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Technical descriptions of English windmills


BIRCH, Royce’s mill

Post mill, gone


The construction of Birch mill appeared unexceptional for its place and period, though the exact date of building is unknown. It is probable that the intention from the outset was to take two pairs of stones in the head, rather than at head and tail. The roundhouse was bonded in to the brick piers and doubtless part of the original build. The lower crosstree was bowed sharply downwards at the centre where it passed under the upper tree, leaving a 3½ in gap. Both members, of 11in square oak, were recessed an inch or two on their sides to receive the horns of the main post, the cuts being wide enough to offer a narrow tapered gap on the outside faces of the horns where small wedges could be driven down to true up the post. At its base the post was 28in square; above the spout floor it was circular, bound with three iron rings, and reduced to 20in diameter under the crowntree. The four quarterbars were of oak, footed in the crosstrees with double birdsmouths and strapped to them with iron. The large brick piers were battered on all sides and nearly equal in height, thanks to the natural elbow in the lower crosstree; some flooring was laid over the crosstrees, though the roundhouse was in fact single-storied, having eight feet of brickwork over ground level.

 Over the quarterbars were the oak sheers 11in by 8in, set flat, on 3ft 4in centres, turning above an oak collar. They extended 2ft beyond the rear of the mill to support a platform. The spout floor was 20ft 3in by 12ft overall in plan, and from there to the roof ridge was about 27ft, giving the mill a total height of some 47 feet. Within the body the floor levels were conventionally spaced: stone at 10ft 6in over the spout floor, and roof “floor” at 6ft over the side girts.

 The side girts, in oak, were 18ft 6in long between the corner posts, into which they were angled at the top, and were in turn shouldered by the crowntree to a depth of 3in only. With a section of 9in wide by 18in deep, they were immensely strong, and survived till the end without apparent protest. Their depth decreased to 14in at the rear, perhaps of necessity, as the timber dictated, but probably also by design, as the product of weight and distance from the crowntree was of real moment in every sense in a larger mill with full-length girts. Here the body extended 8ft 10in to the prow from the crowntree, and 11ft 4in to the rear. The crowntree was, most exceptionally, in four parts of varying section, giving a 23in square composite member; whether original or a replacement is an open question. The component parts were bolted together and faced on the underside at centre with an iron plate 2ft 6in long by 23in wide to ensure an even bearing surface over the post and to spread the load.

 All four corner posts were 8in square oak, with no thickening above; the top side rails, in 7½ square oak, extended beyond the body, front and rear, for about 6in where they bore lead weathering covers. Three similarly shaped forward cross members: front sill, meal beam, and weatherbeam, all with straight rear faces, together with the prick post, formed the basis of the front frame, while at the rear there were correspondingly situated transverse beams. Of these last, the intermediate member, 8in by 7in deep, rested on two vertical posts 7½ in by 5½ in flat to the frame on 6ft 6in centres, which stood on the rear sill and received the tenons of the heavy ladder stringers, though which bolts were passed to allow them play, whether mounted below on truck wheels, as formerly, or raised by tailpole, as latterly. The intermediate beam gave support to a 10½ in square horizontal pine beam set 3ft 6in on centre from the right side of the mill body and slung from the rear face of the crowntree by an iron hanger like a modern joist stirrup. A corresponding pine member, but 3½ in wide by 8in deep, was bolted to the left side framing; between these two ran the tail stone bearers and floor joists. The rear framing panel above the intermediate beam consisted of a central post, two diagonals running up and into the post with staggered joints and the usual studding.

 The mill’s side framing followed usual practice. Two intermediate verticals of 5½ in square oak just cleared the crowntree fore and aft, and into these were footed two diagonals extending to the underside of the side girt near its point of entry into the corner posts. The diagonals at their lower ends were 16in on centre above the spout floor level, and their thrust was opposed by a horizontal piece 4½ in wide by 11½ in deep between the verticals. The very long rear diagonals on either side of the mill body were similarly curved and clearly cut as a pair from the same timber. Over the side girt was a diagonal between it and the forward corner post, while in the two main panels of the mill prow were further pairs of diagonals with joints staggered in the prick post. Vertical studs on about 18in centres and a roof with purlins at mid-height as at Mill Green completed the frame, which was further trussed and skewered by three pairs of iron tie rods – one pair laterally through the sheers on either side of the “live” collar, one from side girts to bottom side rails down through the ends of the crowntree, and one from crowntree to the undersides of the sheers. It is noteworthy that the selection and judicious use of thickened-out principal members, as practised at Bardfield Saling and Aythorpe Roding, was almost absent in this mill, which may perhaps be seen as a utility model, made under the rigours of increasingly competitive millwrighting and probably a tightly held purse. The exception – to prove the rule – was provided by the prow post, thickened under the weather beam from its basic size of 7in square.

 The mill last used a pair of single-shuttered patents with ten bays of three canvas-covered vanes and two commons on the inside middling. They revolved anti-clockwise on an iron windshaft which had a long sleeve behind the brake wheel, either as a reinforcement or a counterweight to the lengthy sails, which cleared the ground by 3ft only. The two spindle beams, for the head and tail stones, were both of oak, 52in and 73in on centres from the crowntree, respectively, the rear being of heavier section, 11in square, also functioning as tail beam. Both beams, with twin tenons at either end, were carried by long timbers with moulded ends bolted below the top side rails, tapered wedges being used to give fine adjustment.

