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Technical descriptions of English windmills


BEMBRIDGE, Isle of Wight

Tower mill, standing today

OS SZ639875

G Blythman, Windmills of Hampshire and the Isle Of Wight, Mills Archive 2016:

Bembridge windmill is the last surviving example on the Isle of Wight and the only one in the area covered by this book to retain most of its original machinery. It is a remarkable survival. It is traditionally thought to have been built in 1700, and indeed a timber forming part of the tentering gear is dated 1701, although this could have come from another mill. According to an article in the Isle Of Wight County Press in 1952 it was erected at about the same time as a barn at nearby Mill Farm, i.e. 1706. It is said the stones used in its construction were brought from Swanage and landed on the Bembridge side of Brading Haven.(1) The ultimate origin of the 1700 theory is unknown but it is mentioned in Windmills Of England by R J Brown(2), although the author states the mill to be built of local stone, as does the late Kenneth Major(3). If correct, it would make Bembridge the oldest complete tower mill in the country apart from Chesterton in Warwickshire, which was built in 1632 possibly as an observatory. My gut feeling is that it is not quite so old as this, but dates from the middle years of the eighteenth century – still ancient by the standards of surviving windmills. It is shown on maps from 1756, Taylor depicting it as a post mill, which may not long afterwards have been destroyed and replaced with a tower mill, the latter incorporating material from its predecessor. Preserved in the mill is a timber, thought to have been originally a rung of one of the ladders, bearing the carved inscription “E Beker A C 1746”; Beker is believed to have been an employee at the mill, while A C may stand for “After Christ” or “Antichrist” – a reference to the Pope, Catholicism not being very popular in England at that time (in the same year the Jacobite Rising took place with the aim of restoring the Catholic Stuart dynasty). 

  Although there have been a few changes during its working life the mill retains for the most part its primitive character, with manual winding gear, four common sails (the current set being reconstructions) and largely wooden machinery. The 38-foot(4) high four-storey stone tower, with walls varying between 3’6” and 18” in thickness(5), is strongly battered and has a stumpy appearance. Since the beginning of the twentieth century(6) it has been faced with Roman cement on its southern, south-western and south-eastern sides, amounting to about half its  circumference, against the prevailing winds, beneath which the porous stone had begun to erode(7). It is whitewashed internally. The window openings are small and closed with wooden shutters. As with most tower-type mills and post mills with roundhouses entry is via one of two opposite doorways, here on the east and west sides, so the miller could avoid being hit by the turning sails whenever he went outside. There are four floors: combined bin and dust floor, stone floor, first or spout floor and ground floor.

   The cap is of the triangular gabled type, resembling a prism in shape but with sloping front and rear ends, which was also seen on the now vanished mills at Aldermoor (Upton) and West Cowes. According to Brown it was originally thatched, this being replaced with boarding in 1720. The weathercock above its rear gable is a distinctive feature. At one time the mill carried a bowsprit and rigging, as seen in a watercolour by George Brannon (1784-1860) published in May 1840, which shows it overlooking the later reclaimed harbour. By the early twentieth century if not before the arrangement had been dispensed with.

   The earliest miller for whom we have records is a Mr Weight (1770-75)(8). The mill was for sale in 1779, along with the mill house, stable and an acre of land. The premises were “held by exceedingly good life aged 37 years”, meaning that the tenant occupied the property for life and that he was not expected to die anytime soon(8). He was probably John Way Kent, who is mentioned in the account book of Henry Dennett(9), proprietor of the mill, in 1782 and was paying rent for it in 1784 and 1795.  

