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Technical descriptions of English windmills


ADISHAM, Bekesbourne

Smock mill, burnt down 1933

This was a three-storey smock mill covered with tarred felt and without a brick base, the woodwork resting directly on the foundations. There were four patent sails, one pair of which had broader leads than normal. Three pairs of stones, one of which was never used, were installed.(1)

(1) W Coles Finch, Watermills And Windmills (1933)


Post mill, blown down 1955

A tarred post mill, thought to date from 1735, with a corbelled-out breast beam and a lantern in the roof to accommodate the brakewheel. The roundhouse, with low walls and a high roof into which the upper part of the door was incorporated, was wooden. The windows were of glass, instead of the more usual wooden shutters. The mill had the lightest superstructure of those Kentish post mills which survived into recent times. The very small main post was 32” square and built up of nine timbers held together by thirteen clamps, three in the roundhouse and ten on the spout floor. The crowntree was 21” by 18” deep with a 3” iron plate in its underside, the crosstrees 19ft square and the quarterbars 9” by 12” deep.(1) The shores were curved(2). 

 There were two common and two double-shuttered spring sails, the latter having leading boards for slightly more than half their length, and a rack and pinion arrangement, probably on a design by Holmans the Canterbury millwrights(3), for tensioning by hand. The springs were quarter-elliptic and the shutters, which were hinged a third of the way down the side instead of at the end, canvas-covered.(4) There were 27 on the drive side and 12 on the leading side. The middlings of the sails were not clamped but wedged in position at the back and side. (PD: “The whips run right up to the head, where they are bonded. Shuttered sweeps have back stay from point of middling to second bar.” HRH: “Single bar on cloth sails instead of two, a typical Kentish feature.”)

 The iron windshaft was hexagonal at the brakewheel, where it measured 10”(5). As at Chillenden the neck of the windshaft with the poll end was cast separately, with a flange where the two pieces were bolted on(6). There was a brakewheel with four iron arms (again like Chillenden), straight wood cants, wood cogs  and wood rim, and a small tailwheel again with iron hub and arms and wood cants(7). The brake was wood(8). Two pairs of stones were driven, a pair of 4ft 10” burrs in the breast and one of 3’8” peaks in the tail. The spouts incorporated sieves. The stone nuts were wooden, that in the breast being solid. The breast governors were largely of wood construction, a feature seen only in Kent, while the tail ones were iron with round lead weights. The tail bridgetree was iron. The bell alarms were operated by the quants.(9) The sack hoist was worked by a slack chain, covered by rope, from a pulley on the windshaft(10), using the differential drum method (“with rope round large part of drum by hand and rope round small part of drum raises sack hoist”(11)). A flour machine mounted high on the spout floor across the tail(12), and a screen were driven off the face of the brakewheel by spur pinion, and then two more spur pinions and finally a belt(13). A jog scry, also on the spout floor, was driven by a bevel pinion, pulley and belt off the tailwheel(14).

 Ash mill was the last in Kent to make and dress wheat flour(15). A peak stone, measuring 3ft 8” and therefore probably from the tail, had been utilised as a doorstep(16).

(Visit of Paul Davies was in April 1946)

(1)  RW 1955

(2)  HRH in HESS

(3)  RW 1955

(4)  HESS, HRH

(5)  RW 1955

(6)  RW 1955, HRH in HESS

(7)  RW 1955

(8)  PD

(9)  RW 1955

(10) Ibid

(11) HRH in HESS

(12) Ibid

(13) RW 1955

(14) Ibid

(15) Ibid

(16) PD


Smock mill, burnt 1970

The mill had patent sails each with nine bays of wood and canvas shutters. The brake was fitted with a multiplying gear with a 4-1 ratio for pulling of the lever. The bridge beam and bridging box were of iron and cast as one unit. The great spur wheel was all-iron, 6ft 8in diameter, with six tapering T-section arms and 126 teeth. Four pairs of stones were driven. The stone nuts had 40 cogs each, and one of the quants was two-piece.(1)

(1) RW 1955, 11/4/1956


Beacon Mill

Smock mill, standing today


According to Jenny West this mill, the last of three which formerly stood in the parish, is first shown on a map of 1821(1). The identity of the millwright is not known but Warren of Hawkhurst, and I suspect Hill of Ashford, worked on it later. Latterly it was run in conjunction with Wandle Mill, a watermill. It ceased work around the time of the First World War and in 1923 the sails along with most of the machinery were removed. One pair of sails went to Headcorn mill and the other to Cranbrook, where they were found to be unsuitable, along with the peak stones.(2) The mill appears to have remained in good condition for some years, but eventually began to deteriorate. It was to become one of my (and I suspect many other people’s) favourite “wrecks”, which got just that little bit more dilapidated each year, and stood close to a main road so that it was visible to both molinologists and the general public. Its decaying grandeur captured the attention of photographers and I once came across in the SPAB archives a striking image of the exposed brakewheel starkly outlined against a blue sky.

 By 1979 most of the cap roof had disintegrated while the weatherboarding of the smock was in a poor state. Around this time moves were made to restore the mill, with the possibility of a Trust being mooted. In late 1980 a crane was hired to lift off the windshaft and cap frame so that a flat temporary roof could be put on, and the smock was clad in plywood to keep out the weather and arrest the process of decay. After this nothing much seems to have happened, for one reason or another, and eventually the mill was converted into a holiday home, the cap and sails not being replaced as had been anticipated although that is not to say this could not happen at some point in the future. 