 The mill may have started life with a wooden windshaft; at all events it had a 10ft diameter brakewheel converted from compass to clasp arm, with wood cogs driving an all-iron wallower of 30in diameter. Directly below, and hooked to it, was the solid wooden great spur gear driving solid-planked stone nuts on either side, the stones being overdrift. To disengage, all the spindles were put out of gear from glut boxes, above which older housings for such were visible. Below the two pairs of forward stones were the bridge trees of 11 by 9in oak held by heavy oak hangers from the forward face of the crowntree and running forwards to a heavy wooden block bolted onto the prow post in the case of the central tree, and to the brays in the case of the stone trees. The brays, of 7½ in by 4in oak, were controlled at their outer ends near the mill sides through steelyards to the governors mounted one either side of the central bridgetree behind the prow post. This horizon of moving controls gives us one reason why the spout floor height should have been fixed at about 10ft. Of the stones, only one pair of burrs, forward left, remained at the time of inspection.

 The rear stone assembly is unlikely to have been original; iron predominated and some pine timbers were employed. The stones were underdriven from an 8-armed iron mortice tail wheel through a small iron wallower of 18in diameter. There was a heavy wooden bridgetree below to carry the upright shaft and an all-iron spur wheel, and the stones lay to the left, regulated by a governor driven from a wooden pulley of about 18in diameter over the spur wheel. The wood cogs of the iron tail wheel were not only secured at the rear by iron pins passing through the length of the shanks, but – to make assurance doubly sure – the shanks were trimmed to the form of dovetails between which wooden wedges were driven.

 As to auxiliary drives and aids, the mill was well utilised. The drive for the dresser in the tail was by belt from a pulley mounted on the end of an octagonal wooden shaft running right to left behind the brakewheel. This was turned by a wooden skew gear in mesh with the brakewheel cogs in their downward transit. The sack hoist in the roof was driven from a large built-on pulley on the forward side of the brakewheel, the sack traps being left of centre and just behind the crowntree. The striking gear was controlled internally. At the rear right of the stone floor was a 2ft diameter 5-armed iron pulley with a 4in face turned manually from the spout floor, and acting through a pinion and rack on the rear of the striking rod. The brake lever, 13ft long, and heavier at the rear, operated a wooden brake, having an iron section where the spur wheel would otherwise have fouled it.

 Considering the many operations involved, the mill allowed ample freedom of movement for stone dressing, bagging and storage, and was lighted by small windows on the sides and rear. There was also a small port at front right on the spout floor for the miller to check the oncoming weather.


Post mill, gone


In the roundhouse the main post bore the deep-cut inscription “Richard Hills Maed Me Aprill The 25 1640” but this date may not necessarily refer to the last construction, in which an old but sound post could have been used.

Dr Turner went over the derelict mill c1920 and took several photographs of the interior. His views show the octagonal vats round two pairs of breast stones which were driven from below. A wooden brake wheel of orthodox design drove an iron mortice wallower on an upright shaft. Exterior photographs show one pair of anti-clockwise single-shuttered patent sails and the middling for the missing pair; below the canister was a black “bib” down the mill prow. On both sides the weatherboarding was angled out for five runs at about side girt level, but for what purpose is not obvious.


Post mill, standing today


The technical description of the mill that follows is based on observations made both before and after the restoration of 1964. A quoted date of building – 1680 – may be discounted by reference to the documentary evidence given above and by the character of the mill itself. The construction of 1830 was probably based on the use of parts of the old mill supplemented by new additions, in such a way as to achieve strength and capacity with reasonable economy. The roof ridge is 43ft above the ground and about 25ft above the spout floor, below which is a two-storeyed roundhouse offering good stowage, but the dimensions of the body, 18ft 6in by 11ft, were inferior to those of at least two other post mills formerly close at hand.

 The substructure is of oak, mounted on stout, splayed brick piers supporting an oak post 28in square at the base and 20in diameter at the top, the overall length being 18ft to the crowntree, with a well-formed circular section on the spout floor. The crosstrees, 22ft long, and the quarterbars are of normal size; the lower crosstree gives a 6½ ft clearance over the ground floor, and its upper face forms part of the second floor in the roundhouse, with sack traps in each quadrant. The sheers, about 10in square, and crowntree, 21in wide by 19in deep, are of relatively slight section and could be relics of the progenitor of this mill; both have been plated with timbers to add strength. The collar is, on the contrary, unusually stout, made from 10in by 7in oak timbers about 4½ feet long. The side girts, also in oak, measure 9in wide by 16in deep, narrower, therefore, than many, but extend from front to rear corner posts through the full length of the mill, there being no annexed section at the rear. The oak corner posts are all uniform, of 8in square section, not jowled or thickened out at the upper ends, and the top side rails are morticed onto them, projecting beyond the weatherboarding at both ends to ensure a good strong mortise for the corner post tenons. The right side girt has cracked badly, while the opposite girt has been strapped with iron to forestall similar trouble. The side framing on the spout floor follows the common pattern, having two intermediate upright posts spaced by a straining piece some 2ft above floor level, which takes the thrust from a pair of diagonals entering the underside of the side girts, as at Mill Green.