The book lists the costs of a series of repairs Dennett had commissioned in 1782: 

1782 paid

Paid for repairing the mill              

Mr Boards Bill                            59-2-4                                         

John Newnham carrying                     5-5-0

Mr Tinnolas Deal Timber                   3-0-0

3 Turn Oak                                70-10-0

Wm Perkins for carrying                   2-2-0

For Elm Timber                            1-10-16

Mr Wilkinsons Bill                        22-6-6

Mr Bob Millers Bill                       19-16-0

Mr Wm Clarke for a Round Beam for the mill    4-6-0

as well as payments received, and further expenses incurred, over the next few years:


26 Jan 1782 Mr John Way Kent: 2-2-09

loads of wheat at 12-10                                                                           22-10-0

12 Jan 1784 John Kent for the mill

and field due 21 Dec 1784                 21-0-0

2 March 1789 John Kent rent for the mill

due St Thomas’ Day last                   21-0-0

Ditto for new millstones                  1-16-0

Ditto for a year’s rent for the Orchard due M

as aforesaid                              2-2-0

12 April 1790 a year’s rent for the mill due

St Thos                                   22-16-0                                         

Ditto for the orchard due Michaelmas last 1-11-6

12 April 1790 John Kents Bill             5-19-6

12 April 1790 for timber to repair the mill   3-13-6

15 April 1791 John Kent for a year’s rent for

the mill and orchard                      25-0-0

29 July 1795 John Kent for mill and orchard   25-0-0

12 June 1793 John Kent Bill for grinding grist

and timber for the mill                   8-6-10


June 23 1787 Mr Board for millstones      18-0-0

  The mill was again on the market in 1783(10), though it apparently went unsold. It may have been derelict for a time in the late 1790s and early 1800s, when there are no references to it in the Land Tax Returns and Poor Rate and no millers can be identified, for a 1795 painting by Turner shows it with one sail stripped down almost to the stock. It would seem to have been back in commission by 1803, when John Dennett is recorded as miller, the family at this time working the mill themselves. Turner does not show the bowsprit so it would have been fitted sometime between the date of his painting and Brannon’s.

   John Dennett ran the mill until 1809, after which John Kent returned but left after about a year. His successor was George Cook who on 5th January 1811 was found frozen to death by the mill, aged thirty-three(11). John Dennett took on the mill again for a short period until a new tenant could be found. The next five occupiers were Frederick Kent (1811-17); H Foord (1818-19); James Jacob (1820-1826); Luke Langley (1827), and William Fowles (1828-31), who went bankrupt and later emigrated to America(12). Then came John Tull, who died in 1839 whereupon the mill passed to his widow Frances(13), who paid a rent of £15 for it. At this time Jeremiah and John Dennett were joint owners of the property. John Tull is named as occupier on the 1842 tithe map but this is presumably an error. Frances is last listed as miller in the 1848 Post Office Directory and in 1851 the mill was being worked by George Knight who lived at nearby Knowles Farm, also owned by the Dennetts.

   Later millers were Benjamin Jolliffe (1855-61), John Lillywhite (1863), Ewen Lillywhite (1863-4), James Hunt (1865-81), Robert Luther Tuffley (1885-1895), and finally Ernest Orchard (see below). An attempt to sell the mill in 1867(14) was unsuccessful and in 1885 the owner was recorded as Louisa Dennett. She had died by 1889 and in 1902 the mill was owned and occupied by Alfred Oliver Morris, who lived at Hill Farm and also owned Windmill and Stanwell Farms. Apparently he was “a little bit scared of the mill” and had no wish to work it; this job was done by his brother-in-law Ernest Orchard, who also ran Wootton Bridge tide mill. The mill may not in fact have been used very often during these years; there is no entry for it in Kelly’s Directory in 1913 and in 1911 Alfred Morris is given as farmer, not miller. From 1897 the mill had been grinding only livestock feed for the farm, but Orchard seems to have restarted the production of flour, grinding it is said about 15-20 sacks of wheat and barley at a time.(15) He is said by his son to have been unhappy about the worn-out state of the machinery(16), but seems to have managed alright. However Alfred Morris could never be persuaded to remain in the windmill while he was grinding; nor did he agree to the suggestion that the mill should be opened for inspection by the public, for having some phobia about the place he seemed to think everyone else had too.(17)

