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Watermills and Windmills of Middlesex (Second Edition)

Windmill gazetteer T-Y


Though this mill survived into the late nineteenth century information on it is intriguingly scant. It may have been a venture which failed due to the increasing obsolescence of windmills by this time, and was in existence for a relatively short period. It is shown on the 1865 Ordnance Survey map, depicted as a circular symbol in a field to the west of the High Street(1).

 A pen-and-ink sketch of September 1887, by W Skeet Park, in the London Archives shows a set of sails on what appears to be the buck of a post mill, with a building of similar profile behind and to one side of it, at Tottenham. I suspect this however to be Edmonton mill.

(1) Rita Read, Local History and Archives Assistant, Bruce Castle  Museum, Tottenham, 16th May 1994

(2) LMA, Maps and Prints Collection 9689


(1) Early mill

(2) C17 mill (possibly in Surrey)

(3) Near Hospital Bridge Road 138729 (approx.)

(4) Possible windmill in Crane Park, the tower of which stands today 128728

(5) Pumping mill, standing in early C18

(6) At Fulwell watermill 144728

In 1352 and 1362 a windmill is known to have existed on Isleworth manor(1), but whether it stood in the Twickenham portion we do not know. Moses Glover’s map of the Isleworth Hundred, drawn up in 1635, depicts three post mills, one of which is on the Surrey side of the river at Richmond. In the lower right hand corner of the map is a rather delightful illustration of a second; its location is unclear and we cannot even be sure if it stood in Middlesex or Surrey. Beside it a note reads “This mill s(t)andeth hereto without ye parke”. Of interest is the curious spire-like structure on the roof. The third mill was situated near “Whittne Bridge”, close to the junction between the present Percy Road and Hospital Bridge Road, about fifty yards east of the roundabout(2). It disappeared sometime between 1675 and 1743(3). Jan Siberichts’ painting of Richmond, c1730, shows in addition to the windmill then standing at that place another post mill as a tiny detail on the Twickenham side of the river opposite Ham House. Its exact site is impossible to identify. In the 1950s the whereabouts of the painting were unknown.(4) 

 A land purchase agreement of January 29th 1784 mentions “that said parcel of waste or ground upon Hounslow Heath lying and being near the windmill at Whitton”. This does not seem to have been the same mill as that erected at Fulwell watermill in what seems to have been a case of two motive power sources occupying the same building. The latter was in existence by 1799 but no more is heard of it after that date, suggesting it had disappeared.  

 In 1722 the eccentric Lord Archibald Campbell, Earl and Viscount of Islay, acquired some four hundred acres of land on Hounslow Heath, adjoining the hamlet of Whitton, from the Crown. He set about turning this into an estate, which was divided into two sections separated by the road leading north to Hounslow. The western section was surrounded by a drainage and irrigation ditch feeding a number of streams, the flow of which was controlled artificially by a “wind machine”.

 Then there is the impressive brick tower in Crane Park, Whitton, at the site of the former Hounslow Gunpowder Works, whose windmill provenance was for many years disputed. It certainly has the appearance of a windmill tower. A note by M T Mason in the Simmons Collection states “There was a tower mill at Twickenham, tall and black with four sails”. “Tall and black” is certainly an accurate description of the structure in Crane Park, but it is not known on what authority Mason makes the statement. It could have been the windmill standing at Whitton in 1784, but this conflicts with the evidence of the 1828 datestone it once bore, now no longer visible. According to G J Aungier in his History and Antiquities of Syon Monastery, Isleworth and Hounslow (1840), the waterwheels which drove the machinery at the works were supplied by “a curious pump, worked by wind sails”, which was capable of raising from thirty to fifty tons of water in a minute. It is possible that Aungier is referring to the Crane Park tower; if so, he has got the location of the mill wrong for he states it to be “about two miles to the south-west of Hounslow”, which would place it at the western edge of the complex, near Baber Bridge which is in Bedfont. But distances often were inaccurately reckoned in this period. 

There are two rows of square openings in the brickwork, now mostly filled in. Judging from their position and distance apart they could have held the horizontal members, and footings for the diagonal supports, of a stage of the kind found on some tall tower mills. Windmills may not have been the only buildings to have such features but the existence of one here does tend to make the theory more plausible. One of the windows is oddly placed in relation to the upper row of apertures for the stage, suggesting they were added later during alterations and the stage was a comparatively early feature.

 In the nineteenth century the structure was known as the “Mill Head Tower”, suggesting its purpose was to store water to drive  the waterwheels at the works. However according to a former employee there the level of water was kept up by means of a hydraulic pump rather than wind power. Perhaps the latter was experimented with for a short time and found to be inefficient, the sails and the stage needed to service them being taken down.