 The forward member of each pair of uprights, or window posts, is cut off below the crowntree, which blocks their passage upwards. The posts are 7in by 5in on 34in centres, and so could accommodate a 26in or smaller crowntree between, if the dovetail housing under the side girt were suitably cut. At the rear of the crowntree the side girts show a blocked-in housing for a lap dovetail where they clearly formerly rested on the crowntree; this suggests that the whole mill frame has been moved about 9in backwards in relation to the crowntree. Formerly, tie rods ran centrally between the window posts from crowntree end to bottom side rail – as empty drilled holes testify; these rods became no longer of service in their entirety, and have been superseded by two vertical tie rods on either side of the mill running at mid-distance between crowntree and corner posts, and tying side girts to bottom side rails. A motive for this radical change could have been provided by an upset of balance due to a conversion from the head and tail stones plan to two in the head, or to a severe bout of headsickness not foreseen, and perhaps exacerbated by the substitution of an iron for a wooden windshaft. Confirmation of a redeployment of stones is not forthcoming. Though the check for tell-tale mortices towards the rear of the inside faces of the top side rails, which might indicate the former presence of a spindle beam, is hampered by added pine pieces, one can ascertain that a pair of opposed mortices is present, but they probably housed the ends of a former tail beam. This may have given support also to a stone spindle; there is, however, no trace of former rear stone bearers, or bridgetree and governor positions, and one concludes that when the mill was rebuilt in 1830 it was broadly to the present design. The present tail beam is in pine, 12 in square, and is supported by the 8in by 5in pine pieces above-mentioned plated to the top rails and reinforced by posts footed on the side girts. The forward spindle beam, by contrast, is in oak.

 Above the girts there is no triangulation up to the top rails, contrary to Mill Green, but diagonals converging upwards are present on the two main panels of the forward face and on the middle panel of the rear face of the mill. The side frames of the body are locked together in the transverse sense in the usual manner by the weatherbeam – 14in minimum width at the ends by 10in deep, in oak, and the rear member, over the top side rails; also by the crowntree, two intermediate members forward and aft, and the front and rear sills just over sheer level below. The forward spindle beam and tail beam for the windshaft are tenoned into the top side rails, or added pieces, as described, and formed the basis for the bin “floor” above. A large bin at the rear of this floor fed the bolter below, driven by belt from the left side of the brake wheel.

 The bulk of the mill machinery is crowded into the forward section of the mill body, measuring 8ft from the post pintle to the prow, compared with 10ft 6in to the rear. The iron upright shaft carried, in descending order, and on the stone floor, an upturned iron mortice bevel gear for the dresser drive (66 cogs), an iron mortice wallower (24 cogs), and a wood-rimmed pulley for the governor drive. An iron mortice great spur gear (63 cogs) below the stone floor drove two stone nuts of 20 cogs each. The brake wheel had 63 cogs; thus for one revolution of the sails, the nuts and stones made 8½ revolutions. The underdriven 4ft stones may have replaced stones of larger diameter which were accommodated only at the expense of clearance cuts in the side girts, stressing the importance of the extra width of one foot at the rival post mills in Bocking in the last century. It is noteworthy that the clearance arcs are centred a few inches behind the stone spindles, thereby indicating that the mill body was moved rearwards after the stones had been used in the head, and not in preparation for that disposition.

 The brake wheel, 7ft 8in in diameter, had been converted from compass arm to clasp arm. The four cants were built to a “follow-round” pattern, each offering a mortice at one end and extending a tenon at the other, in regular sequence, a principle of construction also used in the sack-hoist pulley built onto the iron square forward of the brake wheel. The bevel gear for the dresser drive mounted over the wallower would have fouled the brake wheel arms, which were accordingly crudely cut away up to 1in deep, while the inner cant edges have also suffered. Such butchery of the painstaking work of earlier craftsmen in wind and watermills is not unusual.

 The governor lay forward of the belt pulley on the upright shaft in the angle between the stones, and actuated a short primary steelyard pivoted on the rear face of the prick post, whence, from its midpoint, two secondary steelyards extended right and left, suspended from the weatherbeam by chains and hooks. Links from the rods controlled the wooden brays – pivoted on either side of the prick post on the floor below – at their free ends close to the corner posts. The bridgetrees and sprattle for the upright shaft necessarily ran fore and aft, and the hangers depending from the crowntree were braced laterally by a number of artistically disposed curved iron stays. The stone nuts were raised out of gear by twin spindles and rings screwed up from below. The meal descended into two bins at the front, leaving ample working space at the rear and sides of the spout floor.

 The roundhouse contained one pair of 4ft stones on the upper floor, underdriven by steam engine on the east side, with belt drive through an aperture in the wall. Wind drive to the stones above appears latterly to have been by one pair of common sails and one pair of spring sails having semi-elliptic springs.


Tower mill, gone


The brick tower housed five floors, and its double-shuttered anti-clockwise patent sails drove three pairs of stones underdrift on the second floor above ground level. The windshaft and upright shaft were of iron, the brake wheel of wood, and the great spur was an iron mortice wheel. The cap was domed with an ogee finish and finial above, and a deep petticoat below, and was turned by a 6-bladed fan. There was neither gallery around the cap nor stage around the tower. A two-storey granary was built on as at Tendring, in which a fourth pair of stones was driven.


Smock mill, gone


The surviving photograph shows the more primitive type of smock mill, with a weatherboarded octagonal frame over a scarcely visible brick base, which may, however, have been let into the mound. There is a domed cap with rear extension, and a fantail grafted on at a later date as at Cripplegate Mill, Southminster. There was neither stage nor gallery. The four single-shuttered spring sails were winded by a six-bladed fantail. According to insurance records, metal bridgetrees (1878) were replaced by wooden ones (1884), an unusual sequence of events if accurately recorded.


