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Technical descriptions of English windmills



Post mill, roundhouse survives


The {surviving} roundhouse is substantial, being two-floored and of 24ft internal diameter, built entirely separate from the four brick piers, behind which it passes. It stands 12ft high to the eaves, and is stepped inwards by 2½ in at 7ft over ground level. Two windows and a stable door were provided on each floor; the absence of a second door at either level suggests a tall body with sails revolving well over the ground. The four brick piers are lightly stepped on all four faces to give an upward taper and are each over 6ft tall, so giving freedom of movement behind the crosstrees. These are still in position, with part of the main post and small sections of the quarterbars. The lower crosstree is 14in wide by 13in deep and is rebated on the sides at the junction with the post, and cut down 4in under the upper crosstree, a gap of 1in being left between them. The quarterbars, 11in by 10in, are of “boxed” heart of oak, and are secured by an iron strap and footed with double birdsmouth joints. One crosstree has been repaired by scarf jointing, the overall length of the splice being 46in, and the need for this may have hastened the addition of the roundhouse. The presumption that it was added, based on three points of evidence implicit in the above survey, is further strengthened by the fact that the ends of the crosstrees in at least two cases were weathered with lead.


Post mill, gone


Several views of the mill in working order are preserved. It had a plain weatherboarded body, with neat sash windows on the stone and spout floors, standing over a capacious roundhouse, evidently two-floored. The rear ladder stringers rose to mid-door level as at Birch, and a six-bladed fan set well down over the ladder turned the mill to wind. It would appear from a photograph of the wreck that the mill never had a tailpole. The centre post, though reputedly new, snapped at the quarterbar junction, a vulnerable point. An unusual feature for an Essex mill is indistinctly seen immediately below the sheers. Here, it would appear, a circular iron plate was bolted up carrying small inset rollers to run on a track, presumably set on the upper surface of a collar, not visible in the photographs. At Topcroft, Norfolk, and Bledlow Ridge, Bucks, among others there were comparable arrangements. Nothing is revealed of the drive to the stones. In one photograph the sails are seen to be double-shuttered anti-clockwise patents, well clamped over the canister, with nine bays of three shutters in each, and set from within the mill, but in 1907 there were four sails with single canvas-covered shutters. Although details of the mill’s machinery are not available, it is thought that there were two pairs of stones in the head, which is most likely correct.


Post mill, gone


A tie rod braced the tailpole to the rear transverse member, or thereabouts, at the base of the roof rafters.

 Many photographs and some paintings of the windmill exist, mostly dating from the days of dereliction. One view, however, shows the mill in full working order, complete with the external tackle so quickly removed after the stones have ground their last. From these pictures the approximate dimensions given below are taken, and must be treated with some reserve. An unusual feature was the 16-sided, weatherboarded roundhouse standing about 2ft 6in over the sloping ground level which may occasionally have been awash. The doors were entered by a short flight of steps. The brick piers, remnants of which remain in situ, nominally contributing to the support of the clubhouse, were some 8-9 feet high, their buttressed rears visible. The roundhouse was therefore perched up high, the base of the roof being about 12ft from the ground. The mill body, 20ft by 12ft in plan, and 28ft to the roof ridge, rose to an overall height of approximately 45ft, carrying the sails of 65ft span which swept 5ft from ground level.

 There is no known record of a fatality at this mill but Archer {former miller}, a family man, was perhaps responsible for the notice painted on a brick pier: “Beware of the Sails”. A movable platform, about 2ft 6in high and 3ft 6in square, was pushed round the mill on four rollers, slightly toed in to run crab fashion around the mill base for tending to the mill sails. It would also have reduced accident risk if kept under the revolving sails. There were two commons on the outside middling and two double-shuttered patents on the inside, turning anti-clockwise seen from the front. The vanes were controlled by – to all appearances – a rocking lever at the rear instead of a Y-wheel, a pull on the striking rod rearwards having the effect of closing them. There were no leading boards. The patents had 9 bays with 3 shutters each on the leading side, complemented by 7 bays with 3 of full width, one bay of 3 shorter shutters and an innermost bay boarded over on the trailing side.

 The mill was winded by manual pressure on the tailpole, for which a lever to raise the steps with a 7 to 1 advantage and a yoke at the rear were employed. The yoke consisted simply of two battens let vertically down through the tailpole extremity, spaced to take the miller’s shoulders.

 Little is now to be discerned of the internal arrangements. A fragment of a six-cant clasp-arm brakewheel is preserved, estimated to have been about 10ft in diameter. Exposed side framing in later pictures reveals an orthodox pattern, seemingly with main rear corner posts at the extremities of the body, suggesting therefore all-through side girts.


