the following year including in the cost of the work “1 standard of schepeschides, 2 crosschides,” and “1 rod carried from Prosendown”(5). In 1312 it was valued at £1 13s 4d, and in 1347 32s. Repairs costing 5s 7 and a half pence were carried out in the latter year. A breakdown of the cost included:

16 ells of canvas bought for the mill sails 4s 8d

iron mattock and 2 iron dowlegge worked for the cogwheel and for putting on same 8d. 

1 lock for the mill door with key worked 3 1/2d.(6)

 The mill appears unlike many at this time to have been a profitable one, able to adequately repay the cost of the repairs mentioned above. However, like that at Shepperton it was to suffer from the effects of the Black Death. It was out of use in 1353, the tenant miller having died from the plague; a successor was found, but he fled the area in 1376. One John Cogel took up possession at Christmas of that year. In 1377-8 the worth of the mill was assessed at 22s 6d, the reduction in rent being due to its standing idle “from the feast of Michaelmas to the feast of Christmas” for want of a tenant. In the same year further repairs were carried out:

4 iron bindings bought for binding the spokes of the mill, with nails for the same 3s 4d. 

2 new bills {for trimming millstones} bought for the mill 20d.  Total cost 5s. 

 Cogel held the mill until 1390 when he was succeeded by John Drew. It was then worth 30s. In 1391-2 repairs amounting to 6s 8d were needed:

cost of 1 carpenter cutting down and setting up timber and putting thereof 2 new spikes on the axle of the mill, in all 5s

8 bindings with nails bought for the same for binding the said spokes 20d.(7)

 At this point Drew defaulted on the rent, and it appears that afterwards problems were again found in getting a tenant; none is recorded from 1392 to 1399, and in the latter year the mill was reported to be empty and unrepaired. It then passes into history. (8)

 Another mill stood near the churchyard in 1597; it was probably that which in 1636 was part of a copyhold estate known as Coneyfield, on the east side of Frognal. In that year the mill passed from Charles Purrett to his sister, Bridget Hattan, on the former’s death.(9) Apart from the mill the property comprised a garden, orchard and cottage. By c1680 at the latest the mill and its associated buildings had been replaced by the Old Mansion, No.94 Frognal. The Frognal mill was one of the two windmills depicted in various views, including those by Hollar and Visscher, between c1593 and 1638. The other, western mill stood by 1614 on the Heath at the upper end of Cloth Hill. In 1665 the miller was a man named Keyes. In 1674 the mill was owned by Philip Cater and tenanted by Richard Thornton, to whom Cater conveyed it in that year. Thornton in turn conveyed it to Richard Snelling, in 1686. Later tenants were George Love (1704)(10) and William Knight (1725). When Knight sold the site in 1728 the mill was described as “broken”, and by 1759 it had gone. The site later became known as Windmill Hill and the house as Windmill House, later Mount Vernon House. 

 A relic of the Mount Vernon mill was uncovered in 1960 when contractors building a new house in Holly Place, Old Hampstead, uncovered a brick-lined hole which was apparently part of a threshing floor. After the chaff and stalks of corn were removed the grain was shovelled into the hole, which served as a hopper, having converging sides which directed it into an underground passage leading to the mill. Here it was caught in a wheeled receptacle in which it was conveyed along the passage to the mill.

 Set into a flight of steps at a house in Heath Street is a millstone, which may or may not have come from here.

 The two windmills at Hampstead would have been a conspicuous sight, and are said to have attracted a large number of visitors to the neighbourhood. It is not surprising that they were a popular subject with contemporary artists, such as Huych Allaerdt who depicted them as two post mills in a view of London in 1686.  Some controversy surrounds the mill shown in a painting by W Tomkins, entitled “High Ground in North-West London”, in which features a tower or smock mill. The view is said to be of Hampstead Heath, yet by Tomkins’ time the Hampstead mills had long disappeared. If the mill was intended to represent an existing one, it is most likely to have been Kilburn (Shoot-up Hill mill at Willesden); the proportions are all wrong, but as has been commented on before artists did not always attempt an accurate representation of objects in real life. Likewise the  white mill, again of tower or smock type, which appears in an 1830s painting of the Heath by Constable was probably Shoot-Up Hill unless simply a figment of the artist’s imagination.

