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Derek Ogden Collection

A millwright’s life

Derek Ogden is a traditional millwright in the real sense of the word. His interest in mills started when he saw his first windmill in south Birmingham at Trittiford in 1945 just at the end of WWII. This spurred his interest into finding more of these beautiful machines.

He was an avid cyclist, like other mill people at that time, and went to Tysoe in Warwickshire. In 1949 he bought a new Triumph motorcycle and with his grandfather went back to Tysoe mill. Once there his grandfather fell in love with the mill and as it was so sad and neglected asked if they might help to repair it together. They went to see the owner, the 6th Marquess of Northampton and in due course got permission to start work on the mill.

Great Alne mill, Derek's workshop
Great Alne mill, Derek’s workshop

Derek’s work there caught the attention of Monica Dance, Secretary of the SPAB who asked him to get in touch with Rex Wailes and join the SPAB. With Rex, he visited Chesterton windmill. By 1961 he was so involved with wind and watermills for SPAB that he found it difficult to do his day job! He resolved the situation by taking on the repair of Sarehole Watermill for the City of Birmingham and in 1965 he became a professional millwright.

There was never any shortage of work once started and he was approached by many other mill owners for help. So he would have a good working base he bought Great Alne Watermill in 1967 and from then on there was no going back. Derek’s work included a lot of holding operations as money was not available as today from grant giving bodies.

In 1973 Derek received a phone call from the USA asking if he would meet the owner of Flowerdew Hundred Plantation in Virginia. This ended with Derek going to America in 1974 to build an English post mill. He stayed on in Virginia and still misses the English weather, and Chesterton and Tysoe windmills.