   The mill ceased work after the harvest of 1913(18) and then became derelict. At some point the millstones were removed and sold to St Helens Priory where they were used as garden ornaments(19). In 1933 the Windmill Section of the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings launched an appeal for money towards repairs, the cost of which was estimated at £100. During 1934-5 the mill was made waterproof and new sails fitted. Unfortunately no funds were allowed for maintenance and the mill was used as a cowshed until World War Two, in which it saw service as an observation post. In 1937 the mill had been bequeathed by Mr Morris to his niece, Mrs Smith, who offered it to the National Trust in 1957. A full restoration was begun in 1959 and completed in 1962. New sails were made by F Cheverton from a drawing by R C Durden, and a replacement set of stones, along with an iron stone crane, acquired from the Wootton Bridge mill when that was demolished.

   Since then the mill has been well looked after by its custodians. Repairs were carried out following the hurricane of 1987 and a further storm in 1991 when the sails, two of which had not long been replaced, broke free and rotated rapidly causing £6000 worth of damage. More recently a new cap roof has been fitted. The sails, now set facing south-west, are turned every four to six months to ensure even wear, and the rest of the time are immobilised by the brakewheel being padlocked to the cap. 

A detailed technical description of the mill, based on visits by the late J Kenneth Major and by Guy Blythman in April 2014, is not inappropriate.  What strikes one most about it is the antiquity of much of the surviving fabric, and also the massive size of the stout eighteenth-century timbers, shafts and gearwheels. Winding is by a large six-spoked wheel located at the rear of the cap on the right, instead of centrally placed as is the norm. From this an endless chain hung down. Pulling on the chain turned the wheel on whose axle was a nut whose cogs meshed with those of a solid pulley on the shaft of a worm gear engaging with the teeth of the all-wood rack. The curb, also wooden, is inset from the inner edge of the tower wall and in two layers, on the upper of which the cap rests and is nowadays fixed to, the truck wheels along with the rollers if there were any having been removed. The lower layer has a number of circular holes in it.

  Most of the machinery of the mill is of wood. The square iron windshaft is the only principal metal component; it replaced a wooden shaft with an iron poll end, which itself had superseded an all-wood shaft. It is circular at the neck bearing, then square, before the brakewheel; after the latter the square section continues, tapering to the flange at the tail bearing.

  Mounted on a 2-foot square box casting, now encased in wood, on the shaft is an 8ft diameter clasp-arm brakewheel converted from a compass-arm wheel. The rim is divided into outer and inner sections, both segmented. The inner consists of six sections of unequal length; it has empty notches around its circumference, one between each pair of the clasp arms, which indicate the former position of the compass arms. The iron brake band is applied by a wooden lever which was operated by a rope passing down the outside of the tower. The members of the cap frame appear to be very old, if not original. The sprattle beam is tenoned into cheek pieces depending from the sheers. Above each cheek piece the latter exhibit two long, deep mortices which may indicate the former position of the sprattle beam, and thus alterations at some stage, as does the row of circular holes above the upper mortice on the right-hand sheer.  The top bearing of the upright shaft is bolted to the forward side face of the sprattle.

   The 6′ wallower is in three sections, having bevelled upper and lower faces and a rim. Bolted to the underside of its deep clasp arms, which have curved ends, is a friction ring into engagement with which the solid wood bollard of the sack hoist is raised by lever and rope.

The upright shaft is circular at the top, narrowing as it passes through the floor at which point it becomes 12-sided.

   The two pairs of stones were underdriven; as noted above the present ones along with their furniture came from Wootton Bridge tide mill and were installed together with the stone crane during the 1960s restoration. On the spout floor the upright shaft is at its thickest in order to receive the six compass arms of the great spur wheel, which are tenoned directly into it. It becomes circular again below the governor belt drive, tapering sharply to terminate in a simple cup bearing let into a substantial timber set in the floor. The spur wheel drives the stones through large solid wood iron-bound stone nuts of the “cartwheel hub” type.