 A windmill was built on the north side of Chapel Field, Highgate, shortly before 1601. It was to have a relatively short life, disappearing by 1641(11). The late T J Mason was stated by H E S Simmons to have had in his possession a print showing this mill as a small detail(12).

(1)  WAM 32399

(2)  Ibid

(3)  WAM 32375

(4)  WAM 32372

(5)  WAM 32374

(6)  WAM 32494

(7)  WAM 32512

(8)  WAM 32513-19

(9)   LMA E/MW/H/2

(10) LMA E/MW/H/I/2311A

(11) Marcham, Court Rolls, 53; Highgate School records, box 3 bundle 1, box 1, bundle 2

(12) Simmons Collection, Science Museum Library

(49) “High Ground in North-West London”, painting by Constable (Museum of London)


Windmill Road 139711

Hampton windmill is something of an enigma. Firstly, in its appearance and construction it had several striking features which distinguished it from the English norm; secondly, little is known about its history compared with other late-surviving Middlesex windmills.

 In 1785 John Naylor, a millwright from Twickenham, applied at a court of the Manor of Hampton Court, of which the premises were copyhold, for permission to build a windmill to grind corn, particularly pearl barley and oatmeal, for mainly local consumption. When the mill was partly completed Naylor ran into financial difficulties and had to abandon the project, which lapsed until a mortgagee took over in 1791(1) and finished the work.

 The mill is shown on the 1816 Ordnance Survey map in the fork formed by the stream and the road, on the west side of the railway. It was to be sold by auction in 1839 along with a house, garden and paddock(2). For a number of years it was owned by the Deeks family, who operated it in conjunction with the nearby watermill. The last directory to mention it is Kelly’s of 1862, which gives Zachariah Warren as miller. After this date it is thought to have ceased work. Another miller, who at different times worked both the windmill and the watermill, was James Humphreys, who was here in 1852 but is listed in the London Gazette of 19th November that year as an insolvent debtor. He was succeeded by C H Brazier. The last map to show the mill is the 1863 Ordnance Survey, which marks it with a roughly circular symbol. The property was sold in 1874 and the mill shortly afterwards pulled down; the Surrey Comet of 14th November reported the sad death of a workman who fell from the top of the structure during the demolition. In 1965 a brick hut where tools used in maintaining the mill were stored, along with two posts which formed part of a fence enclosing it, still stood on the riverbank opposite the Windmill Inn(3).

 Several illustrations of the mill have survived, and these show it to have been of a distinctive character. The one photograph, which shows it getting into a bad state of repair and so was probably taken in the years between its ceasing work and being demolished, has been heavily retouched but I believe it nonetheless to be authentic. It depicts a smock mill which is broad with a steep batter, having a rather square appearance as a result. The corners of the smock, where the edges of the weatherboards meet, are proofed with vertical strips of an unidentified material, probably wood or lead, as a measure to keep out rainwater. The lower part of it is obscured by vegetation, so we cannot see whether there is a stage or any brickwork in the structure above ground level. The cap is of a curious kind, something between the Kentish and the Norfolk varieties in appearance, and reminiscent of those on mills in North-Western Europe. It has sloping front and rear gables and a fairly deep “petticoat” of vertical boarding protects the curb. There are four shuttered sails, patents according to the 1839 sale notice, on one of which a leading board is visible. The remains of a fantail may be seen hanging down from a platform at the rear of the cap. The four-spoked wheel beneath the platform, at a right angle to the mill tower, is presumably part of the winding gear. Altogether there are strong similarities with the mill as shown in a lithograph of a type which became common in England after 1870. Beneath the cap in this latter view is what appears to be a Dutch-type braced tailpole and two diagonal struts seem to brace the fan platform to the smock tower. However these details are inaccurate as they do not tally with the other illustrations known to exist of the mill, which date from approximately the same period. The stage, on diagonal supports and reached from ground level by a ladder, may be another matter. Generally I think the illustration is authentic although the moonlit setting does suggest it is slightly idealised. (4)

