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Technical descriptions of English windmills



Smock mill, gone

The curb was originally all wood, but later the teeth were sawn off and a segmented cast-iron rack fitted(1). The wooden upright shaft exhibited the sawn-off arm of a compass-arm wheel(2), which along with the alterations to the curb suggests a major refit. The windshaft had a balance weight(3). It carried spring sails with semi-elliptic springs. The stones were underdriven.(4)

(P Davies’ visit was on 14th April 1963)

(1) PD in HESS

(2) Ibid

(3) RW 1955

(4) HESS

HEADCORN, White Mill

Smock mill, demolished 1952

This mill stood on a base of Bethersden marble. The curb was of beech, whereas all other Kentish smock and tower mills had oak curbs except for Herne’s which was elm. There was one two-piece quant.(1)

(1) RW 1955


Smock mill, standing today


Herne mill was built in 1781 and like White Mill, Sandwich, has retained some of its original wooden machinery, relatively primitive in design, while in other ways being technically advanced. It is a rather taller example of the old kind of eighteenth-century smock mill which was later (in 1858 in this case) raised on a brick base and given patent sails, etc. It was the work of John Holman, who later established in Canterbury the well-known firm of Kentish millwrights which bore his name. Last worked by wind in 1952, latterly with the assistance of an oil engine, it is now owned by the County Council and managed by the Friends Of Herne Mill. Today the stately black lady of Herne, as I always think of her, stands proudly above the surrounding post-war housing and on her hill is a prominent landmark for some miles, at one time featuring on maritime charts. 

 The octagonal smock stands on a two-storey brick base, also octagonal, which contributes to its height; there is a stage positioned a few feet below the point where the smock begins, the spout floor doors being reached from it by a ladder, and braced to the brickwork with diagonal timbers. The Kentish-type cap is winded by a six-bladed fantail, with a chainwheel for hand winding, and there is a braced guide pole for the striking chain  of the four double-shuttered patent sails. The striking wheel has iron arms and a wooden rim which is unusually painted white, as are the sails, fantail, guide pole and the upper safety rail of the stage, providing a pleasing contrast to the tar which coats the base and smock. As restored, the windows in the smock each have just one central upright instead of the usual, and more attractive, lattice framing.

 Access to the dust floor is not currently permitted to visitors, but I believe the curb is of the dead variety. It was at one time made of elm, with scarfed joints, and beautifully shaped, but became broken(1). The fan drove down to the wood cogs on the rack via a wooden worm which was later replaced by an iron one(2). Looking up from the bin floor I could make out four truck wheels, one on the end of each sheer and of each of the side timbers; there is probably a fifth mounted under the breast beam. The windshaft, which has a ball thrust bearing(3), is iron as is the eight-armed brakewheel spider. The cants and rim of the wheel are wood; it has only four of the former, like the great spur wheel, and was clearly converted from compass-arm. The sack hoist is on the northeast side in front of the brakewheel. A solid wood wallower friction drives it direct, bearing on an iron pulley on an iron-straked wooden bollard supported by the usual wooden frame with adjustable timber, worked by pulling on a rope, for moving it in and out of gear. The tail bearing of the bollard is located in a casting on a timber fixed between two of the cant posts. The wooden upright shaft is circular with chamfers at the top. The mill being overdrift it is very short.

 There is one window on the east side, where is also found the sack trap, the latter within a sunken section of the floor. The stairwell is on the southeast. 


The layout of this floor was not noted.


There are windows on the north and south sides. The stairwell and the ladder to the bin floor are on the south-east.

 Here alternative panels of the framing have transoms at three-quarters of their height for supporting the ends of the main ceiling beams, which run east-west, and from which any window frames depend. The other panels contain five uprights broken by the diagonals.

 The wooden great spur wheel has straight cants and four short compass arms and is obviously old, perhaps dating back to when the mill was first built. The upright shaft is supported by the usual H-frame arrangement with the bridge beam carried between two curved cheek pieces. Three pairs of stones are overdriven on the north, south and west sides. The casing and furniture of the north stones are missing, while those of the west remain and appear original; the southern stones are in a new tun which is octagonal like the others. The nuts for the north and south stones are of wood and solid, that for the west stones iron mortice with four arms. On the south-east side the great spur wheel engages with a large iron mortice gear on the auxiliary upright shaft. 


There are windows on the south and southeast sides. Doors open onto the stage on the east and west. The stairwell is on the south to the left of the window, the ladder to the stone floor on the southeast.

 In the panels with windows the transom is again at three-quarters height. Above it are a central upright with two diagonals going to its base in a V-shape, with two more uprights on each side. Below the transom from left to right are a diagonal, an upright ending at and supporting the window frame, then three uprights the first of which abuts the window frame. Of the panels without a window only the north and south ones were inspected. These have transoms at mid-height supporting the ends of the longitudinal H-frame (“dummy floor”) timbers, which abut the cant posts. Above the transom is the common arrangement of an upright and two diagonals, here flanked by single additional uprights on each side. Below the transom the central upright is flanked by two more on each side with diagonals going from the cant posts about a third of the way down to its foot.

 One governor controls each of the three pairs of stones through a curved steelyard. The northern governor has hemispherical weights, the western spherical, and the southern cylindrical. The bridgetrees for the northern and western stones are iron, that for the southern wood. The northern bridgetree is mounted between the main dummy floor timbers, with a brayer, also iron, to which the steelyard runs south-west depending from the eastern timber. The governor is mounted on a horizontal timber between two vertical posts depending from ceiling joists. The belt drums on the governor spindle and quant extension are of wood. The western and southern bridgetrees are mounted, the former via iron hangers, on the outside faces of the dummy floor timbers and parallel to them. The southern bridgetree is also stayed to a ceiling joist. The western governor is mounted like the northern on a horizontal timber between two verticals from the ceiling, above the door, and the steelyard runs south-west from it to the north end of the bridgetree. The belt drums here are of iron, that on the governor really being more a flanged pulley, with four arms. The southern governor is mounted on a member which goes diagonally from the window lintel to a vertical stub timber from one of the east-west ceiling joists. Its belt drum and that on the quant extension are wooden as with the northern stones. The bridgetree is on wooden hangers and equipped with a wooden brayer.