   This floor is a tangle of machinery, packed closely together and some of it so positioned that the visitor has repeatedly to duck their head under the driving belts, which at one point are in such proximity to one another as to seem in danger of becoming entangled. A large wire machine is driven from the great spur wheel via a nut on a vertical wooden octagonal countershaft, a pair of bevel gears and a drum from which a belt travels right across the floor to a pulley on the spindle of the machine.

   The tentering gear is of interest. From a flanged disc near the lower end of the upright shaft a belt drives the governor which is mounted low down with the spindle footed in the floor. When the balls of the governor rise they pull on two cords which pass between floor and ceiling and which lift the ends of the bridgetrees via long curved wooden levers, with no steelyards or brayers being employed. This rather primitive arrangement is thought to be unique among the country’s surviving windmills. It is similar to that originally employed at Bursledon, a comparable mill in some ways. The levers are connected to the bridgetrees by iron straps, with in the case of one pair of stones a second, intermediary lever and strap. The bridgetrees are mounted between vertical posts rising from floor to ceiling, as appears to have been the Hampshire practice, instead of on hangers.

  The long machine drive countershaft goes down to the ground floor where it drives further equipment via bevel gearing, layshaft and a pair of wooden belt drums. The larger of the drums drives a second, smaller wire machine with a flour bin beneath it; the other a jog scry via a further belt drum, shaft and solid iron pulley, all still in place and probably a set of cranks, now missing, which agitated it. All these mechanisms are provided with hinged levers for moving them in or out of gear, as required. The countershaft is footed in a horizontal timber set between two vertical posts one of which is fixed to a beam in the ceiling. Other vertical posts provide added support to the spout floor beams. The whole arrangement, like much else in the mill, is massive and very old, and it is moving to think that it has survived to the present day because of the care of those appointed to look after it, and the labour and skill of carpenters and millwrights past and present.(20)

BURSLEDON, tower mill

Standing today, OS SU482108

G Blythman, Windmills of Hampshire and the Isle Of Wight, Mills Archive 2016:

On 20th April 1814 Phoebe Langtry and her son William obtained a mortgage of £800 from John Buckland to cover the cost of the new mill. A piece of land was granted them for the purpose by the Bishop at a rent of 2s 6p(1). The mill was completed in October(20) and appears on the first edition of the Ordnance Survey in 1816. In the Bursledon Poor Rates of 1816-17 Phoebe is given as occupier and proprietor of the windmill, land and garden at an overall rent of £12(2).

   Like a number of others at this time, such as Watt’s Cross at Hildenborough in Kent, the mill was built to an old-fashioned design; it had common sails and hand winding and all the machinery down to the cogs, including the windshaft and poll end, was of wood. A few modifications were carried out in 1842 (see below). The primitive nature of the technology was a cost-cutting measure in circumstances of financial hardship. Hampshire had been suffering from an agricultural depression, which hit associated industries such as milling, since 1808 and this was worsened by the nationwide slump in business resulting from the Napoleonic Wars and their aftermath and continuing in southern England until 1828(3). The expense of installing modern improvements such as patent sails, fantail and cast iron was to be avoided. In other words, this was an economy mill.