 Since writing the above several further images of the mill have come to light: a slightly blurred photograph, a copy of the first photo which is relatively less retouched, and a painting executed some years before the other views which matches them in most respects and so is trustworthy (also, Oxford Cottage on Uxbridge Road is clearly recognisable) although the mill is depicted taller and less squat than was the case. These images confirm the first photograph to be accurate. The painting has the mill standing on a separate single-storey base with no evidence of a stage, suggesting the latter feature is invented in the lithograph. It reveals that the fanstage was of the long eighteenth-century type, with a guide pole (the “tailpole” of the lithograph) beneath it for the striking chain of the patent sails.(5)

 The three lithographs, dated 1823, by the Dutch artist Simon de Koster(6) are probably not reliable. With its flared sides the mill bears more resemblance to those in Holland than in England. Even though it did exhibit similarities to mills in these countries, it is probable that the artist, who did not settle in England until 1788, was influenced by his Dutch perception of what a mill should look like.

 The 1839 sale notice states that the mill drove two pairs of stones.

(1) Middlesex Quarterly, 1953; Manor Court Books, LMA

(2) Windsor and Eton Express 6th July 1839, per B Reynolds, “Windmill Hoppers” website 30th November 2013

(3) The Birth and Growth of Hampton Hill, Hampton Hill History Society 1965

(4) “The Old Hampton Windmill” by T L Rowbotham, c1820, in Richmond-upon-Thames public library (reproduced in M T Mason, More About Middlesex Windmills, Middlesex Quarterly 1954)

(5) Mr John Sheaf, 6th July 2016 

(6) In Richmond-upon-Thames public library

(50) Hampton windmill, from a C19 painting (John Sheaf)

(51) Hampton smock mill, retouched photograph of c1870 (John Sheaf)

(52) Hampton smock mill, from a late C19 engraving (Richmond-upon-Thames Local Studies Library and Archives)

(53) Hampton smock mill, c1870 (John Sheaf)


Early mill

A windmill was built at Hanwell by Richard de Crokesley when Abbot of Westminster between 1246 and 1258. The site was probably the field still known in the early nineteenth century as Mill Hill Field, on Cuckoo Hill (now Greenford Avenue) just north of Blood Croft, which would have been a good place for wind. The mill was removed early in the fourteenth century by one of Crokesley’s successors, for what reason we do not know, but it left its mark on local affairs. Between 1339 and 1343 it was indirectly the subject of a legal case in which the then Abbot appeared before the King at Westminster charged with neglecting to keep in good repair a bridge which Crokesley had built to enable those living on the other side of the river to the mill to take their corn there to be ground. The Abbot denied he was responsible for its upkeep, claiming that neither he nor his predecessors were ever bound to repair it except of their own free will or for the benefit of those who wanted to use the mill; now that the latter had gone there was no reason to maintain it. This made no difference to the King who ordered him to carry out the necessary works(1).

There is no firm evidence of any windmill at Hanwell after Crokesley’s; references which appear to be to one probably concern that at Southall.

(1) Public Works in Mediaeval Law, 2 (Selden Society vol.11), p6-7


Probably an early mill

The names Windmill Hill and Windmill Hill Close, as two roads to the west of Dawley Road, near Pinkwell Lane, were formerly  known(1) are the only evidence that a windmill ever stood in Harlington. 