 On this floor, as on the stone floor, the secondary upright shaft is encased for much of its height in protective trunking. The outer side face of the eastern dummy floor beam, to which is bolted a steady bearing for it, is cut away at one point in a half-circle to allow it to turn. Above the trunking the shaft carries a four-armed iron mortice gear which must have meshed with a nut on a layshaft, now missing, from which would have been driven the Bamfords oat roller on the east side of the floor. On the north side can be seen the top of the grain elevator.


Here there are windows on the south and east sides. The stairwell is on the southwest side, the ladder to the spout floor on the south, and a loading door, in two halves like a stable door, on the southeast. The ends of the main ceiling beams are reinforced by metal brackets and an iron column gives additional support to the southern beam at mid-point.

 On this floor the secondary upright shaft drives an assortment of auxiliary machinery – a modern plate mill, a wire machine and a jog scry – via a further iron mortice gear, bevel nut and layshaft

carrying a number of pulleys. There is provision for driving this equipment by electric motor; the oil engine once used has now gone. The layshaft emerges from the wall of the base on the south side to end in the usual pulley. The grain elevator continues down to the ground floor.


The entrance door is on the south side and there is a window on the northeast. The ladder to the floor above is on the southwest. The main ceiling beams run north-south and are supported by iron columns at mid-length. Besides the grain elevator there is a modern flour machine on the north side.

Plans of the mill exist at the Mills Archive.

Based on survey carried out by Guy Blythman on 31st May 2009

(1) RW 1955

(2) HESS

(3) RW 1955


Smock mill, demolished 1961, base survives


An octagonal white mill with a three-storey smock on a two-storey brick base, the latter having a stage at first-floor level. Although built in 1812 it had common sails, hand winding and the generic type of eighteenth century cap with the roof carried down vertically below the sheers. The corners of the smock were proofed with wide strips of lead.(1) Winding was by wheel and chain, a spur pinion engaging with the rack. The curb was live. The 11’ diameter brakewheel was a wooden clasp-arm with straight cants and doubled arms; it was mounted on square flanges on the iron windshaft, and braced forward to it with iron bars(2), and had 108 cogs.(3) The windshaft was square until well behind the brakewheel, then tapered to the tail(4). It had a wooden neck bearing made up of about half a dozen pieces bolted together and standing on edge(5). The brake and wallower were iron, the upright shaft and great spur wheel wood (though the great spur in fact had a double rim with the inner rim of iron and the outer wooden(6)). The wallower, with 48 cogs, replaced a four-armed compass wheel. The sprattle beam was adjusted by wedges in a horizontal plane off two bearers, which could themselves be adjusted by wedges in a vertical plane. The 9ft great spur wheel had eight compass arms and 120 cogs. The four intermediate arms of the wheel did not pass right through the shaft, entering it to a depth of about four inches.(7)

 Three pairs of stones were underdriven(8). The bridgetrees were wooden and two were of compound type(9). The auxiliary machinery was driven off an iron mortice secondary cog ring on the underside of the great spur wheel arms; an iron pinion was mounted on a heavy wooden horizontal shaft, and then mitre gears, believed unique in a windmill, and another horizontal shaft took the drive through a right angle. There were a wire machine and a shaker.(10)

(HRH visited on 24th December 1947)

(1)  Photographic evidence

(2)  HRH in HESS

(3)  RW 1955

(4)  HRH in HESS

(5)  RW 1955

(6)  HRH in HESS

(7)  RW 1955

(8)  HRH in HESS, RW 1955

(9)  HRH in HESS

(10) HRH in HESS, RW 1955


Smock mill, blown down 1957


The third floor was partly plastered. The base was surrounded by an octagonal brick “roundel” which was added after the mill was built(1). The curb was dead, and the winding worm of wood. The patent sails had wooden shutters. The six brakewheel arms, plus the stone nuts, crown wheel and great spur wheel were iron, the upright shaft wood. Two pairs of stones, with two-piece quants, were overdriven on the first floor. There appears to have been a wooden secondary upright shaft going down to the ground floor where it drove a flour machine and a pair of oat crushers.(2)

(1) HESS

(2) HRH in HESS, September 1945

KESTON (now London Borough of Bromley)

Post mill, standing today


The main post of Keston mill is dated 1716, but there is a tradition that it was rebuilt around 1782. It ceased work as long ago as the 1860s but for most of the period since has been maintained in good condition by successive owners, repairs being carried out in 1914 (in a relatively early instance of a windmill being preserved for posterity) and 1935. Though a little shaky, the structure remains more or less sound and by and large retains its original fabric.

 For a technical survey one cannot do better than the following extract from Rob Cumming’s The Windmills of Northwest Kent and Kentish London (2014), p.104-8 (reproduced by permission of the author):

“I have separated this section from the main part of the book, in an effort to produce a more detailed technical study of Keston mill as a surviving post mill. This is a combination of notes made by Dowling {student who did a technical study of the mill in the 1970s}, Wailes {1955}, Simmons and {Jenny} West, and also my notes taken on a number of visits over the last twenty years.

 Without doubt Keston mill is one of the most important unrestored post mills in the UK, and is a rare survival of what would have been regarded as an advanced post mill in the eighteenth century. It has been rebuilt and revamped on probably three or four occasions, all of which would have altered its size and appearance.