   By 1820 when it was put on the market the property consisted of the mill, mill house, a stable, cowpens, piggeries and other outbuildings with a garden and a paddock for the horses, the whole amounting to about two acres. The mill could grind and dress seven or eight loads of wheat per week.(4) There was no sale and when John Buckland died the same year the mortgage commitment was taken over by his son, also John. In 1821 the Langtrys gave up the mortgage and surrendered the property to John Buckland junior.(5) He kept on William Langtry as tenant, Phoebe retiring. William left in 1838(6), moving to Droxford, where he became a grocer and baker; he seems later to have fallen on hard times and died in the local workhouse in 1863. J Kingham was miller according to the tithe map of 1840 and the census of 1841, but the mill was for sale in the latter year(7), James Warner coming into possession  in 1843(8), and the next miller to be recorded is John Cove from 1847(9). In 1858 Thomas Warner inherited the property from James(10). The premises were to let in 1860(11), indicating that Cove wished to retire from the business, or his lease was about to expire, or both. He is last recorded here in the following year’s census, and in 1867 and 1871 the miller was Levi Harris. Susannah Cove, the widow of his predecessor, was still living on the premises according to the 1871 census. In 1865 Warner advertised the mill to be let or sold, apparently unsuccessfully(12).

   By 1873 Harris had left, later being recorded as an unemployed miller with no occupation(13), and the tenant was George Gosling, who bought the property when it came up for sale(14). Gosling was a threshing and steam ploughing contractor as well as a miller and developed the site as a base for these operations although he continued to use the windmill, grinding both wheat and animal feed, until 1881(15). No doubt motivated by Christian charity – among his other occupations he was a Methodist minister – he sometimes worked the mill purely for the benefit of his neighbours after commercial milling had ended, until he suffered a fall while setting the cloths on the sails and his wife made him stop(16). The year after it closed the property was again on the market(17), the advert suggesting that the mill could be put back into working order for a small cost – evidently repairs were needed – but it was not to grind again for over a century. Evidently it was considered obsolete and the expense involved uneconomic. The agricultural machinery business continued until about 1895(18).

   In 1936 a local resident recalled how farmers would celebrate the harvest by carting the first wheat threshed up to the mill with their horses decked out in red rosettes and harness bells(19).

   A watercolour painted in 1890 shows the disused mill with one pair of sails missing and the stage heavily overgrown with ivy(20). In a photograph dated 1902(21) the other two sails and the stage have gone. Two years later, if the dating of a contemporary postcard is correct(22), the cap roof had been removed and a viewing platform erected in its place from which superb views could be had of the Solent and Isle of Wight could be had. The original cap frame, windshaft and brakewheel were retained, though at some point the poll end disappeared along with the whole of the wheel apart from one of the clasp arms. The runner stones were removed in 1931, but otherwise the interior of the building remained untouched. The viewing platform helped keep out the weather and preserve the machinery in good condition.

   The mill was a well-known feature of the locality, and a landmark for shipping approaching Southampton Water, besides which the increasingly ivy-covered tower had a romantic look to it(23). These factors probably assisted its survival. It was painted by Karl Wood, the noted windmill artist, in 1938 and again in 1945; on the second occasion the woman who acted as caretaker for the premises positively refused him permission to paint the mill from the field in which it stood and he had to do it looking through a small hole in a hedge. He described it as the most flagrant case of rudeness he had ever experienced in all his time painting windmills, save one.(24)

   More technical information is available on Bursledon mill than on any other windmill, past or present, in the county of Hampshire. The red brick tower is five storeys high with an internal diameter at the base of 21 ft six inches, and a thickness of 1ft 10½ inches up to the stone floor, changing to 1ft 6 inches above this level and between the main floor beams, the aim being to provide a ledge for the latter, along with the secondary stone floor joists, to rest on. 

  The mill was originally tarred, and the presence of many nails in the brickwork, especially on the weather side, suggest it was once clad in sheet iron as an additional protective measure.  During restoration the tar was replaced with a black microporous substance.(25)

   The interior plant survived mostly intact into the late twentieth century, while we can gain an accurate impression of the mill’s external appearance when working from a marvellous photograph of c1880, which also shows some of Gosling’s threshing equipment. At second-floor level is a stage typical of the West Sussex/East Hampshire region, with vertical supports that seem by accident or design to be inclined, a feature reproduced in the restoration. Clearly visible is the wooden poll end, through which the stocks of the four common sails, each with a single uplong, were mortised. These sails are estimated to have had a span of about fifty feet. The mill is winded by a large eight-spoked chainwheel mounted in a simple supporting frame at the rear of the cap.