 The building has had a number of different uses during its history: it has been a watch tower for the gunpowder mills (or so it is said) and a workshop for making and repairing sieves, and at one time also housed machinery connected with the process of pelleting (compressing the gunpowder into cartridges). At present it serves as a study centre for the surrounding nature reserve; the attractive bellcote which it displayed for a while in the nineteenth century has been restored.

 In the past the most popular theory as to its origin has been that it was a shot tower, and indeed it sports a plaque describing it as such. But most shot towers were 150 feet high or more, whereas the Crane Park tower is only 80 feet, besides which the furnace required for melting the lead shot would have been a safety hazard in a gunpowder works. A height of over 80 feet was not actually considered essential, but it would have been if the best quality shot, something a major concern like the Hounslow Gunpowder Works would have been seeking to achieve, was desired. The furnace would be less of a problem as shot was only made on Sundays when the works were otherwise closed. An old man born c1898 specifically stated that the building was used as a shot tower, though his memory could have been playing tricks. 

 Evidence for a curb is inconclusive. The spars of the current wooden conical roof rest on a wooden ledge, charred by a stray firework in the 1960s, on top of the tower which I am told is original; this is stepped in a little from the edge of the brickwork. There is no evidence of major rebuilding at this point. The tower is thought to have been the work of a builder from Hanworth named Jacobs.(5)

In recent years the structure’s windpump origins have been finally confirmed thanks to research by local historians Chris Hern and Ed Harris. A report in the Buckingham Advertiser of 23rd April 1861 of an accident at the gunpowder mills refers to it as “the old windmill” and George Willis, who worked at the mills as a boy from 1927, later remembered seeing piled on the ground beside the tower “what looked to me like parts of a five-angled {five-sailed} windmill”, which must mean the windshaft and the five-armed cross into which the stocks of the sails were fitted(6). The water would have come from the River Crane and been channelled first to the mill, via a sluice evidence for which remains by the foot of the tower, and then at a guess by a cut to the gunpowder mills, which it seems for some reason could not be supplied more directly.

Charles Dickens, reporting in Household Words on a visit to the works in 1851, mentions seeing an enormous wheel apparently driven by the water of the river; though he does not connect this with the windmill, which he describes as a “chimney, or tower” it was situated close to it and probably drove pumping machinery within the building. A  circular groove cut, for no other apparent reason, in one of the window ledges indicates where the drive shaft would have entered it.(7) The waterwheel was later replaced by the hydraulic pump. 

(1) SC 6/916/17, 18

(2) Glover, map of Isleworth Hundred (LMA)

(3) Ogilby, Britannia, plate following p48; Syon House MS D 26.5.a

(4) Mason, More About Middlesex Windmills, Middlesex Quarterly 1954

(5) Alex Robb, custodian of nature reserve, 7th October 2003; personal visit by author, 7th October 2003; “The Origin of the Shot Tower”, in Nigel George, English Guns and Rifles; Abridgments of the Patent Specifications relating to Firearms,           1588-1858, Great Seal Office, London 1859       

(6) Chris Hern, Tales From The Tower: A Collection Of Histories Of Hounslow Gunpowder Works, unofficial pamphlet November 2015

(7) Ibid

(69) Post mill which may have stood at Twickenham, from Moses Glover’s Map of the Isleworth Hundred, 1635 (PB)

(70) The windmill tower in Crane Park, Twickenham (Richmond-upon-Thames Local Studies Library and Archive)


C18 mill

The apparent existence of a windmill in on near here in 1777 is suggested by a report in the Oxford Journal of 26th July:

“Saturday: the son of Mr Wilberforce, farmer, near Uxbridge, passing too near a windmill, was caught by the sails and killed on the spot.”


(1) Early mill

(2) Millbank

(3) Near Charing Cross, standing 1696

(4) Proposed pumping mill, Tyburn

A windmill at Eye, the demesne farm for Westminster Abbey in mediaeval times, is mentioned in the Abbey records from the 1270s to 1305-6.

 On 11th August 1619 an inquest was held on the body of Thomas Hewlett or Howlett of St Martin In The Fields, millwright, who the previous day had been working on the windmill of Robert Baker when it collapsed killing him(1). 

 Robert Morden and Philip Lea’s 1696 print “A Long View of London and Westminster taken from Southwark”(2) shows what appears to be a post mill standing on another building, of massive proportions and square in shape with tapered walls, near to Charing Cross and Northumberland House. This was probably another hollow-post windpump mounted on a water tower, and part of the York Buildings Waterworks established in 1680 and operating until well into the eighteenth century. It would have been constructed in or after 1690 when the works were burnt down and subsequently rebuilt.