 The trestle is remarkable in its age and size, and it is without doubt nearly three hundred years old. The post is of oak, two feet five inches in diameter, and is octagonal. It rests on one-foot square crosstrees, also of oak and virtually set on the ground. The brick piers are surprisingly small, barely more than a foot in height. The quarterbars are beautifully curved, showing considerable antiquity. The post has four mortices cut into it which are generally accepted to be for supporting struts during construction, to hold the post upright while the quarterbars were being joined in.

Inside the mill the post and quarterbars have been joined up to the inside roof, with some nicely carved timber bracing which looks newer than the trestle itself.

The roundhouse is approximately 23 feet in diameter, and poses some interesting questions as to whether it is contemporary with the mill’s construction. Brick was not a scarce building material in 1716, but not recorded as widely used in roundhouses at such an early date. The roundhouse at Keston is certainly very old, and if not contemporary, must have been added shortly after construction. Some debate has gone on as to the fact that the crosstrees are exposed at their ends to the elements through little arches in the roundhouse, and one can assume that this is due to the need to separate the brick walling from the great pressures of vibration and strain on the trestle that the working mill above would cause. On some post mills capstones were present to protect the ends of the crosstrees from the elements, but at Keston this is not the case. Unless these were removed many years ago, the crosstrees have always been exposed and visible from outside the roundhouse wall. There is nothing left of any turning track for which Keston mill was pushed around: the prevailing wind was almost constantly blowing from the south, so I doubt the mill was as mobile as others, needing constant moving into the face of the wind. One quarterbar is heavily worn down by the rubbing of the sack hoist chain, suggesting it was generally facing in this direction most of the time. This factor is presumably the reason why the mill did not receive a fantail during its working life, despite being regularly upgraded with modern technology.

The mill body

Rex Wailes records the body as being 19 feet 3 inches by 11 feet across, and states that even in 1955 it was the largest post mill body remaining in Kent.

The main structural timbers are of oak. Lesser load-bearing beams are of pine. The crowntree is a solid piece of oak just under two feet square. It has been heavily encased in iron in recent years as a precaution against potential failure.

The structure has two floors and a bin loft. The transom beams supporting the lower floor are broken, and as a result the floor is severely bowed and sloping evenly fore and aft away from the main post. The beams have been broken for over a century, and ae supported by cast iron pillars set in concrete, put in the mill in the 1983 restoration.

The mill body is extended at the back. The date of this extension is difficult to ascertain, but it is presumed to be before the early pictorial representations of the mill which show the structure more or less correlating to what we see today. It is possibly part of an earlier phase of rebuilding by Ashby just before 1824, and therefore not recorded in his ledger. The extension is well-disguised externally, but inside is much more evident, with pine bracing being used to support oak extensions of main timbers. It was built to house two pieces of dressing machinery: a bolter on the upper floor and a jog scry or jumper on the lower floor by the main door.

As stated previously, William Ashby undertook a major rebuild of this mill, and his ledger records in some detail repairs to the breast. Some unrecorded event, or perhaps the effects of old age, meant that he was asked to significantly rebuild the breast, and at the same time convert the mill from a head and tail overdrift arrangement to spur-driven underdrift millstones. The most startling legacy of this arrangement can still be seen in the breast, where he used old sail stocks to replace three structural beams, which can still be seen in the structure and painted white; he even spliced in part of a stock on the prick post. While this improvisation is perhaps unconventional, it has certainly stood the test of time. He otherwise appears to rebuild the mill faithfully, keeping the projecting breast beams as a mark of the structure’s old age.

The mill machinery and workings

The windshaft is a later addition, probably installed when new patent sails were fitted probably in the 1830s. It would have replaced a timber shaft. Of the machinery in the mill the only original part is likely to be the brakewheel, a fine clasp-armed gear 8 feet 6 inches in diameter. Mounted above the windshaft is the sack hoist mechanism, driven by a slack belt directly from the shaft, in front of the brakewheel. The belt could be tightened and engaged by a lever, turning an elm pulley. The lever could be adjusted by a rope passing to the bottom of the mill, which would bring up sacks of grain through trapdoors with leather hinges. Either side of the windshaft can be seen the remains of elm bins and hoppers for feeding grain into the millstones.

The wallower is of iron, and no doubt installed by Ashby in 1836. A short iron upright shaft drives down between the millstones and transmits power to the great spur wheel mounted in the roof of the floor below. The spur wheel is of iron with a mix of oak and hornbeam teeth, and engages two iron stone nuts which could be lifted in and out of gear by a forked lever. The stone nuts turn shafts passing back up through the floor to turn the upper stones (runner stones) of two pairs of millstones. Keston mill was equipped with a pair of French Burr stones, 4 feet 4 inches in diameter, for the grinding of flour and a pair of Derbyshire Peak stones, 4 feet 6 inches in diameter, for grinding rougher material such as animal feed. The distance between the stones could be adjusted by hand screws and a lever, a very basic form of tentering. At some point Keston mill was fitted with a governor for both pairs of stones, and this is driven by a belt from the upright shaft. The stone furniture is missing, and the millstones left bare.

On this floor are the markings for a pair of millstones in what would then have been the tail of the mill. Rex Wailes and Jenny West suggest that at one point a third pair of millstones was added; this however seems highly unlikely as there simply wasn’t enough space and the bin configurations do not point to it either. If anything, it is almost certainly an indicator of the old head and tail arrangement before Ashby moved the stones towards the breast and converted the mill to an underdrift spur drive.

At the back of the mill, housed within the extension, are two dressing machines, both no doubt used together. These probably date from the first few years of the nineteenth century.