Post mill, gone


The mill last worked with four single-shuttered anti-clockwise patent sails, struck from the rear exterior, and winding was by a 6-bladed fantail over the rear steps. The mill body was plainly boarded, with no protuberances, and the provision of windows was meagre.


Post mill, gone


At Broxted there was a “convenience” for a second pair of stones and a roundhouse had been added. At some time there was evidently a conversion from one to two stones in the breast and the replacement of a wooden windshaft by an iron one. The brake wheel was of converted compass arm type. The mill had two pairs of patent sails, operated from inside, a bolter, an oat crusher and a large grindstone. The last stood outside the mill body on the left of the platform under the attractively finished porch, offering a very minor segment inside the mill body through a slot in the weatherboarding for trimming the mill bills.

 From photographs and random notes by writers on Essex windmills the sparse technical details recorded above can be a little expanded. The overall height of the mill was about 40ft, of which the body, only 17½ ft by 10½ ft in plan, accounted for 24ft. The stones were 4ft in diameter and a tight fit in the breast, not originally designed for two pairs. They were overdriven from the reconditioned brakewheel, carrying iron segment teeth, through an iron wallower and stone nuts mortised for wood cogs, and were controlled by a single governor on the stone floor, as at Bocking. The sack hoist and oat crusher were drive from the side of the brakewheel by a skew gear and countershaft.

 The late Rev F G Clarke records that the main post was of elm, and its treachery much feared by the miller, who during high winds would leave the mill to its own devices for fear of the post snapping. A photograph of the debris of the mill parts shows the upper section of the post laid with iron strakes secured by circular iron bands. Donald Smith comments on the nicely arched camber of the quarterbars above the crosstrees, which were 5ft over ground level. The rear ladder had a sack slide, and the tailpole a rack for raising the ladder “exactly similar to the old chimney-pot racks”. It also held a winch to assist in winding the mill.

 The mill finally coasted to a standstill in 1914 on two pairs of anti-clockwise single-shuttered patent sails, one pair having very wide leading boards. Rex Wailes gives the dimensions of the last pairs as spanning 60ft, being 20in wide on the leading side and 5ft on the driving side. The middlings were 9½ in by 12½ in deep at centre and extended about 38ft.


Smock mill, gone


This once conspicuous and majestic mill, with double-storied base, tarred octagonal body, and white stage, sails, fan and dome-shaped cap with finial was featured on the nineteenth-century maps from first to last.

 Copious notes from D W Muggeridge, and inspection of the base with Denis Sanders in 1971, and the scrutiny of exterior photographs of the mill, afford details of technical interest. One drawing and one photograph of the mill in working order show four double-shuttered anti-clockwise patent sails with 8 bays of 3 shutters and 2 inner bays of 2, making a total of 224, large and small, to maintain, no mean task. They were wood-framed with canvas covers. The eight-bladed fantail was mounted between two posts close in to the rear of the cap and the gearing was accessible from a slatted platform with an attractively designed surround, giving the mill an important feature of its distinctive character. Below the cap were dust, bin, stone spout and ground floors. All the nails and pegs used in the construction were hand-made. The brakewheel, upright shaft and great spur gear were wooden; the windshaft, wallower and stone nuts of iron. There were three pairs of French stones, two of 4ft 3in and one of 4ft 4in; these were mounted on a hurst. On the same floor was the flour dresser.

 The existing brick base, of stout construction, has vertical walls inside measuring 21ft between opposing sides of the octagon, and stepped brickwork outside, as seen in Frost’s mill, Halstead, but here on a more ambitious scale: no fewer than a dozen steps in 70 courses, with an overall thickness at ground level of 3ft 6in. Within the base the main beams up to stone-floor level are still in position, and one may see how the hurst carrying the great weight of the stones was supported by a set of 11in square pine posts, standing on the ground floor and making a “box” of about 8ft by 11ft, their tops emerging about 2ft over stone floor level, now close to the roof of the truncated structure. The main floor beams, also of pine, are housed in and bolted to these posts. The elm sprattle beam, 14in wide by 9in deep, was centred by wedge adjustment at its ends in cuts in the two second-floor beams, which were 11in square.

MOUNT BURES, Newman’s Mill

Post mill, gone


The mill and single-storied roundhouse were painted white, and were built for one of the family line. The structure was well constructed and neatly finished, with sash windows to light the interior. There had been two common and two spring sails, but these were replaced by four single-shuttered anti-clockwise springs. They were carried by an iron windshaft fitted with a wooden brake wheel. There were two pairs of 4ft French burrs in the mill breast and a further pair in the detached steam mill. The post mill also contained a bolter and an oat crusher. Winding was by tailpole, under which was placed a winch to raise the ladder.

Doe’s Mill

Post mill, gone


Auxiliary steam drive was used here from 1882 or before, eventually to be replaced by an oil engine housed in an dug-out below roundhouse level, which drove a pair of 4ft 4in French burrs and an oat crusher inside the base.

 In view of its late survival until 1953, photographs of the mill abound, showing a plain exterior over a single-storied roundhouse of brick with a tarred and felted roof. There was no fantail. There were a pair each of common and spring sails, the latter tensioned by rack and pinion, and both pairs had strong clamps at the centre. The vanes were of canvas on wooden frames. The windshaft was wooden and circular, like the centre post, and had an iron poll end and wooden clasp-arm head and tail wheels, which drove respectively 4ft 6in and 4ft French burrs. Both stone nuts were of wood, planked solid. A flour dresser was lodged in the tail, and in general the mill was of unexceptional design.