 An unfinished pencil sketch of c1800 by a Dutch artist depicts a smock mill, called “The White Lead Mill, Millbank”, situated close to the water’s edge, with common sails and a domed cap winded by hand. It is noteworthy that the weatherbeam and the front ends of the sheers protrude beyond the circle of the cap roof – a feature usually associated with mills in Lincolnshire and the North-West – as do the horizontal members of the cap frame.(3) This may be the same mill as that featured in an engraving entitled “View on Millbank”, at one time in the possession of a Mr Eric Bean(4).

 In April 1592 Lord Cobham wrote to the Lord Mayor of London asking if he could lay down a pipe to channel water to his house at Blackfriars from the conduit at Ludgate. The Mayor put the request before the court of Aldermen but his reply to Cobham indicates that the necessary permission might not be forthcoming. It seems the general shortage of water in London at this time meant that diverting water for private use was not acceptable, even when those concerned were rich and powerful. But the Mayor mentioned that discussions were being held with an Italian engineer, Frederick Jenibella (elsewhere Genebelli) who had proposed building a windmill at the fountainhead in Tyburn to improve supply, and if this worked the City might be more inclined to grant Cobham’s request. However the project seems to have come to nothing.(5) Pumping windmills seem to have been a speciality of Genebelli’s; he is known to have built one on marshland at Iden near Rye in Sussex, which was standing in 1594 when it is marked on a map as “Mr Jenebellyes {there appear to have been numerous variations of the spelling} Mill.”(6)

(1) LMA WJ/SR (NS) 1/119 17 James I

(2) British Museum, Crace Collection Folio 2 Sheet 26

(3) LMA Maps and Prints Section HE 5948

(4) Farries and Mason, as elsewhere, p239-40, reference (14)

(5) Robert Ward, London’s New River, Historical Publications 2003, p18; Heckethorn

(6) H E S Simmons Collection, Science Museum Library

(71) Windmill near Charing Cross, 1696 (PB)

(72) “The White Lead Mill at Millbank”, from a pencil sketch by Hendrick de Court, c1800 (PB)


(1) C17 mill, Fieldgate Street  343816

(2) Fieldgate Street 342814

(3) Standing 1806 near George Inn in Commercial Road

A mill was standing at Whitechapel in 1642-3, during the Civil War, when the Parliamentarians who controlled London built extensive fortifications near it. It survived the conflict and is shown on a map by Richard Newcourt, dated 1658, as an open-trestle post mill, standing 200 yards east of St Mary’s Church at the west end of the present Fieldgate Street, which at that time marked the boundary of the village of Whitechapel, the mill standing at the edge of open fields – to which, as the name suggests, a gate gave access. The area looks very different today.

 A mill is shown at more or less the same position on Sutton Nicholls’ view of London and Southwark in 1724, but this is depicted as a tower mill. It stands to the north of the Tower of London near St Mary Whitechapel(1). A tower mill is also shown on a print regarded by Farries and Mason as being of doubtful authenticity. This being before the advent of the fantail, its cap is winded by a tailpole.(2)

 In 1669 a windmill at Whitechapel was included in a property transaction(3), and in 1664 Richard Hopper leased this or another mill in the area to Miles Brand with a covenant not to block its wind(4). In 1698 it was found that Edward Elderton of Mile End was being over-rated for a windmill which was not actually in his possession(5).

 In 1752 John Cardell of Mile End Old Town, clothworker, insured a “timber building being a windmill in ye Tenter Ground in ye Parish of St Mary Whitechapel being a little west from ye church and ye only windmill thereabouts in his own possession”(6). If Cardell’s mill was built of wood it cannot have been a tower mill. However it is just possible that it was a smock mill; according to H E S Simmons M T Mason had an illustration of one at Whitechapel(7). From its position it could not have been the post mill standing in the eighteenth century, unless it had been moved. 

 The Fieldgate Street mill is last heard of in 1807, when it was offered for sale along with the nearby Black Horse public house(8). In the previous year another windmill was standing near the George Inn on the north side of Commercial Road, near the end of the former Daran’s Row, but nothing is subsequently heard of it.

(1) British Museum, Crace Collection, Folio 2 Sheet 24

(2) London Topographical Record, vol.XIV, 1928

(3) LMA, Q/HAL/293

(4) LMA, Q/HAL/290

(5) Middlesex County Records Sessions Book 554, July 1698 (LMA)

(6) Hand in Hand Fire Insurance Policy no.73662

(7) Simmons Collection, Science Museum Library

(8) London Gazette 11th-14th July 1807


(1) Early mill

(2) Dudden Hill  218854 (approx.)