On the upper floor is a primitive bolter, without its fine cloth, used for refining ground flour. It consists of a drum of five bars on a spindle, with a slight incline so that flour would fall with gravity. This is driven by a small spur pinion and by a belt drive from the brakewheel. Below it, the flour would fall down a chute to the lower floor into a jog scry or jumper, which remains as a pine box mounted diagonally and about seven feet in length. This is connected by a leather strap turned by a crank connected to the bolter drive above, the vertical action shaking the flour through a (now missing) wire gauze into one of three compartments, related to grades of flour quality.

The sails or “sweeps”

Unusually Keston mill was last fitted with four double-shuttered patent sweeps. These were probably again part of Ashby’s upgrade in 1836 and would presumably have been fitted when the wooden windshaft was replaced in iron. The last working sails consisted of six bays, with three shutters to a bay. A spider mechanism at the poll end opened and closed the shutters, which were linked by a striking rod through the windshaft to the tail bearing. The mechanism for adjusting the striking rod is housed inside the mill and consists of a small wooden chain wheel geared to a rack and pinion. The rope chain runs down to the lower floor so that the miller could open and close the shutters without stopping the mill.

The spider is now displaced, but is kept in the roundhouse with the striking gear. It is very rusty but in a good enough condition should copies ever need to be made.”   


Tower mill, standing today


The wallower and upright shaft are of iron and the great spur wheel iron mortice. Three pairs of stones were driven, two with wood nuts. A further iron mortice gear drove the auxiliary machinery. R Hawksley commented that the bin space was generous.(1)

(1) HRH in HESS, P Davies 25/11/46, surviving machinery preserved at Wimbledon Windmill Museum


Tower mill, stump remains


A red brick tower mill having the usual Kentish hooded cap, here painted white, but with a skirt of vertical boarding. The mill was quite small and cramped, with low ceilings and a basement floor 2ft below ground level. John Russell of Cranbrook mill commented that it must have been a dismal one {as well as dangerous, it would seem} to work in; and Warren the Hawkhurst millwright used to say it was the worst one he had ever been in, poorly lit “which made it necessary to go about almost on one’s hands and knees with “hardly room to breathe””(1). In 1861 when the cap was blown off in a high wind the miller fell down some steep steps and was killed. The cap was again blown off in 1916, causing the mill’s closure. Warren had predicted that this would happen; he had been asked to inspect the mill shortly before and advise on repairs needed, and presumably these had not been carried out.(2)

 The fantail gearing was of unusual design, the final drive being by bevel pinion to what John Russell described as a ring on top of the curb; Wailes says “a bevel rack and curb top”(3). The patent sails each had six bays of four shutters(4). Striking was by rack and pinion, with chainwheel and guide pole for the chain. Russell states that the machinery was all of iron. Two pairs of 3ft 9in stones, one peak and one burr, were overdriven, and according to Hawksley they were mounted very high off the floor, the peaks being lower down than the burrs. The great spur wheel was 4ft in diameter overall; it would appear the machinery was designed to match the small dimensions of the tower. The upright shaft was square.(5) The stone nuts were of iron(6); as at Guston the caps of the upper bearings of the quants had to be removed to throw them out of gear(7). The bridgetrees were wooden and of compound type(8). At least one pair of stones had a small governor, operating on the shoe, to regulate the flow of grain to it (RW; according to Russell it was the wire machine). The shoe had a rap on it which when it (the shoe) was lowered came into contact with a knocker on the spindle; it struck the rap twice in every revolution(9). A secondary upright shaft ran to the ground floor(10), perhaps to drive the wire machine.

 The machinery was mostly intact when R Hawksley visited the mill in 1948, though the wire machine had gone. The tower stood to full height until c1963 when it was reduced to two storeys. Now incorporated in a farm building, the remnant was for many years a familiar sight to motorists on the A21.

(1)  W Coles Finch, Watermills and Windmills, C W Daniel 1933

(2)  Ibid

(3)  RW and Mr John Russell in HESS

(4)  RW 1953

(5)  HRH 11th December 1948, in HESS

(6)  HRH in HESS

(7)  RW in HESS

(8)  HRH in HESS

(9)  RW in HESS

(10) HRH in HESS


Smock mill, demolished 1954

The brick base extended to halfway up the first floor(1).

(1) HESS

LEIGH Stocks Green

Smock mill, collapsed 1963


This was the smock mill at Sidley, Bexhill, Sussex, moved to a new site. It had ceased work in 1916 after which the business was carried on using steam power. Photographs of the mill when at Sidley show a fine white smock on a single-storey base with a stage, and four single-shuttered spring sails with half-leading boards, which drove three pairs of stones, a smutter and probably a flour machine as well. The weatherboarding of the Kentish-type cap was carried down vertically for a short distance below the sheers.(1)

 After the mill had stood idle for some years the sweep frames were removed leaving only the stocks. In 1928 the by now derelict structure unexpectedly gained a new lease of life when a lover of windmills, Mr A W Tomlinson, bought it for £25 and had it moved to Stocks Green near Leigh in Kent, where it was set to work again. It was rebuilt on a new brick base, the original one remaining at the Sidley site where the surviving foundations were cleared away in 1975(2). New single-shuttered sails with leading boards and two pairs of stones, the latter costing £5 and £2 respectively, from Crampton’s Mill at Sissinghurst which had recently ceased work were fitted.