North mill (smock mill), gone


The Burnham Society’s documents include a most oddly phrased inventory relating to the mill in 1871. From this it seems that the two pairs of stones were underdrift and situated on the second floor. There was a dresser drive on the upright shaft on the bin floor, and the sack hoist was on the dust floor. The “third or wheat” floor had two barley bins and a grist hopper, and the dust floor had hoppers for the two flour dressers.

 Two photographs of the mill exist, one of which is thought to date from about 1891. These show two common sails with furled cloth, and two single-shuttered spring sails which swept down to a stage over the single-storied base. The batter of the tower was pronounced, offering space for as many as four pairs of stones, one would suppose, but here was an example of a mill on which little capital was expended towards modernisation. The 6-bladed fantail was added to the rear overhang of the cap in an improvised style reminiscent of the smock mills in this part of the county, and the angles of the smock and cap frames were evidently protected by zinc flashing or some other form of weatherproofing.

South Mill (Town Mill) (open-trestle post mill, gone)


Surviving photographs show four single-shuttered anti-clockwise patent sails with canvas shutters in one pair at least, the sails descending very closely to the ground. The striking wheel was carried externally at the rear right side of the mill body, behind which was a full-width and attractively-shaped porch built over the tail ladder. Practical additions were a weather vane and sack slide.


Post mill, gone


A technical commentary on the mill can be based on a dozen or more photographic views ranging in date from the last days of work to the period of imminent collapse in 1928, and also on notes made after 1969 on the surviving but fast decaying base members and main post. The body was of the possibly “extended” type, having “false” rear corner posts, and the side framing appears to have resembled closely that at Mill Green, Ingatestone, with comparable intermediate uprights and diagonals. A shallow compartment was built out behind the rear at stone-floor level to house the dresser for which there was presumably otherwise insufficient room behind the tail stones. The sails, two common and two spring – the springs being quarter-elliptic set halfway along the whip – were mounted in an iron poll end set into a wooden windshaft carrying head and tail wheels, the former with six cants, and both of wood. The tail ladder was hinged directly below the rear door for tailpole winding. There was a single-storey brick roundhouse with an upturned collar at the apex of the roof giving good weather protection.

 When the mill collapsed in 1928 the main post, with all below it, stood firm, and survived thus for about forty more years, festooned with ivy and screened by undergrowth. Spanning tall brick piers, the crosstrees, about 23ft long and 14in square, were cut about 2in at side and top at the junction with the main post; the lower tree was bowed and passed almost wholly under the upper member. The quarterbars, 12in square, were tenoned into the main post, but without the refinement of a shallow full-width housing as seen at Mill Green. The quarterbar-crosstree junctions, with double birdsmouth joints, were reinforced as necessary with applied cheek pieces. The post was 25in square at base and 19ft 4in overall as last seen, but at some date the top had been reduced, presumably to eliminate rot, and elaborate measures taken to form a suitable bearing surface. A thick wooden plate, with neatly moulded and chamfered ends, was bolted to the underside of the crowntree and a square iron plate, presumably with a central socket (unseen) was affixed to that in turn. The post, of 20in diameter at the top, was inlaid vertically with eight iron bars 38in by 2¼ in by 1¼ in deep to form a corset held by three iron bands. Over the tops of these bars was bolted a circular iron plate with – one may deduce from a photograph – a pintle cast integrally, projecting upwards. This plate was bolted to the post through four lugs. To allow this surgical operation the mill was probably jacked up from the underside of the sheers, which in this mill were secured to the crowntree by iron tie rods.

 Also of interest in the wreckage of the 1960s was the iron poll end with the winged gudgeon cast integrally for insertion into the wooden windshaft. The casting had an overall length of about 5ft. The wings measured 18in long by 6in by 1½ in and the windshaft was cut accordingly, and with a circular bore of 8in diameter at centre to take the boss or axis of the gudgeon. The stubs of the wooden shaft were held to the gudgeon by exterior follow-round iron ties; in addition, plain bolts, suitably staggered, were let through the shaft and holes drilled in the gudgeon wings to ensure a rigid fixture. The effective dimensions of the sail box or poll end mortices were 11in across by 14in in the line of the shaft.

 Cecil Hewett, writing in The Arts Bulletin (Providence, Rhode Island, USA Vol L 1968 p70-74), described the windshaft at Billericay, which he saw complete, as “problematical”, in that it had a squared section for a clasp-arm brakewheel but had carried a compass-arm wheel. A possible explanation is that the shaft was a replacement for one of all-wooden construction, and had been fitted de novo with an iron poll; to avoid further incisions into the wood near the head, an existing compass-arm brakewheel may have been converted to clasp arm (which point could not be checked at the time of examination), while the compass-arm brake wheel was dismantled and reassembled on the new shaft. Hewett also reported a crowntree, tapered and with stop chamfers, to the ends of which the side girts were secured by lap dovetails, and the use of twin tenons both in the collar and in the “transverse keys or woodwears” which formed with the sheers the square around the post.


Post mill, gone


The mill had a plain weatherboarded body and a single-storied roundhouse. Four single-shuttered anti-clockwise patent sails were turned to wind by a suitably angled six-bladed fantail over the rear steps.


Post mill, gone


A photograph shows the mill in working order with cloth spread over two sails and closed shutters on a pair of spring sails, the whole turning anti-clockwise. Winding was by a 6-bladed fantail over the rear steps. There was a single-storied brick roundhouse and the sails passed a foot or so over ground level. The roof and two-thirds of the front were covered by metal sheeting.