(1) LMA Acc.446/ED 265, 268


(1) Early mill

(2) C17 mill, Sudbury Hill

(3) C17 mill, Sudbury Hill

(4) C17 mill, Wembley Hill

A windmill, the first definite example to be recorded in Middlesex, and a watermill were standing at Harrow in 1236(1).  The former was probably located near the house known as Flambards(2); in 1353 it or a successor was mentioned in a fine between Edward Flambard and the Vicar of Harrow(3). 

 As mentioned above, milling on the Brent was a hazardous business due to frequent flooding. This may explain why the lords of the manor found it necessary to supplement the watermill with the windmill and indeed why the latter came to supersede the former, as it appears to have done by 1348 in which year only it is mentioned in an account of repairs needed to buildings on the Manor(4). In 1273-4 the windmill like the watermill was administered directly(5), but generally the mills were farmed out(6).  

 There were windmills at Harrow in the seventeenth century. Three entries in the Parish Register of Baptisms are of interest here. The first baptism, which took place on 27th July 1622, is of John Hoy of the “Wyndmylle”. The second concerns “John of the Millhouse” in Sudbury. Finally, on 31st May 1629 was christened  Thomas the son of John Hoy, “milner” of Sudbury (obviously the same Hoy mentioned in 1622). A map of 1673 shows a mill on Wembley Hill, while two of 1695 show two windmills one on either side of the road on Sudbury Hill, near the Hermitage.(7)

 In April 1672 Sir James Rushout, Lord of the Manor, leased a windmill and Millhouse in Harrow itself for seven years to Bartholomew Bixwell, miller. In 1678 and December 1693 a windmill and tenement were leased by Rushout to David Slye, miller, of Sudbury(8), and an Abstract of Recovery of 1712 mentions three windmills in the manors of Harrow and Harrow Rectory(9). After this no mill is recorded in the area until one is shown at Roxeth on a map of Middlesex in the Gentleman’s Magazine in 1764. A reference to a windmill which is to be erected at Harrow Weald in 1721 probably concerns that at Pinner(10).

An undated document in the London Metropolitan Archives refers to “the miller’s demands for repair of the mill and mill house”(11).

(1)   Lambeth Palace, Estate MS.1193, 2068; BM Add.MS 29794, m.1d

(2)   John Seller, Map of Middlesex (1710); J Norden, Speculum Brittania part 1 (1593), map facing p10; LMA Acc.76/1010

(3)   CCP25(1)/150/65/314

(4)   BM Add.MS.29794, M.Id SC6/1128/12, MS

(5)   BM Add.MS 29794 M.1d

(6)   Lambeth Palace, Estates MS 1193

(7)   Geoffrey Hewlett, Ed., A History of Wembley (1979)

(8)   LMA Acc.0076/0198; Acc.0076/0087  

(9)   LMA Acc.0076/1301

(10) See below

(11) LMA Acc.0076/0197


C17 mill 095818 (approx.)

Ogilby’s Britannia of 1675, along with other of his road maps such as “The Road From London to Aberistwith”, shows a windmill on the north side of the Uxbridge road between the present Church Road and Hayes End. It is presumably the one mentioned in a Court Roll of the Manor of Hayes in 1677 as standing in or near Broademeade Field(1).

(1) LMA Acc.0129/002  


(1) Early mill

(2) C17 mill, Mill Hill 223934

(3) Early mill

(4) Possible mill, undated

A windmill here is mentioned in the Black Survey of 1321 as being worth 12 shillings per year(1). It is thought to have been that which gave its name to Mill Hill (originally “Melnehel”), later the site of the famous school(2). A mill is shown there on Seller’s map of 1679. In 1685 one is recorded as being held by Robert Crane(3); it is not mentioned in Messender’s Field Book of 1754, which gives a detailed description of the manorial property, and is therefore thought to have disappeared by then; a new mill was standing by 1784 when it is mentioned in the Court Rolls of the Manor(4), and it is referred to again in a deed of enfranchisement in 1792(5). Its existence is commemorated by Millfield, now a recreation ground, although this does not mark the actual site which is thought to have been on the high ground at the north end of the Ridgeway, referred to in the 1784 document as “Miller’s Land” and in the 1754 Survey map as Mill Fields. This lies between Holcombe Hill and the present Hammers Lane.