 I have to say that the conversion has been carried out most tastefully. By and large the original oak framing remains intact and most of the machinery which survived in 1980 has been retained. It is a better fate than many mills have suffered and indeed I can recommend “The Old Smock Mill” as somewhere to stay if you fancy a weekend in the country!

 The mill was a fairly large one. The white-painted octagonal smock stood on a two-storey tarred brick base with a stage, which latterly had more or less disappeared but was restored in the conversion, at first-floor level. This stage had a cross-braced safety railing and vertical supports which were braced to the horizontal platform by short vertical struts from near their upper ends, in the manner typical of this region of Kent and also encountered on one or two mills in the adjoining part of Sussex, e.g. Peasmarsh. There were originally three storeys to the tower, going upwards: stone floor, bin floor and a shallow dust floor. In the conversion the dust floor has been dispensed with, apart from the timbers supporting the sack hoist drive. The framing follows the usual Kentish pattern in that the ends of the longitudinal timbers of the upright shaft hursting rest on dropped transoms (as do those of the sack hoist support frame). The windows, and particularly one on the stone floor on the west side, were exceptionally large, and it has been attempted to reproduce this feature in the conversion, along with the little door on the southwest which serves the function of a window. The mill is built largely of oak, in contrast to many other smocks which one wishes had been, and this more than anything else ensured its survival in the long term, removing the need for major rebuilding. Normally, once the cap roof has gone from a derelict smock mill it’s had it.

 The size of the windows meant the mill could not have been unpleasant to work in, especially when white ones were generally cooler than tarred, although it is possible the arrangement of the millstones was such as to leave the stone floor somewhat cramped. Another interesting feature, now no longer evident, was that a wedge was spiked to the foot of each cant post so that when the lowermost weatherboards of the smock were fixed in place a kind of frill was formed which assisted in keeping out rainwater at a vulnerable point(3).

 There was the usual Kentish cap and lofty (here particularly so) inclined fanstage. Until a surprisingly late date the mill retained an all-wood, including the poll end as is evident in a splendid and quite well-known photograph, often used in the publicity of the Mills Archive, windshaft. This was only replaced with an iron one, from Kennington mill near Ashford, in c1912, not long before the mill ceased work (perhaps its closure was unexpected, and can be attributed to a shortage of labour as a result of the First World War). Although the Mills Archive photograph is one of the most striking images of a windmill obviously still in use that I have ever seen, the wooden poll end was in my opinion rather ugly and its replacement improved the mill’s appearance somewhat. It was altogether not an unattractive specimen, especially the front view. The Kennington windshaft has a split hub with which the eight iron brakewheel arms, four on each side, are cast integrally. The rim and cants of the brakewheel were of wood, as was the brake, which was made up of segments joined with strips of iron in the usual fashion. Originally the wheel would probably have been of clasp arm type. There were a large number of wooden strips set crosswise in the rim to assist the brake band, which it seems may not have been enough on its own to stop the mill in a high wind, in getting a grip(4). The original wooden windshaft was one of the largest recorded, 24in in diameter and 27in square at the head(5). 

 Latterly the mill carried four spring sweeps with leading boards. These were the largest ever made by Warrens, according to John Russell of Cranbrook mill(6), and may have been the largest spring sweeps found on any mill. Paul Jarvis questioned why patents were never fitted here, although I am uncertain how much relationship there is or ought to be between the size of a mill and the size of its sails; I suspect that along with the late use of a wooden windshaft their absence reflected the tastes of a particular miller, who may have preferred the traditional way of doing things to some extent.  

 There were five centring wheels; the one at the front was wholly of iron and the others unusual in being of wood bonded by iron, while the rollers on which the cap turned were cylindrical, and set in a nicely made wood and iron cage. They ran in an iron trough with which the rack is integrally cast. Paul Jarvis implies the cap circle was also of iron.(7) Unfortunately the cap frame and fan cradle along with the wooden parts of the brakewheel fell apart when lowered to the ground in 1980; the windshaft with brake spider is preserved in the garden adjoining the mill. The large gearwheel on the worm shaft can be made out amid vegetation so presumably the worm is there too, along perhaps with other parts. I did not see any sign of the rollers (at one time stored on the dust floor) or centring wheels but presume they are somewhere on site.

 The wallower is solid wood and functions as a face gear; it has two rings of wooden cogs, the upper meshing with the brakewheel and the lower a large bevelled wood nut (which seems to have been repaired with new timber where it had rotted away) on an iron layshaft carrying towards its other end a pair of pulleys, the first a solid wood disc and the other formed of four iron arms and an inner iron rim into which are wedged the series of wooden segments which form the outer one. One of the pulleys would have been for the sack hoist, but how exactly the mechanism operated isn’t apparent. Probably a belt went across to a further layshaft on which was a chain drum. But geared sack hoists are unusual and the only other one I know of is at Over mill in Cambridgeshire. (Interestingly, the wallower at Town Mill, Biddenden, not far from here also had a second cog row so it may be that at one time the sack hoist was driven in this fashion there, too, although latterly friction was employed.(8))

 Just beneath the wallower the upright shaft, also of wood, is flanked by the surviving longitudinal dust floor beams, between which the sack hoist drive, and the hinged timber which serves as a lever for engaging it, are mounted. This is in contrast to the usual arrangement whereby the sack hoist was mounted in its own frame resting on the floor.

