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Technical descriptions of English windmills



Tower mill, standing today (tower only)


There was a pulley on the first floor for the auxiliary drive(1).

(1) HESS


Smock mill, gone

The cant posts were plated on their outer faces, outside the mills. The rack was on the top of the curb inside. Two common and two spring sails, with coil springs lying alongside the backs, were attached to the cross by the pan method.(1)

(1) RW 1953


Post mill, gone

The mill was built in 1786 and on the upper part of the door, which was in two halves, was carved an illustration of a windmill and a dressed millstone with the inscription “John Bartle, miller, UNI 1787”. Subsequent to the mill’s construction a tarred brick roundhouse, 21 feet in diameter by 12ft 3” high, with a tiled roof was added. The buck also had a separate “petticoat” at the bottom.(1) The breast was sharply pointed for some way below breast beam, then nearly flat with the boards laid diagonally. The buck was approximately 16½ft long by 10ft wide inside. There was an extension at the rear for the auxiliary machinery, with a sloping roof which began at bin floor level. The sack traps were located nearly in the centre of the floor.(2) The top bearing of the post had wooden pins, 7” diameter and 7” high, inserted in it. The crowntree measured 21” by 18” and the quarterbars 12” by 14”.(3) The crosstrees were positioned very low(4).

 The sails were fitted with Midland-type springs 7ft wide(5). The windshaft, brake- and tailwheels were all wooden. The windshaft was 20” square at the brakewheel, 18” square at the tailwheel and 16-sided between. The brakewheel was approximately 7ft diameter. Both wheels were of clasp-arm type, the tailwheel converted from compass-arm (the spokes having been mortised right through the windshaft). The brakewheel had 88(6) 2¾” iron segment teeth replacing wooden teeth of 3¼” pitch, so that the iron stone nut (with 17(7) teeth) with which they geared must have replaced an earlier one, probably of wood. The tailwheel also had iron segment teeth, of 3” pitch. Two pairs of stones were arranged head-and-tail, those in the head being 4ft 4” peaks, and there were a flour dresser and a wheat screen.(8) A sack hoist was driven by a friction wheel off the top of the brakewheel(9). The governor weights slid on curved horns(10). One of the bridgetrees was of iron(11).

 In 1951 Mr Hewitt of Heapham mill bought the mill, had it carefully dismantled and preserved various parts including the post, crowntree, windshaft, brakewheel and tailwheel(12). It is not clear what has become of them.

(1)  RW in HESS

(2)  HRH April 1950, in HESS

(3)  RW in HESS

(4)  HRH in HESS

(5)  Ibid

(6)  Ibid

(7)  Ibid

(8)  RW in HESS

(9)  HRH in HESS

(10) RW in HESS

(11) HRH in HESS

(12) RW in HESS

LEAKE Commonside, Howsam’s Mill

Tower mill, standing today


Built in 1859, this mill ended its working life with four double-shuttered patent sails, which had originally been 36ft long but were shortened to 36ft(1). Simmons noted that one pair were “bad” and the other “not too safe”. The striking gear was unusual, the lever being curved and the chain consisting of rods with links at long intervals. The diagonal shaft from the fantail geared to a very short horizontal shaft and then two vertical ones, the pinion on the second meshing with the rack. The brakewheel, brake lever, brake, windshaft (square), wallower and great spur wheel were all iron, the upright shaft in two sections with wood above and iron below. The large iron wheel on the sack hoist bollard was friction driven from an iron ring on the underside of the wallower, and was raised into engagement by working an iron lever which turned a shaft which wound a rope. According to R Hawksley there were four pairs of stones, two French (one latterly disused) and two peaks. A single governor, driven by belt from the base of the upright shaft, apparently controlled all four, with short steelyards going to each bridgetree from the single long one. The shoes were held up by chains. There was an iron flour machine on the ground floor. Engine drive was provided, with an external pulley.(2) The cap, sails and windshaft have all been removed from the mill but the tower continues to be used in connection with an active milling business and a fair amount of the original wind-driven machinery remains, including the fine great spur wheel and the iron tentering gear which is of ornate design as at Trader mill, Sibsey.

(1) HRH 4/1950, in HESS

(2) Ibid

LEAKE Common Side, Gosling’s Mill

Tower mill, gone


The mill had four single-shuttered sails(1).