 According to the Victoria County History another mill, known as Goldherd’s Mill, stood in the fifteenth century between Cowhouse and Glitterhouse Farms(6), and the name Millfield south of the Bald Faced Stag public house on Edgware Road suggests the existence at some time of a third(7).

(1) TLMAS Vol.12, p580-81

(2) “Melnehel” is mentioned in 1374 (WAM 32589)

(3) TLMAS Vol.13, p557

(4) LMA Acc.0460/073 

(5) LMA Acc.0460/077

(6) Transactions of the Mill Hill Historical Society (1932), p4

(7) BM Add MS 9839


Early mill

A windmill belonged to Colham manor in 1328(1).

(1) Chanc.145/108/2. CCP 25(1)/149/45/150 refers to a grant of a mill in Colham in 1314.


(1) 313819 (approx.)

(2) On riverbank near Old St Paul’s; standing 1616

(3) 17th century mill near Old St Paul’s

An indenture of sale in 1507 included the “sight” (site) of a windmill in St Andrew’s, Holborn(1). It is also mentioned in a document of 1505, which places it in the Manor of Portpoole in the Gray’s Inn district, between Gray’s Inn Road and Leather Lane. It originally belonged to the prior and convent of East Sheen, and at one time its former existence was commemorated by Windmill Hill.(2)  

 John Visscher’s Panorama of 1616 shows a post mill on the riverbank about halfway between Old St Paul’s and Suffolk House. This is evidently in working order, as it is facing the wind judging from the sails of the boats on the river. The same view also features, to the south of the cathedral, the hollow-post windpump at the Waterhouse at Blackfriars.(3)

(1) CCR 732, NA

(2) MTM 1954; Farries and Mason, Windmills in Surrey and London, p235

(3) Visscher’s Panorama, 1616, LMA Maps and Prints A11


(1) Early mill

(2) Brazil Mill, site unknown; was standing in mid-C18 115744 (approx.)

(3) Horizontal mill at Syon Park; site unknown

(4) Hounslow Heath, standing C18 and possibly earlier

(5) Hounslow Heath, Heston Mill  119752

In the annals of milling Hounslow has a certain claim to fame. In Elizabethan times its cornfields, now long swallowed up by urban sprawl, supplied the grain which fed the royal household. A windmill was recorded here in 1362. 

A curious smock mill is depicted in an illustration of 1757 entitled “Brazil Mill, Hounslow Heath”, which appeared in Country Life on 3rd March 1955. Its name suggests it was used to extract the dye from Brazil wood. It stands on a square building of about three storeys, whose roof forms a stage. Farries and Mason(1) believe this to have been a watermill, the two mills working in conjunction. Other, smaller buildings are built on. The cap of the windmill is conical, in appearance rather like that of Shipley mill in Sussex, and winded by a tailpole, and the alignment of the three sails which are visible suggests there were six in all. Smock mills were still a comparative rarity in the mid-eighteenth century, as were mills with more than four sails, so this specimen may be considered something of a celebrity. It is a pity that not more is known about it.

We know nothing at all, other than the fact of its existence, mentioned in a paper by Rex Wailes to the Newcomen Society in the 1950s(2), about the horizontal mill which stood on the Duke of Northumberland’s estates at Syon House.