 At its lower end the upright shaft carries an 8-armed iron mortice great spur wheel with all its cogs still in. This seemed to my mind to be of smaller diameter than usual, entailing that the three pairs of stones would have been very close together. I am inclined to wonder whether the auxiliary machinery could have been driven from one of the pulleys on the sack hoist layshaft, as Paul Jarvis suggested(9), but the former presence in close proximity to the spur wheel of the casing for a small cleaning machine(10) argues otherwise. Unfortunately no other machinery survives apart from what is described above and the matter can only be one of conjecture. In 1981 it was possible to make out the former position of missing items, but this is less evident now. The stones were overdriven and the upright shaft is consequently relatively short. Parts of two of the chutes from the bins remain. This floor is unusually high, and the spur wheel set quite close underneath the ceiling.

 Benenden Mill appears at first to have been little different from many other Kentish smock mills. It is a very good example of how all mills have something interesting, something individual, about them, even in areas like Kent (or Lincolnshire) where they seem invariably to follow the same pattern. When the first attempts were made to save it there was some controversy over how much the effort was justified, given that it was mechanically incomplete, would require a lot of work done to it and there were “better” mills in the county. It deserved to be conserved, at any rate, because of the little variations from normal practice seen in its construction and technology and because far more of the original structure was salvageable than has been the case with many fully restored specimens! I suspect the question being asked was whether, if set to work and opened to the public, it would compete with the in some ways similar, but more spectacular, mill at nearby Cranbrook. My belief is that as molinologists, and students/custodians of historic buildings in general, we are duty bound to preserve, and if possible restore, whatever we can, as money and other resources permit. But there is a case for saying that two working mills within several miles of each other may not be a practical proposition – are the personnel always going to be available to keep them both running? This is probably the principle motivating planners when they give permission for residential conversion, and it is as least understandable, though not I think when a mill has a complete set of machinery.     

Technical description based on inspection carried out by Guy Blythman 30th October 2017. Thanks to Clare Winchester, proprietor of the Old Smock Mill, for granting access.

(1)   The Windmills Of Kent, Charles Skilton 1973, 1979

(2)   West; W Coles Finch, Watermills And Windmills (C W Daniel 1933, reprinted Cassell 1977)

(3)   The late Paul Jarvis to GB, December 1990

(4)   Paul Jarvis, East Kent Mills Group Newsletter March 1979

(5)   John Russell of Cranbrook, in Simmons Collection

(6)   Ditto

(7)   PJ, as (4); photograph in Mills Archive

(8)   R Hawksley and P Davies, in Simmons Collection

(9)   PJ, as (4)

(10) Photograph in Mills Archive


Smock mill, blown down 1937

The mill stood on a stone base of Bethersden marble, as did Headcorn. There was a stage. The cap was plastered inside(1) Wailes noted that there were “an additional pair of spur wheels to the rack on the curb” from the fantail. Four single-shuttered spring sails with dead leads were fitted. The windshaft and brakewheel were wooden, the latter being of clasp-arm type, 9ft 6in diameter with 108 cogs(2)”. According to H E S Simmons the upright shaft and great spur wheel were also of wood, and the crown wheel iron with “a wooden lower part” from which the sack hoist was driven. Three pairs of stones, two burrs and one peak, were overdriven and there was a flour machine.(3) Simmons also states that the brakewheel had iron spokes. As he was inspecting the remains of the mill after it had collapsed he may have been mistaken concerning a few details.

(1) HESS states “mill partly plastered”

(2) RW 1955

(3) HESS


Tower Mill, standing today


The five-storey tower was cement-faced. The bricks were 2ft thick. One of the ground floor doors had a brick porch. There was a loading door on the first floor, and the latter was very high (Davies describes all the floors as “lofty”). The cap was the traditional Kentish hood but with a skirt of vertical boards as at Kippings Cross mill.(1) Regarding the construction of the cap frame R Hawksley noted “{There are} four inner longitudinal timbers behind the sprattle beam, the outer two very far out {with the diagonal fan cradle timbers inside them}, the inner two very close together, with six beams radiating from them to the tail centring wheels. Two series of longitudinal blocks stretching back to a cross-beam in the breast support a very short breast beam(2).” The whole turned on a segmented iron live curb with the rollers, of which there were at least eight (Hawksley counted five in the breast and six in the tail, making eleven in all), mounted in brackets and running in a grooved track. Eight truck wheels, five of them at the tail, of c11” diameter were provided with a flange to prevent them lifting.(3)

 The patent sails were double-shuttered, which was not usual in West Kent(4). Striking was by a large wooden chainwheel mounted under the fanstage with a guide pole for the striking chain. The machinery was largely of iron. The brakewheel had iron arms with a segmented wooden rim, wood cogs and a wood brake. The wallower drove the sack hoist by friction through a bevelled iron cone clutch. The upright shaft, 8” square at the wallower and round below, was in two pieces, joined on the stone floor where in 1946 there lay “a jumble of gear”. Three pairs of stones, two burrs 3ft 10” and 4” and one 3ft 10” peak, were underdriven; they were in octagonal cases with wood horses and hoppers, and the damsels were triangular in section. On the spout floor the iron mortice great spur wheel was 7ft in diameter and meshed with iron stone nuts, with compound iron bridge trees through which the nuts were raised and lowered, to put in or out of gear, by jack rings. One governor had an iron belt drum, the others were wooden. The great spur wheel had a friction ring from which the ancillary machinery was driven, and below this a bevelled iron mortice gear which received the engine drive, whose external pulley, with curved spokes, was a distinctive feature of the mill. The layshaft carried an additional pulley, whose purpose does not seem to be known, inside the mill. The nut was in the form of an iron bevel pinion. Exact details of the machine drive are confused. Davies states, “{The friction ring on the great spur wheel drives an} iron friction wheel on a square iron shaft which carries a wood-geared iron bevel wheel which drives a cast iron pinion on the machine shaft”. He then says, “A fourth nut drives a small wood pulley and a wood-geared bevel wheel. This drives an iron bevel wheel with a horizontal shaft which carries a wood-geared bevel wheel driving into a bevel pinion on the flour machine shaft.” It is not quite clear if he is describing the same or a different set of gears. While Hawksley notes, “Friction drive off underside of main rim to gears to smutter through wheel with cogs on back. Auxiliary upright shaft resembling stone spindle gears to shaft gearing to small flour machine and working shaker spout and belts to feed”. (5)

 The upright shaft support frame rested on pillars from ground floor level. On his visit Paul Davies found a displaced 4’ burr stone lying on the spout floor.