   In the past some controversy has surrounded the shape of the latter. The photograph apparently shows it to have been conical with a flat top; what seems to be the roof might though be a length of furled canvas thrown over the hemlath of one of the sails. However the 1890 watercolour and the photograph of 1902 clearly show the cap to have been of the shape in question. It was polygonal in section with prominent pent-roofed excrescences at front and rear, the latter having a door allowing access to the winding gear for repairs and maintenance. Lumps Mill at Portsmouth may have possessed a similar cap. The version with which Bursledon mill has been restored is a perhaps more aesthetically pleasing Norfolk-type boat shape.

   The mill originally had an all-wood curb, probably with a wooden worm engaging the cogs of the rack. In 1842 this arrangement was replaced with an iron rack and pinion mechanism driven from the chainwheel through intermediary gearing, the cap turning on a segmented iron track which is still in use on the mill today. The curb is partly live and partly dead, with two iron rollers beneath the breast beam, one at each end of it, and cast-iron skid plates elsewhere, two on each sheer and two under the tail beam. In the mill’s previous working life the role of the skid plates was performed by six short strips of iron, probably pieces of old wagon tyre, nailed to the timbers.

   Four wooden truck wheels – one behind the breast beam, one on the tail beam, and one on each of the sheers − bear against the inside face of the curb to centre the cap, with a keep flange to prevent its being displaced in a strong wind. The curb was fastened down by tenons on the upper ends of vertical posts, resting on short horizontal plates, inserted in pockets in the brickwork and extending downwards some five feet. The tenons were mortised into the underside of the curb and secured with trenails. The cavities are now packed with concrete in which are set adjustable steel holding-down bolts in plastic sleeves.

   As already noted the main shafting and gearwheels were of wood, although the neck bearing of the windshaft, for example, was bound with iron. The wallower, great spur wheel, two of the stone nuts and the auxiliary drive gearwheel and pulleys are all of solid construction. The wallower drove the sack hoist by friction in the usual fashion.

   The five floors were dust, bin, stone, hurst floor (serving as a spout floor) and ground. The hurst floor is a part floor, open to the ground floor, from which four handsomely chamfered oak posts support the two massive main timbers, between whom is fixed the lateral beam carrying the footstep bearing of the upright shaft. The whole makes up what is known as a hurst frame, and which here supports the drives to the stones and auxiliary machinery. It incorporates three pairs of vertical wooden posts between each of which are mounted the bridge trees for the underdriven French stones. The construction of the hurst floor and the position of the great spur wheel results in the stone spindles being longer than is usually the case with underdrift mills. That for the third pair of stones, added in 1842, passed through one of the joists of the hurst, which had been very nearly cut through to accommodate it. Two of the stone nuts are wood and the third iron mortice. Originally tentering was by lighter bars connected to the bridge trees by iron straps; the present method employs adjustable control lines attached to a pivoting lever. They are controlled by a single governor, mounted on the wall on the hurst floor, which is belt-driven from a thickened, flanged section of the upright shaft above the great spur wheel instead of below it as is normal practice. When examined prior to restoration its spindle was found to have the remains of a March 1842 newspaper, used for wadding, under its lower bearing, dating the modifications to this year.

   Beneath the great spur wheel and braced to it by four short vertical stub timbers is a downturned face gear, of smaller diameter than it, which engages with a pinion on a wooden layshaft carrying two cogged wooden pulleys. Via auxiliary upright shafts and bevel gearing the latter drove a wire machine on the stone floor and a small oat crusher mounted on the hurst frame joists. The crusher bears a maker’s nameplate identifying it as a product of G Kerman’s Vulcan Iron Works at Millbrook, Southampton. Kerman owned the works for but a short period in the 1840s, so it would appear that all this auxiliary plant was installed at the same time as the other modifications.