 As reconstructed at Leigh, the mill had no stage and was tarred except for the cap, which was white as at Sidley. Otherwise it appears not to have undergone any major changes. One photograph depicts the smock in course of being either tarred or painted white (it is not clear which)(3), but most views of it at the new site show a largely black mill. The total cost of re-erection was £500 (Coles Finch says £1500, suggesting a misprint somewhere as the operation would not have been quite so expensive in those days). The adjacent tithe barn was converted to a restaurant (it was still being used for selling teas in 1996). Although at one time an electric motor in the base worked a clay mixer and a saw, it is doubtful whether the mill itself ever functioned as an actual business; the whole was intended primarily as a showcase for Olde Englande, or what the latter was believed to have been like. A notice over the loading door in the smock read:

                       Erected   1723

                       Burned   1797

                       Rebuilt   1798

                       Restored 1928

beneath which was a quotation from Ecclesiastes: “He that observeth the wind shall not sow, and he that regardeth the clouds shall not reap.” The first two dates appear to suggest that the mill of 1798 was built on the site of an older one which had been destroyed by fire, but so far I have no evidence for this. Nearby stood the village stocks which, Coles Finch tells us, visitors were tempted to try out only to discover they really were trapped and could not free themselves except by a fee of sixpence or more, which went to certain benevolent institutions. It would appear that contrary to what is often supposed, aggressive campaigning by charities is nothing new.(4)

 The mill was not to remain for long in working order at its new site. It was very much Tomlinson’s baby and after his death fell into disrepair. Its condition was not improved by wartime bombing which seriously weakened the structure. By the late 1950s, as photographs in the Frank Gregory Collection and National Monuments Record testify, the mill was in a shocking state, with the cap roof and all but one of the sails gone and massive holes in the weatherboarding. Later the windshaft and surviving sail were removed. Final photographs show the smock tower leaning badly.

 The mill finally collapsed on 8th October 1963 after which the wreckage was either cleared away or left to rot. So ended Sidley mill’s second short lease of life. In 1996 the broken walls of the base were still to be seen standing very close to the road, partly covered with foliage. 

 Mr R Hawksley noted down some details of the Stocks Green mill’s internal arrangements in 1947. Whether there had been any change to them at the time of the move to Leigh is impossible to say without having inspected the mill at its former site, but it had a wooden upright shaft, brakewheel and stone nuts and iron wallower, great spur wheel, sack hoist and bridge trees. The shoes were fitted with gates to regulate the flow of meal. There was a flour machine which could be driven by a belt from the countershaft of the electric motor.

(1) In H Green and A Pinney, Bexhill-on-Sea In Old Photographs           

    (Alan Sutton 1988) and Bexhill Museum

(2) Brunnarius, The Windmills Of Sussex (1979),  168

(3) In A E P Shillingford, England’s Vanishing Windmills (Godfrey       

     Cave Associates 1979)

(4) W Coles Finch, Watermills and Windmills (C W Daniel 1933,           

      reprinted Cassell 1977), p235

MARGATE, Draper’s Mill

Smock mill, standing today


Draper’s Mill was built in 1845 by Holmans of Canterbury and in  my view is not dissimilar in appearance to New Mill at Northbourne, another Holmans product, when in working order. It is a tarred octagonal smock mill on a single-storey brick base  partly enclosed within a wooden building whose roof gives additional support to the stage. The mill ceased work by wind in 1916 but continued to operate under a gas engine until the late 1930s. Threatened with demolition in 1965, the by then derelict structure was acquired by the Education Committee of Kent County Council, the headmaster of the nearby primary school, R M Towes, being instrumental in setting up the Draper’s Windmill Trust which over the following years restored the mill to working order and continues to be responsible for its maintenance on behalf of the Council.     

 The mill was one of three situated close together in the vicinity; the other two were Little Draper’s Mill, a smock mill whose last remains disappeared in the 1950s, and a tower windpump.

 Four double-shuttered patent sails and the usual fantail, with provision for turning the cap by hand in the form of a toothed iron wheel to which a crank handle was attached. This engaged with the rack via an intermediary gear and shaft, as at Herne for example. 

 The framing on the dust floor consists of two transoms, one at floor level, between each pair of cant posts, dividing the panels horizontally in two with a pair of uprights inside each half, the upper pair being broken by diagonals going from the transom to near the tops of the posts and forming a V. The framing of the stone and spout floors was not examined in detail but the longitudinal timbers of the upright shaft support frame rest on transoms located near the tops of the north and south panels of the smock frame.

 The cap turns on a dead curb. Five truck wheels could be made out: two at the rear ends of the sheers, one at each end of the sprattle beam, and one mounted on a bracket on a lateral timber of the cap frame between the brakewheel and the breast beam. The iron windshaft carries a brakewheel with four wood cants and a wood rim on an 8-armed iron spider. The brake lever is of iron.


The bevelled iron wallower has six arms and a wooden friction ring on its underside for the sack hoist, which is a 6-armed iron pulley on an iron spindle with iron bollard on which the chain is wound up between two flanges. The hoist is at a roughly 45-degree angle to the wallower on the north-eastern side. At the wallower end the spindle turns in a bearing on a timber which is moveable by a wooden lever at a right angle to it to throw the hoist in/out of gear. This timber is supported by two vertical posts, in the eastern of which it is hinged, with a horizontal member give rigidity to this supporting frame.

 On this floor the short iron upright shaft is square throughout its length but narrows, with chamfered corners, about a third of the way down, to finally take the form of a block on which a gear of some kind might once have been mounted, but which appears to be blind. On the east side of the floor is a sunken section in which is the sack trap. The stairwell is on the south-western side.