(Date of Davies’ visit was 29/4/1946, and Hawksley’s 24/12/1947)

(1) Photographic evidence

(2) HESS

(3) PD in HESS

(4) PD, HRH (in HESS)   

(5) Ibid


Smock mill, collapsed 1945-6

{This mill stood on a parallel-sided brick base.} The cant posts were small in section, one being 5½” by 6”. The sills were braced internally by transverse timbers. The cap was low, with an almost straight pitch to the roof, and projected noticeably at the rear. The sheers etc. appeared to have been renewed at some point. The curb was very well made in two sections, with skewed iron teeth, cast in segments, receiving the final stage of the fan drive which took the form of a worm on a horizontal shaft extending only halfway across the tail of the cap, with a poppet braced to the side by an iron stay. 

 Though the windshaft was drilled for striking gear(1) spring sails were fitted, with wooden shutters and dead leads and equipped with “the compensating pulley”(2). The springs were 4ft 2in long. The whips were held to the stocks by three bolts and a bond at the joint. The windshaft was round and of iron, with the canister measuring 2ft 6in by 1ft 1in by 1ft 10in deep. The neck journal was 15in diameter after which the shaft tapered to a 10in square boss for the brakewheel mounting, and thence to 6in at the tail. The brakewheel was 6ft 6in diameter by 8½in deep, with a wooden rim in six segments bolted (with two bolts on each segment) to the six-armed iron spider which was cast as one unit with the hub(3). The brake, brake lever, wallower, upright shaft, great spur wheel and stone nuts were all of wood though the great spur had iron teeth. The wallower had two rows of cogs and the upright shaft was of pine and octagonal. The great spur wheel, 11ft in diameter and 11” deep by 9½” thick, had griped arms which were well made, “with one unusually small section”(4). Three pairs of stones were driven (though Wailes implies there were two), with one jointed quant(5). The bell alarms were inside the shoes, and buried in the grain until it ran low. The governors were wrought iron and driven by belt from the upright shaft(6). The bridge trees were wooden and of compound type(7). It is not clear whether the sack hoist was driven off the wallower, as would usually have been the case in Kent, or some other gear but Davies and Hawksley state that it was worked “by pulley and rope or chain”. Wailes records that the auxiliary machinery was off a bevel ring below the wallower, which would have been unusual. It drove a spur gear and layshaft at a right angle. Hawksley notes “Auxiliary shaft wheels wood except shaft beyond belt which drove {the equipment} through gears. Belt on first {floor}, stones on second.” Davies says there was a bolter and wire machine, Hawksley a flour machine and smutter on the stone floor. A sack was stencilled “James Buckland, Town Mill, Biddenden”(8).

 In appearance, and particularly the shape of the cap, the mill was like that at Baker Street, Orsett, Essex, which dates from the early (or perhaps mid-) eighteenth century. The “waggon roof” type cap was certainly common, indeed generic, during that period. However, while John Russell of Cranbrook mill thought Town Mill was very old Paul Davies disagreed. It differed from other Wealden mills in many minor details, and the cap and curb (the latter possibly being a replacement) had been much altered. There was no indication that the mill had been raised and the bricks of the base were comparatively modern. The mill was probably not much older than Cranbrook, which was built in 1814.  

Paul Davies’ visit 1945-6

H E S Simmons’ visit 5/8/1946

(1) HESS

(2) PD in HESS

(3) HESS

(4) PD in HESS

(5) HESS

(6) RW 1955

(7) HRH in HESS

(8) PD in HESS

BIDDENDEN Paul Sharpe’s Mill

Post mill, gone

Dated 1609, this was a very small open-trestle mill with an attractive full-length porch at the tail of the buck. The common sails had narrow canvas-spread leading edges. The windshaft was round in section and in three pieces, with six raised bands and a turned flanged coupling in the middle. The iron centres of the brake- and tailwheels were hung on with keys. The canister head is said by Wailes to have resembled a fantail boss, in what way exactly is not clear. The middlings were halved together so that half the strength was cut away and if the inner one needed replacement it was necessary to take down the outer one first. William Warren, the Hawkhurst millwright, said it was a crazy arrangement. Due to the small size of the mill the tailbeam was right against the rear wall of the buck and grease from the tail bearing of the windshaft used to run down the weatherboards. The trestle was very widely spread. The cogs of the brake- and tailwheels both faced towards the crowntree, the stones running in opposite directions; the gear was very coarse and the wooden stone nuts had only nine cogs. The governors were at one time mounted on the stone spindles. There were no bridging boxes, the step brasses being set directly into the bridge trees and adjustable with wooden wedges; a primitive feature. The sack hoist was driven by friction from the tailwheel, with no rope reduction gear. The chain barrel was in the apex of the roof with the chain passing down the stairs as at Frittenden.(1)

(1) RW 1955


Smock mill, demolished 1943


The cap and body of this mill were large, indeed a little elephantine in appearance; in contrast the fantail, very small and mounted low down, seemed absurdly miniscule. It had eight blades. Unusually the stage was above the base, at second-floor level. Four single-shuttered patent sails, with dead leads, were fitted; these spanned 80ft(1). There were two pairs of French and one pair of peak stones plus an additional pair of peaks worked by an engine. The brakewheel, upright shaft and great spur wheel were wooden, but there was an iron crown wheel. On the second floor were a huge flour machine, a smutter and an engine-driven sack hoist. Hawksley implies this equipment could be worked by wind(2).