(3) Shoot-Up Hill 245848

A windmill had been erected here by 1295, to the north of the Sherrick Brook on an estate conveyed by William of Breadstreet to John of Middleton(1). By 1365 it was in such a ruinous condition that repair was thought uneconomical and the mortgagee, Thomas Frowyk, was given permission to take the timber from it for his own use(2).

 The mill was not replaced, and Willesden was without a windmill until 1616 when William Grey, a lessee of Francis Roberts, built one in Dudden Hill Field at the point where Dudden Hill Lane entered it(3). This mill was held by Robert Paltock in 1698; he was later succeeded by John Nelson who built a house and two cottages on the property. Nelson sold it to a Mr Hardcastle of Holborn, from whom it passed to Edmund Franklin in 1727(4). It is presumably the open-trestle post mill shown in “A Survey of the Common Fields lying in the parish of Willesden” by John Senex in 1722. It appears to stand on a mound, artificial judging by the regularity of its shape, with sloping sides and a flat top. The body of the mill is reached by a very long ladder from the ground at the base of the mound.(5)

 The last tenant to be recorded is William Kilby in 1765(6). The mill had gone, or was in a derelict state, by 1817 in which year a local rate directory refers to land amongst the property of James Hall, known as Mill Piece, “Where the mill and millhouse and two tenements formerly stood, now fallen to decay”(7). Local historian B C Dexter, writing in a local paper during the 1890s, stated that a few scant traces survived until obliterated when the track of the Midland and South Western Junction Railway (Humphrey Ward places the site closer to that of the Metropolitan(8)) was laid in the 1840s(9). The mill is shown, again as a post mill, on a map of Willesden parish prepared by the cartographer and mathematician Isaac Messeder in 1749 and incorporated by Wood in his History of Willesden, with the sails projected further forward of the body than would have been the case.(8)

 Sometime between 1784 and 1803 Isaac Ennos, a tenant of Mapesbury Hall, built a smock mill on Shoot-Up Hill(9). It was to become known as Kilburn Mill, despite being some distance from that place. In 1798 Ennos leased it to William Bonnington. Bonnington had the mill insured against fire for the sum of £1,000 – £600 for the mill structure and £400 for the machinery within – in 1806.  In common with many others the agreement included the clause that no steam engine should be installed, sparks from the boiler being regarded as a fire hazard.(10)

 Ennos was succeeded around 1832 by William Hale(11), who in 1851 employed five men at the mill(12), an indication that the business was a prosperous one. In 1863 Charles Hale was tenant miller and William owner. On 3rd December(13) of that year the mill was largely destroyed by fire. This conflagration is said to have led to the establishment of the Kilburn and District Volunteer Fire Brigade, the need for a locally based fire-fighting service being demonstrated, according to a Mr W Nixon in 1950, when the nearest engine, that stationed at Paddington, arrived too late to be of any use. However the account of the blaze in the Morning Post states, “Four parish engines quickly attended, followed by seven of the brigade engines from London”; the latter included a steam-powered vehicle belonging to a firm called Shand, Mason and Co. Unfortunately there was delay in obtaining water from the mains of the West Middlesex Company works, and the flames gained too great a hold on the structure for it to be saved. Among the crowd which gathered to watch the mill burn is said to have been the then Prince of Wales, later Edward VII; although we cannot be sure this story is true, it is known that he took an interest in fire-fighting and owned a fireman’s uniform.(14) The conflagration was popularly believed to have been due to the mill’s sails turning too fast in a strong wind, the resulting friction generating enough heat to set the machinery alight(15). This kind of thing did indeed happen to windmills occasionally. The usefulness of the Volunteer Fire Brigade was demonstrated in appropriate circumstances in 1872, when they put out a fire at the steam mill which succeeded the windmill.

 Instead of rebuilding the windmill the Hales had decided to invest their capital in a more modern source of power. The steam mill was built in 1867, at least four years after the windmill was burnt; that the project took this long to complete is indicative of the severe blow dealt to the family’s fortunes by the fire, which also destroyed their house. Ironically, in view of its youth and modernity, the new building came to be known as the “Old Mill”, leading to some confusion between it and the surviving portion of the windmill, which stood close by and to which the name was also applied. Equally ironically, it was to have a brief life, ceasing work in 1891 and being demolished in 1898(16). It was still standing in a derelict condition in or shortly before 1911(17). It was a rather ugly building, wider at one end than at the other, which made the roof an odd shape, and its disappearance was not lamented.