 From this level, long spouts descend to the ground floor where the meal is bagged.(26)  

   By the 1960s Bursledon was the most complete surviving Hampshire windmill and the only one with some kind of potential for restoration to working order. Its importance had begun to be recognised and in 1966 an application to convert it to a private residence was rejected(27), though nothing was done to halt the decay which had begun to set in. It was later sold and in 1978 the owners, Mr and Mrs John Jenkins, allowed the Hampshire Buildings Preservation Trust to carry out essential repairs. The mill was subsequently acquired by the Trust with the aid of a grant from the County Council. Mr Jenkins sold it to them for a nominal sum and was later elected Chairman of the Friends of Bursledon Windmill, which had been set up to raise money for a full restoration. The project took the best part of twenty years to complete, but as a result of it the mill is once again capable of grinding corn, the only working and indeed the only complete windmill in mainland Hampshire. Inevitably, since the aim was to put it back into running order, a certain amount of original material has had to be replaced. A whole new windshaft, brakewheel, and wallower had to be made, this and other carpentry being the work of Jim Lewis, a highly-skilled craftsman who was seventy-two when the work was completed. The old upright shaft was found to be serviceable, while the windshaft incorporates the original iron gudgeon and hoops which reinforce it against wear at the tail end (there is a corresponding arrangement at the neck bearing). The wooden casing of the flour machine had disintegrated and had to be renewed, but the iron components were retained. Some missing items were recovered following an appeal in the local press, and reused; they included the chainwheel, which at some point had fallen off to lie in brambles at the foot of the tower, and later disappeared to be eventually found by a stroke of luck in a garden in Sussex(28).

   Responsibility for the mill, which from time to time produces flour, currently lies with the County Museums Service. It is regularly open to the public although for safety reasons the interior is inaccessible above the stone floor.

(1)  Hampshire Record Office (hereafter HRO) 11M59/E2/153094 p45

(2)  Notes in history of mill by Gavin Bowie

(3)  HRO 11M82/1

(4)  Bowie

(5)  Hampshire Telegraph (hereafter HT) 24/4/1820

(6)  HRO 11M59/E2/153100, p26; HRO11M59/E2/153101, p35; Bowie

(7)  Hampshire Advertiser (hereafter HA) 26/5/1838, HT 11/6/1838

(8)  HA and Hampshire Independent 15-22/5/1841

(9)  HRO 11M59/E2/153123 p222

(10) Post Office Directory

(11) Bishop’s Fines

(12) HA 17/11-3/12/1860

(13) HA 14/1/1865

(14) 1881 Census

(15) HA 6/9/1873

(16) Bowie; White’s Directory 1878

(17) John Reynolds, 1992; information from family members

(18) HA 20/6/1882

(19) Kelly’s Directory

(20) It Happened In Hampshire (1996, republished by Hampshire Federation Of Women’s Institutes 1977

(21) Reproduced in annual report of Hampshire Buildings Preservation Trust, 1990

(22) See G Blythman, Windmills Of Hampshire And The Isle Of Wight (Mills Archive 2016)

(23) Ibid

(24) HA 6/9/1873, Victoria County History Vol.3

(25) In HESS

(26) John Reynolds to G Blythman June 2014

(27) Ibid; Bowie; John Reynolds, 1992; HBPT 1990; visit by G Blythman to mill November 2007

(28) Southampton Evening Echo 20/12/1966, Hampshire Chronicle 7/1/1967

(29) Hampshire Chronicle 8/5/1981; Southern Evening Echo 27/5/1981; unidentified newspaper; John Reynolds 1992


Tower mill, standing today


Blythman (2016): In the Miller of 1st January 1877 Poate and Sons had advertised for an iron windshaft, together with striking gear, brakewheel (to be eight feet in diameter) and wallower. The windshaft was presumably intended to replace an older wooden one. It may be that the present shaft was installed at this time, but we cannot be sure. Certainly the brakewheel remained until the end a wooden clasp-arm, as is clear from a photograph taken in the 1950s when it was still intact. Patent sweeps had been fitted by 1887 when the mill was put up for sale(1). It does not appear to have found a buyer, for Henry John Poate put it on the market again in February 1889 along with the steam mill in Clanfield village which was also operated by the family(2).