The mill stood on a single-storey base.

(1) HESS, HRH in same

(2) HRH in HESS 


Smock mill, demolished 1955

The smock tower was clad in tarred in canvas and stood on a brick base whose batter matched its own, with a stage at first-floor level. The cap roof was distinctly high and narrow, and winding was by six-bladed fantail. There were four double-shuttered patent sails with no clamps. The wood clasp-arm great spur wheel was 5ft 8” diameter with 120 cogs.(1)

(1) Photographic evidence; RW 1955


Smock mill, standing today


Jenny West, The Windmills Of Kent (Charles Skilton 1972): “The brakewheel with its wooden brake, the cast-iron windshaft, and the cap winding gear allowing manual operation from within are present, while below on the third floor are the wooden wallower and the sack hoist which operated from it. The wooden great spur wheel is still in existence although the stones to which it once transmitted power are not. No other machinery survives. The sweeps, two common and two spring, were removed early this century after being considered dangerous.

 In April 1970 millwrights Vincent Pargeter and Philip Lennard reframed and reboarded the head and tail gables of the cap, replaced some of the weatherboarding and framing of the mill body and replaced one of the cant posts for approximately eight feet.” 

 The mill has now been converted to a house, with a set of dummy sails and fantail, but as far as is known the abovementioned machinery is still present. It stands on a single-storey parallel-sided brick base, octagonal like the smock tower, with a stage and has the usual Kentish cap.


Post mill, standing today (rebuilt after being blown down 2003)


Two things need to be borne in mind when considering Chillenden mill from a technical point of view. Firstly, this was the last post mill in the country to be built entirely from scratch, making its appearance at a time when, although post mills might when required be refitted with new, more advanced machinery or otherwise modified, the building of a completely new one had not occurred for some years. Consequently some of its features may not be in line with traditional millwrighting in the region, particularly the windshaft and brakewheel which are of an unusual type as will be seen below. The windshaft at Ash mill (which significantly stood not very far away) was similar and one wonders if it was installed at about the same time (probably replacing an earlier wooden shaft). At the same time enough of the tradition was remembered for the mill to conform in some respects with other south-eastern post mills (surviving examples would have provided a model). For example, the breast is pointed and, the trestle being in this case open, the weatherboarding on the breast is carried down to form a triangular shield partly protecting the substructure from the elements, here being laid diagonally. The late Mr R Hawksley called Chillenden mill “a total freak” and although this may be an exaggeration, it is certainly something of a hybrid.

 Secondly, when the mill was first restored in the 1950s some fittings including the auxiliary machinery were unfortunately taken out and not replaced; furthermore, towards the end of 2003 the mill collapsed in a strong wind, for reasons which are still not clear, and was subsequently rebuilt (losing much original timberwork in the process). These upheavals need to be borne in mind when seeking to interpret the mill as one finds it today; it may not be clear whether a particular feature was present during the mill’s working life or is a product of subsequent restorations.

 The windows are closed by removable shutters (another typical south-eastern feature). The roof is annular. There is a porch at the top of the ladder and the tailpole is supported by a wooden “cartwheel” with an iron tyre.

 In view of the mill’s small size the bin and stone floors are combined, the hoppers (now missing along with all other stone furniture) probably serving the same function as bins during the mill’s active life.

The main gearing and tentering mechanism are of iron, and bearing in mind the mill’s very late construction may be assumed to be coeval with it.

 The iron windshaft is hexagonal with corners chamfered towards the tail. Its rear bearing is located in a transverse beam forward of the tail of the mill. This beam is bolted to the upper side rails about a third of the way down their height and thus overlaps them; to give greater strength and rigidity the resulting space is filled by reinforcing iron shoes which are bolted to the beam. The need for these is emphasized by the decayed condition of the east end of the beam, which in places has rotted away to the point where it is non-existent.

 The long sack hoist bollard is driven from the windshaft, a belt formerly going from a flanged wooden disc aft of the brakewheel to a corresponding flange on the bollard. A lever is employed to throw the hoist in/out of gear, worked by a cord passing over a pulley. Fixed to it and at right angles to it is one end of a beam in which the front bearing of the sack hoist is mounted. At its other end the beam is pivoted in a hanger suspended from one of the roof timbers. The lever itself is pivoted in a short hanger from a horizontal beam bolted to one of the roof timbers, just behind and on the right side of the brakewheel. The rear bearing of the sack hoist turns in a horizontal member which bridges the parabolic arch formed by two of the roof timbers near its top.

 The brakewheel is an oddity; a boss with four ribbed iron arms is wedged on to the windshaft and to the arms is bolted a flat wooden disc, solid apart from a square opening in the centre which is partly filled by the arms. To this disc, which forms the main body of the wheel, is fixed the wood rim, which carries a ring of iron teeth. This drives a six-armed iron wallower on a short iron upright shaft. The top bearing of the wallower is located in a curved sprattle beam spanning the width of the mill between the upper side rails. A curved iron bracket, which I suspect was put in after the mill’s closure, braces the sprattle beam to the floor to give it additional strength. The brake lever remains.