It would seem that something in the Hounslow air had a tendency to produce windmills of an unusual character. That which became known as Heston Mill (despite standing some distance from that place) was, however, relatively conventional in design. It was built on the Heath to the north of the Staines Road and was a replacement for the open-trestle post mill shown in the middle distance in a painting of the Heath by Richard Wilson dated 1765(3). This mill may have been the one featured in the background in a pen-and-ink sketch by Willem van de Velde of military manouevres, for which the Heath was often used, in 1687(4).This mill appears on the 1816 Ordnance Survey map but was demolished two years later(5) and a new one, which had a roundhouse, built in its stead. When for sale in 1829(6) this new mill was in the occupation of John Bryant. It had patent sails and a fantail and worked three pairs of stones; the latter would have been arranged two side-by-side in the breast and one in the tail, with those in the breast driven via a wallower and great spur wheel and those in the tail from a tail wheel mounted on the windshaft rearwards of the brake wheel. Attention was drawn to the spaciousness of the premises: “(There is) sufficient room in the mill to contain about 150 quarters of corn and do the business pleasantly, and a warehouse capable of holding the same amount.” Bryant failed to sell the mill and remained there until 1834 when he retired due to great age and ill-health, again putting the mill on the market(7). It was probably bought by Joseph Cooper, the next miller to be recorded here, who ended up in prison for debt(8). By 1854 it had passed to the Marshall family; initially William Marshall and his brother Thomas ran it jointly, but their partnership was dissolved in May 1854(9), William afterwards operating the mill on his own until his death in March 1862(10). It was then taken over by William’s son James. The Marshalls were running the mills in 1890 but soon after this date they were taken over by a family named Ashby. By 1891 a large steam flour mill had been built close to the windmill(11), and progressively took on more of the latter’s trade, judging by the evidence of the directories which give the Ashbys as millers by steam (not wind).

On 24th August 1895 the mill and the other buildings on the site were destroyed by fire. The following account of the blaze appeared in the Miller of 2nd September.

“BURNING OF HESTON MILLS, HOUNSLOW. In the early morning of Saturday August 24th, a disastrous fire broke out in Mr Ashby’s Heston mills, at Hounslow. These mills consisted of a row of …forming a sort of parallelogram, with outbuildings standing apart from the main row. At one end was the warehouse, then come the mill proper, which contained a 5-sack roller plant, and then a row of dwelling houses and cottage. In front of the mill and dwelling houses stood a windmill, as well as 2 or 3 buildings used as a shop, store and office. The mill had been working until 6 pm on Friday 23rd, when the staff, with the exception of one man, left off work. A gang of millwrights had been busy in the mills for some days previous to the catastrophe, and on the Friday they had been putting the finishing touches to their work, but they also left the building at 6 o’clock this afternoon. From 6 till 10 pm the premises were in the charge of the engine driver, who was looking after some millstones which were at work on barley. At 10 o’clock all seemed to be safe in the mill, and the engineman shut down and went home. But about five minutes past one on the following Saturday morning a passer-by noticed flames shooting from the warehouse lukum, and promptly aroused Mr Ashby, who lived in the dwelling house by the mill. A party of soldiers turned out of the neighbouring barracks and tried to extinguish the flames, which seem to have spread very rapidly. Before long as many as six steam fire engines were on the spot, but there was a delay in getting to work on account of the scarcity of water. The well which supplied the mill was not accessible on account of the smoke, while none of the brigades present appear to have been provided with any means of raising water by suction. The town main was some distance away, and the hose had to be carried over several fields before a connection could be effected. Altogether the fire seems to have had a good half-hour’s start, which enabled it to take a firm hold of the mill as well as of the granary in which it apparently originated. The flames spread into the mill in the teeth of the wind, which was against them, and also across the yard, catching the windmill and the group of buildings used as offices and stores. These structures were all totally destroyed, only the dwelling house and the cottage were saved from the fire, but damaged by water. No cause was assigned for the fire, which seems to have started in a room that only contained an oat-crusher, a wheat-grading sieve and a sack-hoist. The damage will reach £13,000.”