   In the same year Kelly’s Directory gives Henry John Poate as milling by steam only, so it may have been around this time that the mill ceased work and the business was transferred altogether to the more modern concern at Clanfield. The last man known to have been employed as grinder at the windmill was William Frost, in 1881(3). Henry John Poate is again listed as miller (steam) in 1895. Over the following century the windmill gradually deteriorated into an evocative ruin.

   The four-storey red brick tower was solidly built and at one time faced with cement, still evident on the north-eastern side in 1971, as protection against weathering. It was strongly battered, and the windows were located within deep embrasures. The ground floor was sunken, with a window opening just several feet from the foot of the tower, but the two entrance doors, on the west and south sides, were three feet above ground level, each being reached by a set of steps. The dome cap with its short finial was probably horizontally boarded and polygonal with lead proofing at the corners; latterly it was clad in metal sheeting except for the deep skirt of vertical boards which protected the curb. Like Halnaker mill near Chichester, probably built not long before it, this was a late eighteenth-century West Sussex/East Hampshire tower mill strongly constructed, with a steep batter, on account of being in an exposed position and modernised somewhat in the course of its life with patent sails and fantail; in the beginning winding was probably by hand, and the sails commons.

   A photograph taken from a crane at the start of conversion work on the mill in 1978-9 and reproduced in The Windmills of Hampshire by Anthony Triggs shows something of the construction of the cap frame, with sheers, breast beam, sprattle beam, other transverse beams and two of the stub timbers which would have carried the truck wheels. The whole assembly is badly rotted. The fantail spindle was mounted between two long diagonal timbers, with further diagonals bracing them from about mid-length to the rear ends of the sheers. A pair of downward-angled timbers, one on each side between the two diagonals, carried the horizontal iron shaft of the worm gear which engaged with the teeth of the iron rack. The fantail drove down to a four-armed toothed pinion on the end of the worm shaft via an intermediary vertical shaft and pair of bevel gears. Striking was by rocking lever. Behind the brakewheel the square iron windshaft tapered to the tail bearing, with chamfered corners.

   One’s first sight of the ruined Chalton mill, with evidence of the sails still discernible, might have given the impression that this was the most complete surviving Hampshire windmill; in fact Bursledon was more intact internally as well as in better condition. Though much could be gleaned from an inspection of the upper machinery, that below the curb had gone, removed or simply left to rot, by the 1970s, the tower being little more than a gutted shell with a heap of debris on the ground floor which might have contained items of interest, and the floors collapsed. However enough remained to give some idea of the mill’s internal workings when combined with information from sale notices. We know from the latter that there were three pairs of stones and two flour dressers(4). The shafting and gearing would have been all-wood as first installed; later there was a certain amount of replacement with iron components but some wooden items, most notably the massive upright shaft which remained within the mill, leaning against the wall, after nearly everything else had disappeared were retained as a cost-cutting measure. The shaft, of oak, appears to have worn well and no reason was seen to dispense with it. The great spur wheel also retained its primitive character, its four compass arms still being evident in 1940(5). The length of the shaft suggests the stones were underdriven.

(1) The Miller 5/12/1887, 4/2/1889

(2) Hampshire Chronicle 2/2/1889

(3) Census

(4) Miller 5/12/1887, 4/2/1889

(5) Photograph by Donald W Muggeridge in Mills Archive