There are three pairs of stones on the northern, eastern and western sides; they are located close together and in fact the northern and eastern pair are almost touching. The hopper of the northern pair is fed by a grader in the form of a large inclined trough which was agitated by a mechanism now no longer evident. The stone furniture is of wood and that of the western pair is very old. The stones are overdriven from an 8-armed all-iron great spur wheel, which Rex Wailes (1955) measures at 5ft 8ins diameter, with 72 teeth. The upright shaft is footed in a lateral beam mortised through two nicely shaped cheek pieces on the undersides of the two main longitudinal timbers of a dummy floor. The spur wheel is boxed in by these and other, lateral timbers in the manner of Cambridgeshire smock and tower mills. Of the stone nuts for the wind-driven stones two are four-armed iron mortice, the third (for the western stones) solid wood. The upper bearing of the eastern quant turns in a wooden block bolted to an iron girder between the two main lateral beams, while that of the northern is located in a wooden block bolted to the end of an iron bracket from the main lateral beam. One of the quants has square steel sheathing to act as a damsel. The engine drive nut is iron mortice with four arms; it and the western stone nut are moved out of gear with the spur wheel by a pair of screws turned by handles and mounted within wooden boxes.


There are doors on the north and south sides, opening onto the stage. The stairwell is on the southwest side, the ladder to the stone floor on the west. Windows are provided on the east and west sides. A wire machine is located on the northwest side. The iron bridgetrees are carried on wood or iron hangers. The northern bridgetree is mounted between the two main longitudinal ceiling beams, the western between hangers flush with the western face of the left-hand main longitudinal beam and two-thirds of the distance between the longitudinal beams, and the eastern between a hanger flush with the western face of the right-hand longitudinal beam and one located at a point between the beam and the wall. The governor for the northern stones is on the north side to the right of the door with the steelyard travelling diagonally to the link on the western end of the bridgetree. The other two governors are close together on the north-eastern side, that for the southern stones being to the left of that for the eastern. The southern steelyard travels diagonally to the link on the eastern end of the bridgetree, the eastern north-south to the link which again is on the east end of the bridgetree. All three steelyards are curved, the southern especially so in order that it may pass over the cheekpiece to which the left-hand hanger of the eastern bridgetree is bolted. The eastern governor has a solid wood belt drum (and wooden arms) while those of the other two have four iron arms and an iron rim to which a segmented, flanged wooden disc is bolted.

 On the northwest side of the floor a four-armed bevelled iron mortice gear on the auxiliary upright shaft engages with an all-iron bevel nut on a layshaft travelling northwest-southeast. At the driving end the layshaft turns in a bearing on a beam mounted between a vertical post connecting the floor and ceiling and a hanger from a timber bolted diagonally across the lower faces of several ceiling joists. At the other end the timber carrying the bearing is fixed between two hangers depending directly from the joists. The layshaft carries in succession two large pulleys and a third smaller one. The first pulley drives the flour machine; the purpose of the others is unclear but one could be utilised to work the Bamfords oat crusher, installed I suspect during the restoration, which has been set up on this floor. The auxiliary upright shaft is encased in wood trunking below the bevel gears; it appears to terminate in the flooring.


This contains no machinery.

I was unable to ascertain how the engine drive engaged with the wind-driven machinery; the present engine is a replacement, the original having at some point been scrapped along with the associated shafting and gearing.


Smock mill, standing today


Meopham mill is said to have been built in 1801 from timbers of an old battleship dismantled at Chatham dockyard, although there is in fact no evidence of its existence until it appears on the tithe map of 1841. It is also said to have been designed as an imitation windmill, later being converted to a real one. This would explain features of its structure and machinery which diverge from the Kentish norm or from that of windmills generally, such as the smallness of its dimensions – the first thing that strikes one upon entering the mill is its narrowness, which renders working conditions somewhat cramped, and the rare hexagonal section of the smock tower. The latter feature is reminiscent of West Blatchington smock mill in Sussex, a utility mill built to serve a farm and driving agricultural machinery as well as grinding corn and animal feed. However mills at Lower Stoke and Strood, not far from here, were similar so the design and unusual proportions would seem to have been the peculiarity of a local millwright. The mill worked by wind until 1929 and then for a few more years by electricity; it was acquired for the County Council for preservation in 1960 but its everyday maintenance is the responsibility of the local Parish Council, who use the base as their offices.

 The mill stands on a two-storey hexagonal brick base with a stage at second-floor level. It has the cap, with provision for hand winding, and fantail typical of the county. The sails, which have part leading boards (currently missing), are mounted on the stocks less far out from the poll end than is usual.

 The wholly iron curb is of the dead variety. The truck wheels are an odd mixture of types. There are four in all; the main lateral member of the cap frame carries one wheel of conventional spoked iron type and one of solid wood bound with iron, and the same arrangement is repeated for the sheers.


The brakewheel has the usual iron spider and wooden cants (four in number here) and rim, and is mounted on a hexagonal iron windshaft which tapers towards its tail. The iron mortice wallower has six arms – the builder of the mill seems to have thought in sixes rather than eights – and a bevelled wood friction ring bolted to the underside of the rim for driving the sack hoist, also of iron and consisting of an iron pulley on a short thick shaft. The hoist is put in and out of gear by a lever at right angles to it. The wooden upright shaft is hexagonal to take the six-sided central boss of the wallower, but then circular for the remainder of its length, being necessarily chamfered where the round section begins.


There are two pairs of underdriven stones in octagonal tuns on either side of the upright shaft. Here the narrowness of the mill is emphasised by the fact that small sections of the tuns have had to be cut away to allow the shaft to turn. Did the builders not allow for the passage of the upright shaft, or were the present stones replacements? The bell alarm for the western pair of stones is on a hinged lever suspended from the ceiling. A cord from it passes over a roller in a shoe mounted on a batten fixed between two of the ceiling beams and then down into the hopper, where the weight of the grain holds it down. When the grain runs out the cord goes slack and the lever falls so that the bell is rung by hitting one of the reinforcing bands around the upright shaft.