 Dr Turner visited the mill in 1919 and recorded a few details of the interior. There were two pairs of stones. He commented on the iron windshaft and oak brake wheel, and described the centre post as rounded and less massive than many; in fact Samuel Clarke thought it the smallest he had ever seen in a post mill.

GREAT CHESTERFORD Two smock mills, both gone

TL506437 and 507437

A painting exists showing both windmills viewed from the south west. The mills were of similar appearance, built as 8-sided smock mills on one-storey bases, without stages, and with white-painted caps, four anti-clockwise double-shuttered sails and fantails. The caps were dome-shaped, without finials, and the fan posts were placed upright with low diagonals set in from front and rear off base timbers which ran well out from the cap. The western mill appears taller.


Post mill, gone


At least four photographic views of the mill survive, all showing a single pair of anti-clockwise double-shuttered patent sails with canvas-covered vanes, and the spider coupling for a second pair. A 6-bladed fantail was fitted above the rear of the tail ladder, and the roundhouse was two-floored. The mill is readily classed with those of the Tendring Hundred, partaking of the Suffolk tradition. The body was plain-boarded without protuberances.

CLAVERING, two tower mills, both standing today

South Mill


There were two pairs of French burrs and no engine drive. The other mill suffered a similar fate wind-wise, but continued to drive three pairs of burrs by engine for several more decades. The south mill had single-shuttered spring sails according to one authority, and another stated that the shutters were set by a crank handle near the sail tips and locked into position, as designed by one Hunter of Bishops Stortford. Under this arrangement the shutters frequently broke. The cap was of beehive type and had a gallery and a deep petticoat built out at the rear to afford shelter to a presumed worm gear to the curb. The mills had caps and fantails of close family resemblance.

North Mill


The north mill was altogether larger, with five floors and single-shuttered clockwise patent sails. The three pairs of stones were overdriven on the second floor, and the engine drive, introduced as stated below, was applied to the great spur wheel on this floor via a vertical spindle and spur pinion. In reference to the stones T C Hunt, the Soham millwright (who reckoned the ground floor to be the first floor), sent a note to Rex Wailes: “At North Mill…universal irons are used. They take the balance of the stones on four points and are not so sensitive as those of the bar type.” He went on: “We put a 16 hp oil engine in this mill in 1919, and drove through the second floor with a pair of mitre wheels to the spur gear on the third floor. The stones were on that floor and the meal was delivered to a bin on the second floor and then from a hole in the bottom of the bin with a sleeve to a sack on the bottom floor. The miller liked to stir the meal up before it went in the sack. He used to pull it up to the second floor with the sack chain and load the carts from the second floor. The last job I did at that mill was to fit a combined mill and oat crusher, as he had a good oat meal trade and the land round there used to grow a lot of crow onions in the corn so if he put it on a sharp pair of stones it would paste them up, so he liked the grinding mill for that corn.”

 In 1974 the mill still retained a wooden upright shaft with a double clasp-arm great spur wheel, the drive to the surviving pair of stones on the west side, and three sets of wooden bridgetrees and brays. The last, suspended by hangers, were similar in character and probably original. The bridgetrees run tangentially to the great spur wheel, which is situated on the floor above, and occupy the east, south and west quarters. The west stones have a two-piece quant similar to those at Thaxted, but the flanged couplings, marked for correct assembly, incorporate a dog clutch. The iron nut, which was overhung, could be raised out of gear by a lever, the quant journal having been extended down sufficiently to enable it to rise through the bearing.

 A downturned bevel gear ring had been built on to the underside of the great spur wheel; this drove, through a horizontal shaft, the sack hoist on the bin floor by slack-belt control, and also a grindstone on the stone floor. There were traces of a further drive from the bevel, and the engine drive, mentioned by Hunt, was in position in 1974, in the form of a vertical shaft with spur pinion resembling a stone nut meshing with the main spur cogs. A striking feature of the spout floor was the centrally placed meal bin made of wood, deep and round and calling to mind the old-fashioned washing tub; it was divided into three compartments, one for each pair of stones.

COLCHESTER, Mile End Mill (East)

Post mill, gone


A copy of an old, partly retouched photograph of the mill came to light in May 1981. There were four single-shuttered anti-clockwise sails, apparently of spring type, turned to wind by a 6-bladed fantail mounted over the rear ladder. The mill body, in white-painted weatherboarding, and the single-storeyed brick roundhouse were of unexceptional appearance.


Post mill, gone


After the subsequent removal of the mill body the roundhouse, with the central aperture of the roof tiled over to complete the apex of the cone, stood for close on a century as a store, retaining its brick piers and substructure, including the main post to about 2ft over spout floor level. The whole was taken away for a redevelopment scheme in April 1973, and the timbers deposited in a breaker’s premises in Tendring. There, an examination gave credence to the removal allegation, showing that an old centre post had been provided with a new and larger set of quarterbars. The post was cut from a 28in square heart of oak and reduced to a 16-side of 23in diameter in the spout floor. In the original construction the upper crosstree passed through at 25in on centre above the base of the horns, and the old mortices for the corresponding quarterbars were 7ft 3in on centre above the crosstree centre. A sawn-off section of the old crosstree or a block of similar size was held up by a wood plate, and the new crosstrees accommodated below that, the cuts in the post being sufficiently high to allow this to be done. A second, newer set off quarterbar mortices, 4½ in deep, like their predecessors, were cut into the post 11in on centres above the old, leaving little room below the sheers, where a collar was apparently dispensed with. The span from upper crosstree to quarterbar mortice in the post on centres in the new construction was 9ft 3in, or 2ft more than in the old. In the original substructure the gap between the crosstrees at centre must have been quite large, as at Mountnessing, for the recess in the post for the lower crosstree extends upwards only 9 ½ in (as compared with 30in for the upper).