 In a letter to the Middlesex Quarterly in 1953 an elderly lady remembered playing as a child in the charred remains of the windmill, which she described as consisting of “one wing with about six slats on it”. She continued, “My brothers and I used to swing on it, but being old and burnt it soon fell to pieces”.  These remains collapsed in 1903 and any surviving traces of the mill were obliterated when a house was built on the site between 1905 and 1910.(18)

 Happily there exist several photographs of the mill, taken shortly before its demise, by which time like many eighteenth- or early nineteenth-century smock and tower mills it had undergone a degree of modernisation. Two pencil sketches in the Grange Museum at Neasden depict it in its unmodified state, with common sails and manual winding gear.

 The photographs show the mill as viewed from the front. The smock tower is broad and not dissimilar in its proportions to Upminster mill in Essex. It is not clear whether there is any brickwork in the structure, as the lower part is hidden on the side facing the camera by a wooden building, set close against the mill, whose roof would have served as a stage (and therefore probably encircled the whole tower). It would also have provided extra storage space and housed an office for the miller, as did similar structures found on smock and tower mills in Kent and Essex. There were four single-sided sails, one pair of commons and one pair of springs, and a fantail. Seen head-on the cap looks to be of the Norfolk type, shaped rather like an upside-down boat, though in the sketches of the 1820s, drawn from the side, it appears more like those of Lancashire windmills, with sloping front and rear gables.

 The Morning Post report of the fire states that the mill had four storeys and was sixty feet wide, the latter probably referring to the width of the base including the structure which enclosed it. At the time of its destruction it was “fitted up with the most expensive machinery”.(19)

 The mill stood at the north-west corner of the crossroads formed by the junction of Shoot-up Hill (Edgware Road) with Mapesbury Road and Mill Lane, at the rear of a house named Hillside(20).

 In 1894 a horizontal windmill for generating electricity was built by Rollason’s Wind Motor Company of Berners Street, London, in a field close to Willesden Junction Station. The company are thought to have built a number of such devices, including one at Winchester, at their local depot. How long this one stood for or whether it was intended for anything other than demonstration purposes we do not know, but the following details of its mechanism appeared in the Engineer of 20th April (p.337), and are reproduced in the Appendix(21).

(1)  CCP25 (1)/148/35, no 258; Ibid, E40/11845 (Milnefeld)

(2)  CCR 1364-8, 190

(3)  NA C3/439/8; WAM 17039

(4)  NA CP 25(2)/854/10 Wm III Trin; CP 25(2)/1037/13 Geo I Hil.

(5)  LMA SC/PM/BR/01/01

(6)  Grange Museum, Wood F21 (map of 1765)

(7)  LMA Acc.262/40 pt 2 (1817); ibid (Chandos Estate Map 1817); Bodleian MS DD All Souls C149/2). Presumably the maps do not show the mill.

(8)  Humphrey Ward to author 8th September 1997

(9)  MTM

(9)  Guildhall MS CC.2199, 2202

(10) Royal Exchange Fire Insurance Policy no.228015 24th December 1806

(11) Grange Museum 1 B10; Guildhall MS CC.2208

(12) HOP 107/1700/135/3, folio 366v

(13) Morning Post 5th December 1863, p51; printed minutes of Proceedings of the Vestry of the Parish of St John, Hampstead, 8th January 1864, p4; General Reports of Fires in London, 1863. All from Stephen Buckland Notebooks, Mills Archive

(14) W E Nixon 1950, in Simmons Collection, Science Museum Library; Morning Post December 5th 1863, p51  

(15) Sir William Besant, London North of the Thames (1911)

(16) B C Dexter, in Middlesex Quarterly no. 1 (1953)

(17) Besant, 1911

(18) Mason, Middlesex Windmills, Middlesex Quarterly no. 1 (1953)

(19) See above

(20) Letter from Mr C V M Smart to M T Mason; Mason 1953 (see above)

(21) Per Gareth Hughes, “Windmill Hoppers” October 2013

(73) Post mill at Dudden Hill, Willesden, from a C18 map of road repairs (PB)

(74) Shoot-up Hill Mill, Willesden, with common sails and manual winding gear, 1823 (BMA)

(75) Shoot-up Hill mill, modernised apart from one pair of common sails. The photograph is undated but was probably taken not long before the mill’s destruction by fire in the 1860s.(BMA)

(76) The steam mill at Shoot-up Hill, by B C Dexter 1894


Willow Tree Lane, existence unconfirmed  115821 (approx.)

In the 1950s M T Mason was told that a windmill once stood here, but despite making extensive enquiries he was unable to find any record of it.(1)

(1) Middlesex Quarterly no. 1 1953; Simmons Collection, Science Museum Library