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Technical descriptions of English windmills



Dale Abbey, Cat and Fiddle Mill

Post mill, standing today


Cat and Fiddle mill, now preserved, bears the date 1788, presumably that of its erection, on the upper crosstree. It remained in use, though not commercially in later years, until 1952 when the last miller, George Smedley, died. His widow afterwards maintained it in more or less working order. It was owned by the British Steel Corporation until 1982; the current, private owner appears committed to keeping it in good condition and there are annual Open Days.

 A fairly typical East Midlands post mill, it stands above a battered roundhouse, added in 1841(1) and built from blocks of sandstone with buttresses into which the crosstrees protrude. The latter measure 14’ X 14” and 14’ X 12” while the main post is 21” diameter at the crowntree and 29” square at the base. The crosstree/quarterbar junctions have been reinforced with steel plates and angle sections. The mill is turned to wind by means of a hand winch on the tailpole; until 1987 the rope was attached to one of a number of vertical posts around the mill, which have now been replaced with steel rings set into concrete in the ground.(2)  There is a curb on top of the roundhouse walls where small iron wheels run in common Midlands fashion, and with a skirt, depending from the underframe of the buck, fitting over it.

 The roof of the buck is high with a fairly steep curve. The moulded ends of the rear corner posts extend beyond the weatherboarding; behind them the tail of the mill has been extended to just above crowntree level, with a sloping roof, to accommodate a flour machine. The breast beam is projected forward.

The roundhouse floor is sunken.

 The four single-sided spring sails have been renewed in recent years. The previous set were 6’ 9” wide at the tips and mounted on 6” square stocks. The poll ends are each 12’ X 10” and the outer one has a 4” diameter knob on the front for the purpose of lifting new sails into position(3). The slender iron windshaft is square with chamfered corners and tapers towards the tail. The neck journal is made of granite. The 7’ 4”(4) clasp-arm wood brakewheel, renewed following damage to the mill in a gale in 1987, drives the sack hoist by friction from the inside of the  rim. The solid wood chain pulley is mounted on a short iron spindle bolted to the wooden bollard. The sack chain goes to an iron roller on the right of the bollard and then down.

 A bevelled eight-armed all-iron wallower is mounted on a wooden upright shaft, one of only two to survive in an English post mill, the other being at Stanton in Suffolk. There are two pairs of stones, one of peaks and one of French and both measuring 4ft 8” (5), side-by-side on a hurst frame in the breast on the spout floor and overdriven from an eight-armed all-iron great spur wheel. The left stone nut is iron, the right-hand one solid wood but iron-bound. The spouts from the stones are incorporated in the hurst frame. The whole arrangement is located within a kind of well at the front of the mill, which leaves the middle floor covering a relatively small area, and is accessed from the spout floor via a moveable ladder. The angled machine drive shaft, which has a universal joint in it, passes from the top floor to the flour dresser which is located towards the rear of the middle floor with the bins forward of it. The drive is off the brakewheel cogs at the bottom right-hand edge, and the shaft goes to a large bevelled eight-armed gear meshing with the nut on the spindle of the dresser, which is at a right angle to it. The machine bears the inscription I N 1804.

The ladder from the middle floor to the bin floor is at a right angle to the wall, which is unusual but not unique.

 On the spout floor the bridge trees are positioned longitudinally, looking towards the breast, and pivoted in the vertical posts supporting the hurst frame. The governors are large and mounted on the stone spindle extensions, with short steelyards going to the links on the brayers which are hinged in {a horizontal timber spanning the front corner posts and bolted to the central vertical timber in the breast.

 There is an apparatus for weighing flour on the spout floor, with a steelyard and a wooden beam into the top of which is let a notched steel plate to locate a sliding weight.

 The wallower has 22 teeth, the great spur wheel 48 at three and a quarter pitch, and the stone nuts 20. The upright shaft varies in diameter from 12” down to 9 and a half”. 

(1) Alan Gifford, Derbyshire Windmills Past And Present, the author and Midland Mills Group 2003

(2) Ibid

(3) Ibid

(4) Ibid

(5) Ibid

(6) Ibid

Based on visit by G Blythman 20th September 2014


Tower mill, standing today


Heage mill was built in 1791 (the significance of a datestone inscribed “WSM 1850” by the entrance door is not clear) and refitted in 1894 with six sails and a new iron windshaft after being tailwinded. The work was carried out by millwright George Chell from nearby Crich, the windshaft and cross being cast by the Butterley Company of Ripley. The new ogee cap was made by a local carpenter, George Spendlove. The mill ceased work in 1919 and was restored between 1966 and 1972 on the initiative of the County Council. In 1995 a preservation society was formed and in recent years the mill has been returned to something approaching working order.(1) 

 The steeply battered tower is of yellow ironstone whitewashed inside. The mill at first appears small and squat, and the six sails amusingly excessive as a consequence, but in fact it is taller than it seems, though still not a particularly large one. It has five floors: dust, bin, stone, ground/spout floor (with entrance doors on the east and west sides) and a basement, now used as a display area, which is exposed on one side where it can be entered via a tunnel, with door. The doors and windows have surrounds of large stone blocks, which makes for an attractive impression, on the outside. The cap, sails and fantail are all white-painted. The cap turns on 24 cast-iron rollers on an iron curb and is steadied by six truck wheels. Six single-shuttered patent sails are mounted on an iron windshaft, as noted, and the brakewheel is an all-wood clasp-arm with 60 cogs at a pitch of four and three-quarter inches(2).


The all-iron wallower with 45 teeth(3) has a wood friction ring to drive the sack hoist on the north side. The hoist is in the form of a solid wood bollard resting in a wooden frame with the usual lever for (dis)engaging it. The upright shaft is of wood and circular on all floors; it has a bad split in it on the bin floor but is still usable. It is 15” diameter at the top and 17” at the bottom(4).


There is no machinery on this floor apart from the upright shaft.


There are windows on the west and east sides. The stairwell is on the north and the ladder to the bin floor on the northeast side. Two pairs of 5” peak(5) stones are overdriven.

 The upright shaft terminates in the floor. The great spur wheel is wooden with clasp arms that grip the rim between them and a segmented rim. It has been reinforced with strips of metal as part of restoration in order to strengthen it. Originally it had two sets of cogs, one above the other, as did the stone nuts; this was an experiment with epicyclical gearing to increase efficiency, and was later abandoned, the cogs on the great spur wheel being replaced by a single iron cog ring. The nuts are of iron mortice type and large diameter, and are mounted on square quants whose top bearings are bolted to the outer faces of timbers spanning the floor north-south. These timbers exhibit opposite empty mortices just north of the great spur wheel.  

 The upright shaft shows evidence of a gearwheel having been fitted it to drive a dresser or some other machine. Its position low on the shaft near the floor is an awkward one but would nonetheless have worked. Roughly on a level with it is a recess in the wall, where the stones have been knocked out, which contains part of some kind of wooden framework.


There are doors on the east and west sides, and windows on the north and south. The ladder to the stone floor is on the northeast. There is a fireplace on the northwest side.  

 The governors are mounted on the quant extensions, with short steelyards. The western one is missing. The bridgetrees are iron, probably dating from the late refitting, without brayers and mounted between a pair of timbers running east-west and spanning the floor. The eastern bridgetree is provided with a manual tentering screw.

There is a large modern flour machine in the centre of the floor.

(1) Alan Gifford, Derbyshire Windmills Past and Present, Heage Windmill Society and Midland Wind- and Watermills Group 2003

(2) Ibid

(3) Ibid

(4) Ibid

(5) Ibid