 There are two pairs of stones, one Peak and one French Burr, side-by-side in the breast and underdriven from the great spur wheel on the spout floor below. The runner of the western pair of stones has been removed and placed near the rear of the floor, probably to counter the forward leaning of the buck.

 This being a spur gear mill, there are no tailwheel or tailstones, which means that most of the weight of the structure is forward of the crowntree. Perhaps as a result of this the mill is visibly headsick.


 The six-armed iron mortice great spur wheel has a secondary gear ring, of iron with wooden teeth, on its underside for driving the auxiliary machinery. The iron stone nuts are of “tambourine” type with jack rings for lifting them out of gear. They are mounted on substantial spindles which are tapered in the East Anglian fashion.

 Beneath the spur wheel the upright shaft is footed in a horizontal beam running fore-aft, one end of which is bolted to the prick post and braced to it by a substantial cheek piece. At the other end the beam is fixed to another horizontal beam at a right angle to it, which is suspended at its ends by hangers from the crowntree. This arrangement together with the floorbeams and tentering gear forms a kind of frame around the spur wheel.

 Iron bridge trees suspended from the crowntree run fore and aft, flanking the spur wheel and the timbers surrounding it. Large handles are provided to work the tentering screws. There are two pairs of governors, one on each side of the mill near the front, on iron brackets bolted to the intermediate framing. A belt goes from the eastern pair to a flanged wooden disc on the right hand quant. There is no corresponding flange on the left hand quant so it has probably been removed, but it was presumably driven from the western governor in the same fashion. Both governors have flanged iron discs on their spindles to receive the drive belts.

 On the right hand side of the floor and running for most of the length of the mill is an inclined iron shaft with a bevel pinion at the fore end and a pulley at the other. About halfway along  this shaft appears to turn in a bearing on a casting bolted to a cheek piece on the main vertical member of the intermediary framing. The bearing on the pulley end of the shaft turns in the transverse beam above the door. The shaft was driven by a horizontal shaft and pinion, now missing so that the nut appears to hang in mid-air, at a right angle to it from the secondary gear ring of the great spur wheel, and itself drove a smutter on the left side (as one enters the buck) of this floor, the belt from the pulley passing above the door(1).

(1) Rex Wailes and John Russell, Windmills In Kent (Newcomen Society Transactions vol 29 1953-5)

Description based on survey carried out by G Blythman 22nd June 2008


Smock mill, burnt 2005


Chislet mill was an old one, thought to date from c1744. It is not shown on a map of 1769, but was evidently standing by that year as on a beam near the ground floor door was carved “Anthony May 1765”, along with “A May 1789” and “M May 1795”.(1) The tarred smock stood on a very shallow brick base, with no stage, and the rather ugly cap, straight-sided for about the first third of its height, was large in proportion to it. The mill would have been winded by hand, and had common sails and a wooden windshaft, originally. Latterly the sails were single-sided springs with half-live lead boards(2). A chainwheel was fitted for manual winding when necessary.

 The mill ceased work by wind in 1916, when it was tailwinded and the cap, sails, windshaft and brakewheel then removed. A pitched roof was put on and the tower was encased in corrugated iron sheeting, in a move which did not improve the general appearance of the structure but helped ensure its survival for the next ninety years or so, in such a way as to make its ultimate loss all the more regrettable. The mill may not have looked very prepossessing, from any point of view, but this only masked the interest of what lay beneath the outer skin. Two cant posts had been renewed in the late nineteenth or early twentieth century(3), but otherwise the mill kept its relatively ancient character. The red-painted roof, clearly visible across the surrounding countryside, made it a distinctive sight to users of the main coastal road to Margate and Ramsgate.

 The curb and rack were of wood. Latterly most of the cap frame appeared to be missing; one truck wheel is visible in a late twentieth century photograph(4). There were three pairs of underdriven stones, two burrs and one peak. Each had its own governor. The wallower was of iron, with a bevelled wood friction ring bearing on an iron pulley on the sack hoist bollard, but the upright shaft and great spur wheel were wooden, also two of the stone nuts. The third, iron stone nut, which drove the peak stones was fairly obviously a later replacement for a wooden one. The wood stone nuts were solid. The clasp-arm great spur wheel, with six cants, carried inner and outer iron cog rings, the outer being for the stone nuts and the inner the ancillary machinery, which consisted of a flour dresser on the ground floor, via a cast-iron bevel nut and horizontal layshaft.

 The bridge beam for the upright shaft was carried on two timbers morticed at their ends into vertical posts between which two of the wooden bridge trees were mounted parallel to the bridge beam, the third bridge tree being suspended on hangers from the ceiling.(5) The whole formed a hurst frame, incorporating the millstone-bearing timbers, which added much to the rigidity and stability of the  overall structure(6).

 After wind power was discontinued the mill carried on for a few years under a paraffin engine. In 1972 Jenny West reported that sections of the flooring were rotting in places, but otherwise it was sound and internally complete from the curb down. The partitioned wooden bins remained on the bin floor. Tragically it was destroyed by fire in October 2005, in what has probably been the most serious windmill loss in this country in the last thirty years, just after molinologist Luke Bonwick had surveyed it and taken a number of photographs. Measured drawings were being made up by Dave Pearce at the time of the fire. To compound the disaster of the mill’s loss it was replaced by a hideous replica which unforgiveably, and unbelievably, was described by estate agents as a “historic windmill”! At least the real mill has been recorded (it was the mistaken belief that it had not which inspired the Technical Information Project).