 According to another account, in the Middlesex Chronicle, firemen from Isleworth, Brentford, Richmond, Chiswick and Teddington were involved, and people had to be evacuated from nearby properties with the help of the troops. The fire was so intense that the ruins smouldered for a week. A leader article later appeared in the Chronicle castigating the fire brigade for their incompetence. It is interesting to contrast this affair with what happened at Kilburn when the Shoot-Up Hill mill burnt down; one wonders whether it too led to a determination to improve the quality of the local fire services. A photograph in the Treaty Centre Library at Hounslow shows the aftermath of the fire, with the ruined walls of the roundhouse, along with the gutted and partially collapsed steam mill building. The site was later occupied by the chemists Parke Davis.

 The two surviving photographs of the mill before the fire demonstrate what a fine specimen it was. Although we cannot be sure it would have been preserved had it not burnt down in 1895 – the author certainly likes to think so, for it was probably the finest windmill ever built in the county – its loss nevertheless seems tragic.

 The large body of the mill stood above a two-storey roundhouse whose roof was painted white, and which had a loading door in the upper storey. The weatherboarding on the lower part of the breast was carried down to form a shield to keep rainwater from entering the gap between the body and the top of the roundhouse roof, and was stepped back where necessary in order to clear the latter.  The four double-shuttered patent sails were of the East Anglian type, with large reinforcing clamps and trailing and leading edges of equal width. The body was turned into the wind by a fantail mounted on an unusually tall carriage, whose height may have been intended to counter the considerable weight created at the front of the mill by the large patent sails and the two pairs of stones in the breast. It cannot be ascertained from the photographs whether it was attached to the ladder in the Suffolk fashion, or the tailpole, which was retained, as in Sussex although it is clearly braced to the latter. A number of battens were fixed to one of the upright members of the carriage to provide a simple ladder giving access to the fantail for maintenance.

 It is doubtful whether the mill can be called typical of the county. A millwright from East Anglia evidently had a hand in fitting, or at some point replacing, the sails while the arranging of the weatherboarding on the lower breast to form a barrier against the rain was reminiscent of certain post mills in Sussex and Kent. It is worth noting that both Sussex and Suffolk had a tradition of building large post mills, often with room for three pairs of stones and winded by fantails. Whatever their pedigree the patent sails, fan and three pairs of stones may be said to reflect an advanced millwrighting tradition.

 Apart from a few late-built examples the big post mills of Suffolk and Sussex were mostly rebuilds of smaller mills dating from the eighteenth or early nineteenth century, these reconstructions taking place from the 1820s onwards. It is possible that a millwright from one or other of these areas either built Heston mill anew or raised an open-trestle post mill and built up a substantial roundhouse underneath it, at the same time replacing the tailpole with a fantail and common sails with patent ones. Given that this was a large-scale modification John Bryant in 1829 may not have felt the need to distinguish in the sale notice between “built” and “rebuilt”.

(1)   Windmills of Surrey and London, p214

(2)   Wailes, R, “Horizontal Windmills”, Transactions of the Newcomen Society vol 40 1967-8 p125-45

(3)   In 1954 this was on exhibition at the Tate Gallery (no. 5842, “Hounslow Heath” by Richard Wilson (1714-84) (M T Mason, More About Middlesex Windmills, Middlesex Quarterly)

(4)   G Hughes, Windmill Hoppers website June 2016

(5)   Sussex Advertiser 24/8/1829

(6)   Ibid

(7)   Reading Mercury 3/11/1834

(8)   London Gazette 14th November 1848, 1st December 1848

(9)   LG 2nd June 1854

(10) LG 1st July 1862

(11) Map 1/2500 Middlesex (1st and later editions); TLMAS Vol.26 p 62; Middlesex Chronicle 31/8/95

(54) The “Brazil Mill”, Hounslow, 1757 (Hounslow Libraries)

(55) Heston Mill, Hounslow, date unknown. On the right is the steam mill building, which has a lucam similar to those found on watermills.(Hounslow Libraries)

(56) Heston Mill, Hounslow, 1884 (Hounslow Libraries)