 The crosstrees, 26ft long by nearly a foot square, were dissimilar, the upper being uniform throughout, but the lower, on which was painted “Mind Your Head”, having a splayed-out section – unusually on its sides – with which to abut the post. Here it reached a potential width of 16in, but was cut away with vertical, angled recesses to accommodate wedges driven against the post horns.  Large shakes in the post, encouraged by the excessive cuts and by strong wedging, had been counteracted by stout, specially curved iron straps partly notched into the upper crosstree and secured to the horns on either side as low down as possible to prevent divergence.

 The oak quarterbars, about 12in by 11in in section, and with double birdsmouth cuts, were mostly sound. Shairwood Contracts Ltd generously gave them to Roland W Smith for future mill work, as needed.

COLCHESTER, Greenstead

Post mill, gone


{There was} stowage for a hundred quarters in the roundhouse, which photographs show to have been part brick and part weatherboard above, surmounted by a tiled roof. One photograph of the mill shows it with four common sails, probably as an economy measure before all else, but another shutter to each bay. There was also a fantail over the rear ladder. A note by D W Muggeridge states that there was a wooden windshaft with an iron poll, and that the stones were laid head and tail, being of 5ft and 4ft diameter respectively.

CRESSING, Phillips’ Mill

Post mill, gone


There were two pairs of stones in the head, but other details of the machinery were not remembered. A single surviving photograph shows a pair of anti-clockwise single-shuttered sails and a pair of commons; also a plain-built body over a multi-sided and boarded roundhouse with the roof turned almost vertically upwards under the spout floor to exclude the weather. There was a sack slide on the ladder and a projecting pole for winding.

DAGENHAM, Marks Gate

Smock mill, gone


At least five photographs survive showing a tall mill evidently with dust, bin, stone and spout floors in the smock section above the base. The cap was unlike those of Upminster and Barking, being of the wagon-shaped type familiar in Kent, with straight ridge and a uniform section from front to rear, and devoid of a petticoat. There was a state at first-floor level. The stones were driven by four single-shuttered anti-clockwise sails with ten bays, and winding was by a 6-bladed fantail. Striking gear is not visible in the photographs, but may by their date have been removed for use elsewhere.

DAGENHAM, Chadwell Heath, “Miss Bentley”

Post mill, gone


{The mill was} winded by tailpole and had four double-shuttered anti-clockwise patent sails; one pair with 12 bays of 3 shutters each and one pair with 8 bays similarly provided. There was a slight projection of the mill body above the rear door as at Moreton and High Easter mills, probably to house a dresser, suggestive of an C18 modification. {The mill had a} tall roundhouse.


Post mill, gone


The stones were apparently arranged head and tail. One or two photographs and drawings show a pair of anti-clockwise common sails and what appears to be a pair of patents, with single shutters. The sails descended low and were winded by tailpole. The extension at the rear of the body appears to be at spout floor height only, and possibly contained a small office as seen at Moreton mill.


Debden Green

Post mill, gone


The mill may have finished active life on one pair of sails, for of three known views, two show it so equipped, the survivors of four single-shuttered anti-clockwise patents, probably struck from outside, as suggested by a sketch of 1912. Features of note were a mansard-type roof, projecting top side rails carrying the weatherbeam well forward, and a rear porch. There was tailpole winding with yoke for the shoulders, and a single-storey brick roundhouse.

Tower mill, standing today (tower only, converted to house)


In its late working days the mill possessed, unusually in Essex, two pairs of double-shuttered patent sails turning clockwise. The cap was conical, with a slight curvature, vertically weatherboarded, surrounded by a wooden gallery and a deep petticoat below, and had an exit hatch instead of a finial at the top. The general appearance of cap and fantail recall the regional practice, but it must be noted that there was a late replacement following a gale by which the mill was “entirely dismantled”. This occurred in 1887.

 The mill drove three pairs of stones. It had an iron windshaft and wallower, but the brake wheel, upright shaft and great spur wheel were of wood, the last with iron teeth driving stone nuts with wooden cogs mounted over the stones. There were only three floors over ground level, the lowest reached by a short flight of steps externally as at Clavering south mill.


Tower mill, standing today (tower only, house-converted)


A Latin inscription was placed on the exterior; THELEMA QUI NON LABORAT NON MANDUCET (he who does not work, shall not eat). The mill last worked using four anti-clockwise single-shuttered patent sails. It had a nicely-shaped domed cap with ball finial and a 6-bladed fantail. The rack is still in situ at 40ft above ground level, where the inside diameter of the tower measures about 10ft, compared with 20ft at the base.


Post mill, roundhouse survives


{Mill rebuilt c1875}. The rebuilt mill was much modernised and partook of Suffolk attributes. There was a tall octagonal roundhouse with ample storage room, and two pairs of large underdriven stones in the head with predominantly iron gearing – wood being limited to the cog of the brakewheel and probably the stone nuts. One governor controlled both pairs of stones. The striking gear for the four anti-clockwise single-shuttered patents was operated inside the mill body. A 6-bladed fantail over the rear ladder turned the mill.