Bentley Mill

Tower mill, gone


{The sails of Bentley mill} were said to contain 39 shutters, all of wood but with one bay shortened at the centre. This agrees with a photograph of the windmill showing four double-shuttered anti-clockwise patent sails with 13 bays on the leading and 12 on the trailing side of the whips, the mill itself being of such height and girth as to carry these heavy sails comfortably aloft, well above ground level. The massive cap descended in a graceful parabolic curve from front to rear, behind which was set a six-bladed fantail. There was a walkway round the cap, but no stage below. This mill doubtless justified its good reputation, and the stone floor can be presumed to have accommodated four pairs of stones with ease.

Brook Street Mill

Post mill, gone


There are two known photographic views. One of the rear of the structure shows four single-shuttered anti-clockwise sails, which an indistinct front view appears to indicate as patents. Winding was by tailpole. The body, with a plain rear face and a single-floored roundhouse, was of unexceptional appearance. The sail-circle is seen to reach almost to the ground.


Post mill, gone


Tall Suffolk-type post mill. {It} drove three pairs of stones, all overdrift: two pairs of four-foot stones in the head and one in the tail, using double-shuttered anti-clockwise patent sails in an iron windshaft. To close the shutters the striking rod was pushed forward. Sails above head height. The fan tackle over the rear steps drove the carriage wheels over a wooden track.


Post mill, gone


Both the mill and the roundhouse were boarded and painted white, the latter being octagonal and having a ground floor only. The weatherboarding of the body was brought down on all sides to within inches of the roof below, giving a neat and trim appearance. No tailpole was visible, and the mill was winded by an 8-bladed fantail over the rear of the ladder. There were four single-shuttered anti-clockwise patent sails struck from within the mill, leaving a plain rear face without porch or platform below. The roof was less rounded than usual, and carried “blisters” to accommodate the brake wheel and brake.


Blackmore End

Smock mill, gone


No satisfactory photograph has been found. Those available show four double-shuttered anti-clockwise patent sails and a fantail fore and aft of a domed cap, but the base of the mill is not in view.

Joyce’s Mill

Smock mill, gone


The upper part of the mill is barely visible in an old picture postcard entitled “The Green, Wethersfield”, but a domed cap with finial winded by an 8-bladed fantail can be discerned.


Smock mill, gone


Photographs of the mill show a substantial brick base of two storeys with a short and strongly battered octagonal smock frame set above, somewhat akin to the style of the Manuden smock mill. The possible raising of the mill in the last century by the insertion of brickwork below is readily suggested. {Mill had two common and two patent spring sails and two pairs of stones}. A photograph shows the common sails in an iron windshaft. The cap was straight-ridged, apparently covered with sheet metal, and minimally rounded near the base to follow the curb; it carried a petticoat at the sides, with a rear overhang to shelter the large winding wheel.


Post mill, gone


Photographs of the derelict mill and old memories contribute a few details. The mill had a single-storied roundhouse and tailpole winding and the plain weatherboarded body with small square hatches and topped by a mansard roof. The single-shuttered sails turned clockwise; they had nine bays with the heel close to the canister and swung low. A D Robertson explicitly describes the brake wheel as driving two pairs of stones: “The two pairs of stones were laid side by side behind the crowntree and were empowered from the brake wheel which was geared on the face (not the edge) which drove an upright shaft carrying two sections, the lower one cast steel called the waller, which received the power, the top of the shaft carried a finer cog wheel called spur section which drove two steel cone heads of spindles communicating with the bearing of the stones.” Another source gives an iron windshaft driving head and tail stones.


Tye Green

Smock mill, gone


There are two undated photographs of the mill, one showing a degree of dereliction and taken pre-1910, to judge by the attire of young children in the foreground; the other is of the mill in working order. This shows four double-shuttered clockwise patent sails, a domed cap with ball finial and gallery, and an eight-bladed fantail correctly matched with the sails. The body was of sturdy build, having only some 35 lines of weatherboarding over the single-storeyed brick base in contrast with as many as 80 at Upminster, but able to house three pairs of stones. Unusually, the eight corners of the base, all vertical, were strengthened externally by brick buttresses.

Lower Green

Smock mill, base survives


There is one known photograph, undated, showing the mill to its cap, and with one well-clamped middling in position. The cap was domed and had a ball finial and gallery, as at Tye Green, and the sails were probably patents. The remains of the fantail are visible. Nothing is known of the mill interior, but it was small – the base measures only 13ft 5in across the flats internally – and probably held two pairs of stones.