(1) Windmill Hoppers; J West, The Windmills Of Kent (Skilton 1972, 1979)

(2) R Hawksley, in HESS

(3) West, as above

(4) Frank Gregory Collection, Mills Archive, 02492 10.09

(5) West, HESS; photographs by F Gregory (see above) and by Ton Meesters, 1996 (posted on “Windmill Hoppers” website August-       

      September 2017

(6) R de Little, The Windmills Of England, 1997, p79


Smock mill, standing today


Union Mill, Cranbrook, is visually one of the most impressive and recognisable windmills in the country, partly due to being among the tallest. Its height (seventy feet to the tip of the upper sail) is due mainly to its being badly sited, on the lower slopes rather than the top of a hill or on flat ground, and having to be built taller to compensate. It is, nevertheless, a very fine specimen, and easily the dominant feature of this small market town, leading to its being nicknamed “Queen of the Weald”. It was little used as a windmill after about 1912, a steam engine having been installed as early as 1863, but until relatively recently was still part of an active milling business producing livestock feed. Modern machinery, driven by first a suction gas plant and then an electric motor, had long superseded the wind-driven gear but the latter remained complete and in good condition. The mill is now owned by the County Council and administered by the Cranbrook Windmill Association, formed in 1982. Its survival is due in large measure to former miller John Russell, who refused to sell the site off for development and had major repairs carried out in 1958-60.

 The smock tower, which is about normal size though still large, has four floors and stands on a three-storey tarred brick base with battered walls. It and the sails, fantail etc are all white-painted, which renders a mill like this much more attractive as well as generally making it Stand out more. A door in the second floor of the base opens onto a loading platform with a sack slide. The platform is supported by vertical iron columns which frame the main entrance door. A stone tablet let into the base just below one of the footings for the diagonal stage supports records the mill’s erection in 1814 by James Humphrey for Henry Dobell. It originally had common sails and manual winding, but was modernised around 1840 with a fantail and patent sails. A metal, originally wooden, stage with diagonal struts bracing it to the brickwork is provided at the point where the smock begins as a platform from which to attend to the weights of the striking mechanism, the latter being external as was usually the case in this part of the country.

 The cap is fairly typically Kentish, but of the more rounded version favoured by Hill of Ashford who probably worked on the mill on one or two occasions. It is winded by an eight-bladed fantail on the usual Kentish upward-angled support structure. The six-spoked striking wheel for the sails is mounted at the lower rear of the cap between two vertical members depending from the fanstage; below it is a cross-member from which depends the short guide pole for the chain. The drive from the fantail to the curb is through an angled shaft and bevel gearing to a vertical shaft travelling down the rear cap gable, a further pair of bevel gears and finally a worm meshing with the teeth of the rack. On my 2006 visit I was not carrying out a comprehensive survey and since then access to the cap and dust floor has been forbidden, so the cap frame, curb and  truck wheels were not examined in detail. Looking up from the bin floor, one sees that the windshaft tapers towards the tail and that there are two large, eight-spoked truck wheels mounted on the tail beam, one at each of the points where the sheers join it.   

 The sails are double-shuttered with the leading edges narrower than the trailing. They are mounted on an iron windshaft which carries a brakewheel with eight iron arms and wooden rim and cants. The brake lever is wooden according to a mid-twentieth century photograph in the Mills Archive. The iron wallower is of light construction with a bevelled wooden friction ring below it for the sack hoist; it is surrounded by an iron safety rail which follows its circumference. The rail was probably put in in the late nineteenth or early twentieth century in accordance with the laws coming in at that time on safety in the workplace, which affected those still operating commercially. The sack hoist consists of a bevelled iron pulley on an iron-straked wooden bollard.

The upright shaft is substantial, square and of wood.


This floor is taken up almost entirely by the bins themselves.


Here there are windows on the northeast, southwest and southeast panels of the smock.

 The upright shaft is footed in a lateral beam fixed to the undersides of two longitudinal timbers. On all the panels the transoms are at floor and ceiling level except for the northwest and southwest ones where there are additional horizontal timbers  at three-quarter height on which rest the longitudinal beams of the upright shaft support frame. The ends of the additional timbers rest in the angles between each of the transoms and the adjacent cant post. The longitudinal upright shaft support timbers are very substantial and also form the main beams of the ceiling.

 The windowless panels have a central upright with a diagonal and three less substantial uprights on either side of it. The diagonals begin about halfway down and meet the central upright at its base in a V-shape, breaking the others in the process. Those panels with a window are divided into an upper and lower section by the horizontal timbers; the upper section contains an upright and two diagonals, the lower six uprights of slender section with the window framed between the two central ones (that is, the third and fourth), plus two more supporting the lower lintel. 

Incidentally the framing on all floors was originally matchboarded on the inside(1).

 The stones are overdriven from a fine 8-armed iron mortice great spur wheel with a bevelled secondary gear ring, also iron mortice, bolted to the underside of the arms; the auxiliary machinery was  driven from the latter via a large bevel nut, guarded like the wallower, layshaft and pulleys, all of which have now disappeared. From the pulleys one belt passed to the floors above, to drive what is not clear, and another, guarded, to those below.(2)

 There were originally three pairs of stones of which two remain, on the western and north-eastern sides. The third was on the southern side. The quants are square and, as is often the case with overdrift gearing, very long; that for the western stones is in two sections bolted together. Both the nuts are of large size; the western one is solid wood, the other all-iron with four arms. In a ceiling joist is the casting in which the upper bearing of the spindle for the missing pair of stones was located. Still present are the hanger and forked iron lever (missing on the surviving stones) which were used for moving the nut in and out of gear with the spur wheel.