Smock mill, gone


An old photograph of the windmill reveals four single-shuttered patent clockwise sails. The boat-shaped cap has an added fantail and what appears to be a hatch or door on the right side of the cap below the fantail framing, probably to give access for greasing the gearing and for general maintenance. There was a single-storey brick base.


Post mill, gone


A photograph, dated 1878 according to Isaac Mead, shows four single-shuttered anti-clockwise sails. The mill body was corbelled out slightly at the front and rear – at weatherbeam level and immediately above the rear door, where there was a bolter. These

features gave the mill a distinctive profile. Winding was by tailpole. The roundhouse was single-storey, but of ample size, and had a tarred roof of radially set boards.


Post mill, gone


{In c1848} the mill was rebuilt in the form in which it is seen in two surviving photographs, in a plain style with no external elaboration. {It had} four single-shuttered {spring} sails. They came within about four feet of ground level. The {wind}shaft was wooden, with an iron canister, and carried brake- and tailwheels, both wooden, driving two pairs of stones. Winding was by a winch on the tailpole and a chain to posts placed around the mill. The site in 1969 was marked by remnants of the roundhouse floor and a foot or so of one brick pier. Two pairs of stones, of 52in and 44in diameter, are laid out as a foursome.

FELSTED, Cock Green

Post mill, gone


According to the last miller the Cock Green mill stood for as long as 200 years, and from photographs one has the impression that it was a typical product of the C18, having the almost routine rear extension. The roof floor or ”stage” was jettied out over a bolter compartment, and that in turn above the rear door, a porch not being employed. No striking gear is seen and the wooden windshaft was never drilled for patent control, as the use of spring sails and the preserved iron poll confirm. The mill was equipped with three pairs of stones: a large pair of good, fast-grinding stones in the head, a smaller pair in the tail, and a pair of 4ft peaks in the roundhouse worked by belt drive from a Shuttleworth portable steam engine. The sails were single-shuttered springs of eight bays each. Both head and tail wheels were of wooden clasp-arm pattern with applewood cogs, driving a wooden and an iron nut respectively for the overdrift stones. The head stones were estimated to turn some 5 times to one revolution of the sails, and the tail stones 7 to 1. Until about 1897 the mill was winded by tailpole but was then fitted with fly tackle from Shalford post mill. The crowntree was a massive piece of oak.

FELSTED, Felsted Common Mill

Post mill, gone


There were two common and two single-shuttered spring sails driving two pairs of stones arranged head and tail. The windshaft was all wooden, in oak, and carried two oak middlings. The white-painted mill body was winded by tail pole.


Post mill, standing today preserved


When Donald Smith visited the mill in c1930, it was already devoid of machinery. He wrote: “The mill stands on an unusually high mill-hill, largely artificial, something like 20 feet above the level of the road. It is 10ft wide by 16 feet 6 inches deep, having a bay of 3ft 6in added at the back to take the bolter. She had a single pair of stones, which were taken out and sold when she was disused. The stones and gear are completely gone, and the front part of the middle floor was taken out to release them, leaving a yawning chasm. The windshaft is of oak and has no tail wheel. The following initials and dates are cut on the inside of the mill; on the middle storey, “W.A.1760, W.G.1760, W.S.1773”; and on the crowntree is cut a little figure of a post mill and “W & S 1777.” The date 1840 is cut on a brick in the roundhouse.”

 The numerous photographs of the mill in derelict state show four single-shuttered spring sails in the all-wooden windshaft, which was replaced by Essex County Council during post-1957 restoration work by the iron shaft from Gainsford End, Toppesfield. The wooden shaft, the last surviving in Essex, is preserved in the roundhouse, together with the brake wheel, an 8ft 8in double clasp-arm wheel with six cants and wood cogs. Some original timbers remain in the body, from which the stone floor and much of the spout floor have been removed. The side girts spanned only 12ft between the main corner posts. To the last the mill was turned to wind by tailpole, and in connection with the winding an unusual feature was the trimming of the upper part of the collar to give a raised circular land to act as a steady bearing to the sheers, which were cut away to suit. Plugged mortices in the post between the quarterbars indicate prop-holds during repairs, and haunches or steps left on the inside lower sections of the post horns below the upper crosstree show that the member must have been introduced end-wise and perhaps given additional support from the haunches, for which no other purpose is readily apparent.

Daw Street

Post mill, gone


The mill had a brick roundhouse. The last set of sails were single-shuttered anti-clockwise springs with canvas-covered vanes. They descended within inches of the ground. Winding was by tailpole.

Monks Mill, Cornish Hall End

Post mill, gone


The mill worked for a time on two common and two single-shuttered spring sails until a pair were blown off. It had a two-storied brick and slated roundhouse and was winded by tailpole. The two pairs of stones were side by side in the breast. Photographs show indeed a substantial mill, without rear extensions. The ladder stringers entered at mid-door level as at Birch and Great Easton mills. One view shows how closely the sails approached the ground.


Post mill, gone


At least four photographs of the mill in decay are to be seen. It appears as an unexceptional Essex-style post mill with single-storied roundhouse, tailpole winding, and a pair each of common and single-shuttered sails passing a few feet from ground level. The vaned sails appear to have been regulated by striking gear. Through holes in the weatherboarding part of a normal framing is visible.


Post mill, gone


An indistinct photograph, showing the mill as a distant detail and already in bad shape, grudgingly reveals four brick piers and an open substructure bearing a conventional mill body winded by tailpole. There were four single-shuttered sails with nine bays in each.