 The framing on this floor does not show quite the same arrangement on all panels. Also of note is a wooden lever, hinged where it is mounted on a vertical member of the intermediary framing, to which is attached an iron rod passing down through a hole in the floor to the stone floor. I suspect this is a sack jigger or the mechanism for working a sifter. 


Here are a third pair of stones driven by engine. The wind stones on the floor above are driven by a great spur wheel of smaller diameter than others I have seen in Kent. It is of iron with six arms and a bevelled secondary cog ring on the underside of the rim. An iron ring is also bolted to the upper faces of the arms, though I am not clear as to what purpose it served. The upright shaft is footed in a curved beam fixed between two vertical posts depending from the two main beams in the ceiling.

 The stone spindles are mounted on deeply bowed iron bridgetrees on wooden hangers from the ceiling. The nuts are put in/out of gear by jack rings and screws. One of them is missing; the other, for the northwest stones, is of iron mortice type. The present governors are replacements, the originals having at some point disappeared(1). There is one for each of pair of stones. That examined had pear-shaped weights and a four-armed iron belt pulley.

 From the secondary gear ring of the great spur wheel are driven: (1) an iron nut, wood-toothed and packed, on a shaft at an angle to the spur wheel, which carries at its other end a large pulley with four iron arms and a wood rim. (2) A toothed iron nut on another horizontal shaft which passes through the northern of the two vertical posts of the great spur wheel supporting frame. At its other end the shaft carries an iron pulley with four curved spokes; from the latter a leather belt travels down to the floor below through wooden trunking which is flush against the vertical post.

 I suspect that (1) is driven from the second, and (2) from the third, of the three driveshaft-and-pulley arrangements on the top floor of the base (see below) and that both are engine drives which where necessary operate the normally wind-driven stones through the great spur wheel, where the wallower has been disengaged from the brakewheel.

 Auxiliary machinery on this floor consists of an oat crusher, a grindstone and a flour dresser suspended from the ceiling on the western side, in line with the door. The dresser has a pulley at each end of its spindle but it is not clear where the eastern one was driven from. There is a separate engine drive for all this plant; a vertical iron shaft passes up onto this floor where a 4-armed bevelled iron pulley at its top drives via a nut a layshaft carrying three pulleys. Going from right to left, the first drives the crusher and the second the dresser/bolter via its left-hand pulley; I am not sure what the third pulley drove.

Two opposite doors give onto the gallery.

 The top floor of the base contains, going from east to west, three sets of shafts and pulleys, driven by an engine or engines: (1) A line shaft with three pulleys, the middle one smaller than the others. What these did is not clear.

(2) A horizontal iron gear wheel, bevelled (iron mortice) on the quant of the engine-driven stones, which is footed in a timber, carried on hangers from beams in the ceiling, that serves as a bridge tree and whose position can be adjusted with tentering screws to disengage the shaft from the great spur wheel whenever the engine was not required. The wheel engages with a nut on the end of a layshaft carrying two further pulleys near its end, whose purpose I could not ascertain. 

(3) A layshaft carrying two pulleys the larger of which is of iron with wood teeth. It rotates in bearings on iron brackets bolted to two of the ceiling beams. On its outer end a bevelled wood-toothed gearwheel meshes with a bevelled all-iron nut on the end of the vertical shaft from the spout floor. This is the auxiliary machine drive.

 There is also a corn screen on this floor but it was not clear if this was an original fitting.

The ground floor is used mainly for display purposes.

Description based on survey by Guy Blythman 1st June 2008

(1) Jenny West, The Windmills of Kent, Charles Skilton 1972, 1979


Smock mill, demolished 1954

The mill stood on a two storey base, with a stage between ground and first floor. When the uncle of Mr G E Ride had it, there were two pairs of stones on the stone floor and one pair, c32” diameter, on the bin floor which was underdriven and used only for grinding beans. Soon after a Mr Bates took over the mill and installed steam power he added another pair of peaks on the stone floor, making four pairs in all.(1) The governors had wooden links(2).

(1) GER, in HESS

(2) RW in HESS


Smock mill, burnt 1965

The mill was built about 1808 and originally tarred; latterly the smock was clad in iron sheeting, this probably being put on after the mill ceased work. There was very little brickwork apart from the foundations.(1) The upright shaft was wooden with a wood great spur wheel morticed on. The crown wheel and stone nuts were also wood. Three pairs of stones, two burrs 5ft and 4ft 6in and one 4ft 6in peak, were installed. There was a flour machine on the ground floor, and a cellar.(2) The mill ceased work by wind in 1905 or 6 and an oil engine was put in, the cap, sails and windshaft being removed. Sadly the mill was destroyed by fire in 1965, when still complete below the curb. 

(1) Photographic evidence

(2) HRH in HESS


Smock mill, demolished 1957

This was a squat mill with three floors and a basement(1), and only a very shallow (though Paul Davies believed it had been raised slightly) brick base. The basement and the ground floor were very lofty. The sails, patents with wire and canvas shutters(2), came to within 1ft of the ground(3). The cant posts, measuring 11” by 4½”, were slightly wedge-shaped, and socketed into iron castings on the sills. Both arms of the striking tackle were wooden(4). There was the usual provision for cranking the cap round by hand. The final drive was by an iron worm wheel to an iron rack. The wood curb was 9½” thick. There were five truck wheels, 2’ in diameter, with tyres: two at the tail, one at each end of the sprattle beam, and one at the front. The iron windshaft was 9” square behind the brakewheel, with a large casting on which the brakewheel was mounted; the latter was all-wood with double grip arms 17½” wide and a rim in eight segments and measuring 17” at its widest points. The cogs were 3½” pitch. The brake and brake lever were wooden. The iron wallower, in one casting 16” in diameter, had an octagonal hub and eight arms. Replacing a four-armed compass wheel(5), it drove the sack hoist via the usual wood friction ring and a bevel pinion on the chain drum. The ladder to the dust floor had to be shifted when the hoist was used. The wooden (Wailes says iron, and octagonal) upright shaft, which ended in the basement(6), was 18” (Wailes: 5”) diameter. The wood great spur wheel was old and beautifully made, with the six compass arms blocked into the felloes with a moulded block. The 72(7) cogs had a 3” pitch and a 2ft radius. The wheel itself was 6’ 4” in diameter(8).