SPOUT FLOOR (first floor of smock)

There are windows in the western and eastern panels. The ladder well is on the southwest side, with sack traps on the northern and western. A large bin takes up the centre of the floor.

 Above the head is a jungle of tentering gear. The governors are mounted on iron brackets between the two main longitudinal ceiling beams, which along with the joisting act as support for the bridgetrees, brayers etc. The beams rest on transoms, from which the studs of the doors onto the stage depend, near the tops of the north and south panels. The bridgetree for the western stones is located between the western of the main ceiling beams, to which it is bolted at its eastern end, and the wall. It is at a right angle t that for the other two pairs which are in a line with each other, parallel to the eastern main ceiling beam and bolted to its eastern face. All the bridgetrees, brayers and hangers are of iron. 

 There was one governor for each pairs of stones and all three still remain, likewise in a line with one another. All retain their steelyards, and two their belts. The belt drums are in the form of large four-armed iron pulleys. 

 On the north side of the floor is a Eureka smutter by Howes, which came from Chegworth watermill when it was house-converted in the mid-1990s(3). Also preserved here is a short ladder, in the form of a curved V, which was designed so as to straddle the roof ridge of the cap and allow painting and repairs to be carried out to it.

 The three floors of the base are for storage as well as housing further auxiliary machinery, such as oat rollers and a large and very fine silk screen flour dresser. Most of this equipment is located on the top floor of the base. The dresser came from East Hill watermill in Ashford(4). Other items may have been installed after the mill ceased to work entirely by wind and were driven by engine line shafting and pulleys, still in place, under the ceiling. There is a basement, the roof of which is supported on cast-iron columns.

(Description based on visits made April 2006 and 30th July 2008)

Line drawings of the framing of the mill, done by students, are believed to exist (Mr Wyn Tremenheere to G Blythman 22nd May 2010).

(1) RW 1955

(2) Photographs in Mills Archive

(3) R Cumming 23rd July 2015

(4) Ibid


Smock mill, gone

The large cap was winded by a huge fantail with the blades set far apart. The sails were fitted with semi-elliptical springs with a bar going down each one which was presumably part of the control mechanism.(1)

(1) HESS

EASTRY Upper Mill

Smock mill, standing today


The mill was internally plastered(1). The machinery was largely of iron. The brakewheel had six arms and the windshaft was polygonal (being twelve-sided at the tail(2). The brake was iron “with a thin cranked iron lever”. The upright shaft rested on an iron bridge beam.(3) The sack hoist was presumably driven by friction from the wallower, via an iron drum on the bollard. Hawksley notes that there is “a belt off the upright shaft to a countershaft where it could be pushed onto an idler pulley, then crossed belt to elevator”. One pair of stones had a slide in the shoe worked by a lever; the shoe was suspended on a chain. There were four pairs altogether, two peaks and two burrs; one stone, it is not clear which, was 5ft in diameter(4). One pair of burrs had wooden tentering gear, the other iron. The peak stone nuts were adjusted by jack ring and screw. One pair of governors had flat tops and sides to the weights, as was not unusual in Kent. An auxiliary upright shaft drove an oat crusher and cleaner on the first floor, and a horizontal shaft on the ground floor with gears to the second pair of peaks on the first which could be driven by wind or engine.

(1) RW 1955; Hawksley suggests only the first floor was so treated

(2) RW 1955

(3) HRH in HESS

(4) RW 1955


Tower windpump, standing today


Faversham waterworks mill drove a pump through a 3-throw crankshaft made of cast-iron, a material recommended for crankshafts in the days when the mill was built. It was turned by Hill in his 18-in centre self-acting lathe, taxing its capacity to the limit, so said George Harmer who was engaged in the job of erection from start to finish. When the mill was ready to run there was a grand opening ceremony. The mill delivered 2,300,000 gallons in 24 hours equal approximate to 8 hp. The sails were 74 ft span and ran at 14 revolutions per minute. The brakewheel and wallower had 124 and 67 teeth. There was an intermediate bevel gear drive of 54 to 88 and a final spur gear drive of 15 to 133.(1)

(1) RW 1955


Post mill, gone

The mill was tarred and had an octagonal wooden roundhouse. It was a small affair, the buck being only 16ft long and too short for sack traps, so that the sacks came up through the stairways pushing back the ladders, which were hinged, as they did so. The post was 30” square at the base. The wooden windshaft was replaced with an iron one by Warren of Hawkhurst. The tailwheel had an iron hub and arms and wood cuts. The stone nuts were of solid elm, nicely decorated with mouldings. The sack hoist drive was by a friction wheel in contact with the rim of the tailwheel and a wire machine by a spur gear engaging with the outside edge of the tailwheel cogs.(1)

(1) RW 1955

GUSTON, Swingate Mill

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


The fantail was at one time painted red, white and blue(1). The windshaft was ribbed throughout its length(2). The brakewheel, with iron spokes and wood rim(3) was of very crude design. It had a wood and iron brake and an iron brake lever(4). The machinery was of iron down to the stone nuts though the great spur wheel had wooden cogs. Three pairs of stones, two peak and one burr, were overdriven on the second floor where there were also a pair of oat crushers.(5) As at Kippings Cross the caps on the top bearings of the quants had to be removed to throw the nuts out of gear. The governors had wooden links.(6) A flour machine and a smutter were on the spout floor(7). 

(1) HRH in HESS

(2) RW 1955

(3) HRH in HESS

(4) RW in 1955

(5) HRH in HESS

(6) RW in HESS

(7) HRH in HESS