 Three pairs of stones, two burrs and one peak(9), were overdriven. All the quants differed in section, but were in one piece. One, square in section 3” by 2”, was hand-forged and therefore older than the others. It was squared against the shoe and had a hole bored into it above that point. The upper part was roughly shouldered to carry a late stone nut 2’ diameter and 3½” pitch. Another nut carried a very old and heavy iron mortice nut 21” diameter with 3½ in pitch cogs which were badly worn. The third nut was 19” diameter and all wood with 18 cogs of 3½” pitch. The stones were in octagonal casings with wood horses and hoppers. The bridgetrees were all wooden and of great age. One had a deep mortice cut in it to take the bridging box. There were three governors, one to each pair of stones. One of the burr governors  was nearly all wood, with wood arms and semicircular shaped lead weights. Davies states that it “was driven by two wooden pulleys; one on the stone spindle, one on square iron governor shaft”. The other two governors were iron. There was a fourth, octagonal quant with an iron mortice nut, 19½” diameter and having 3” pitch cogs, carrying a small wood-geared bevel wheel which engaged the bevel pinion on the wire machine shaft.(10) The machine was located on the stone floor(11). There was a vibrating sieve in the basement, probably driven from the same shaft(12). It is not clear whether Davies is describing the fourth quant when he mentions a “modern shaft {driving} down to the ground floor; it is octagonal, 3” diameter and in two pieces”. There was also a bevel gear on the upright shaft meshing with another on a layshaft which carried a pulley whose purpose was not clear.

 On the ground floor were the spouts and a hand-operated sack hoist. In 1946 a 4ft 6in stone probably from this mill was used as a doorstep at one of the nearby houses. 

(Paul Davies’ visit was in 1946)

(1)  HRH in HESS

(2)  RW in HESS

(3)  HRH in HESS

(4)  Ibid

(5)  RW in HESS

(6)  PD in HESS

(7)  HRH in HESS

(8)  RW in HESS

(9)  HRH in HESS

(10) PD in HESS

(11) HRH in HESS

(12) Ibid

New Mill

Smock mill, standing today


The pine cant posts measured 8½” square(1). The base was enclosed within a square wooden structure whose roof formed a stage. The winding worm was of iron and the patent sails were fitted with canvas shutters(2). The windshaft (iron) had a balance weight(3), which may have been the “curious collar arrangement” that R Hawksley describes. The brakewheel was iron-spoked with wood rim and arms(4). The iron wallower had an unbevelled wood friction ring for the sack hoist(5). The upright shaft was wooden, the great spur wheel all-iron with eight arms(6). There were three pairs of 4ft overdriven stones, two burrs and one peak, in octagonal tuns(7). One stone nut was wooden and of 3” pitch, the other two were iron mortice. Iron bridge trees were provided. One governor was all-iron with spherical weights, while the other two had wooden arms and flat lead weights. On the stage floor was an additional pair of stones driven by engine and regulated by an enormous governor with pear-shaped weights. The wind-driven peaks and the engine stones were each fitted with an iron ring and thumb screw for levelling the bedstone. There were two secondary upright shafts off the great spur wheel, both extending down to the ground floor. One drove the engine stones, the engine being on the ground floor, and the other, which had a universal joint in it, the flour machine on the east side of the spout floor, with a belt going to a shaft running an agitator through a “leather connection(8)”, as well as a smutter via a twisted belt. The machine and engine drives could be connected.(9)

(1) PD 1946, in HESS

(2) Ibid

(3) RW in HESS 

(4) PD 1946 and HRH 1945, in HESS

(5) PD 1946 and HRH, in HESS

(6) PD and HRH in HESS

(7) Ibid

(8) HRH, in HESS

(9) PD/HRH in HESS


Tower mill, gone

This mill originally had three storeys but later an additional, cylindrical section was added to the tower making four floors in all. The new top floor was very high. It contained the bins, which originally were very large, and at probably the same time that the mill was heightened, and the cap repaired, they were rearranged so that it was easier to get into the cap, access having previously been by a tricky vertical ladder.(1) There were no stairs from the ground floor to the first and the latter was accessed via an external platform by the engine-driven mill. The machinery was mostly iron, including the unbevelled sack hoist drum, although Rex Wailes described the great spur wheel as “mortice arm”. The neck journal of the windshaft had spiral grooves in it for lubrication(2). The brakewheel and great spur wheels had six spokes; the rim of the brakewheel may have been of wood since it had gone by the time R Hawksley visited(3). The great spur wheel was 6ft in diameter, with 66 cogs. The iron bridgetrees were arched, with rods connecting them to the ceiling beams. The bridging boxes were cast integral with them.(4)

(1) Photographic evidence, HRH in HESS

(2) RW in HESS

(3) HRH in HESS

(4) RW in HESS


Tower mill, standing today


The cap, of typical Kentish type, measured 17ft by 14ft by 9ft 9in high. The fan drive was by two bevel gears, a worm and wheel and finally a spur pinion engaging with the rack. The sack hoist was driven not from the wallower but from a bevel gear lower down the upright shaft, which was of wood and 18” square.(1)

(1) RW in HESS