(1) HESS


Tower mill (combined wind- and watermill)

Standing today


This mill was built by Saundersons of Louth in 1847 to replace a windmill and a watermill, combining the two power sources. The wheel pit from the watermill, above which the tower was built, was reused. The tower is 60ft high with six floors, there being an iron gallery on brackets around the first. On the inside walls the bricks are offset just below each floor to form a ledge on which the floor joists rest, this ledge terminating for the space where the stairs are. The cap ran on a live curb with six centring wheels. The patent sails had a 60ft span. The 7ft 6” brakewheel consisted of two separate iron hub/arms units between which the wooden rim and cants were mounted. The teeth were also of wood. The brake was iron. The wheel, mounted on an iron windshaft, was believed by Rex Wailes to be a replacement for a larger, wooden one. On the dust floor the upright shaft was iron, round and 16” in diameter, carrying an iron wallower with wood friction ring for the iron wheel on the sack hoist spindle. Below the dust floor the upright shaft was wooden, square and encased in trunking. The second, third and fourth floors down were empty apart from a wind-driven oat crusher on the third. On the fifth (the first floor up) were three pairs of 4ft 6” stones overdriven from a 6ft diameter iron great spur wheel with eight arms. They could also be underdriven by water.(1) There was one pair of governors for all three stones(2). On the ground floor an iron continuation of the upright shaft, 6” square, carried a 6ft diameter iron crown wheel meshing with the pit wheel of the watermill. This engaged with three wooden stone nuts which were raised out of gear on round tapers and held up by pins(3). The wind stone nuts had their own sprattle boxes. A dog clutch was used to disconnect the wind and water drives. A wooden (RW says iron) ring bolted to the arms of the crown wheel friction-drove a sack hoist which it appears operated in turn the one on the dust floor through a chain (Simmons’ words are “The sack hoist is similar in principle and design to the one housed in the top floor, the chain when water-operated passing over the upper bollard which then serves as a roller”).

 The waterwheel, partly covered in, was a 16ft by 4ft 6” all-iron breastshot (Wailes says undershot), with eight arms, on an 8” square iron shaft. It was 4ft wide and the axle 6” square. Owing to the distance between the waterwheel and the pit wheel there was an additional bearing above the spillway between the windmill and the wheel. The pit wheel was double-spoked and similar in design to the brakewheel. The upper portion of the wheel plus the spur wheel were enclosed within a boarded over wooden frame in which was a double door giving access to them. Located on this floor were the sluice gates and five-spout dresser, driven from the pit wheel via a countershaft running beneath the floor and then a second vertical shaft, with bevel gears.(4) 

(1) HESS

(2) RW in HESS

(3) RW 1953

(4) HESS, RW in HESS

LINCOLN, Ward’s Mill

Post mill, gone

This was a white mill having a brick roundhouse with a tiled roof. There were four double-shuttered spring sails(1).

(1) HESS

LONG SUTTON, Brunswick Mill

Tower mill, standing today (tower only)


An elegantly-shaped tall brick tower mill, without a stage, which was said to have been built in 1770. It was originally shorter, with four common sails, but at some point was raised about ten feet, a cylindrical section being added, and modernised with six single-shuttered patent sails and fantail. There was a datestone, illegible by the mid-twentieth century, on the brickwork.

 The iron windshaft was octagonal and tapered from 9” at the head to 7” at the tail. The brakewheel was a wooden clasp-arm with an iron cog ring. The 4ft 6” diameter wallower was iron with the usual wood friction ring, here 9” wide, for the sack hoist. The upright shaft was wooden and 12” square above the stone floor, and on it was iron tapering from 4¾” to 4” at base. The iron great spur wheel was in two sections with teeth 5” deep. Three pairs of stones were overdriven: 4ft peaks on the west side, 4ft 6” peaks on the north, and a 4ft burr on the east. The quants were 2½” square and the iron mortice nuts 18” diameter. On the south west side of the great spur wheel a fourth, 15” nut on a layshaft whose bearing was mounted on a small iron girder drove an inclined dresser on the ground floor, via a secondary upright shaft and a 3ft spur gear; and there was a fifth nut on the south for an additional pair of 4ft peak stones on the ground floor, driven by a belt from the shaft. A sixth was for a third upright shaft which drove a vertical smutter on the third floor. The engine drive was via a 21” iron mortice nut on the 3” diameter layshaft, then a 23” all-iron nut on a 2¾” octagonal vertical shaft from which a belt went to a 3ft 2” pulley on the upright shaft.(1) The brakewheel had 100 teeth, the wallower 45, the great spur wheel 72 and the stone nuts 18 each. There are loading doors on the first floor.(2) 

 The mill stopped in 1939 when in need of much repair. By 1970 it had lost its cap, but with its six sails still in place had become what was probably the most impressive derelict windmill in the country, and a familiar sight to motorists on the A17. Sadly in 1973 removal of the sails (using two large cranes) as dangerous, itself justified, was followed by scrapping of most of the ironwork. The tower now stands partly covered with ivy, exhibiting certain structural defects and generally looking rather forlorn. Little remains inside apart from the wooden section of the upright shaft.

(1) HESS

(2) HRH in HESS

LONG SUTTON, Harrison’s Mill

Tower mill, standing today


The tower was built with bricks from a nearby field. The truck wheels ran on the top of the rack itself.(1) There were six single-shuttered patent sails, and the wallower, great spur wheel, stone nuts and the brakewheel cogs were of iron(2). Hawksley states that there were four pairs of stones, three peaks and one burrs,  Wailes that the mill had five pairs driven by wind. The machine drive was by bevel pinion meshing with a gear ring on the great spur wheel(3). 

(1) RW in HESS

(2) HRH in HESS

(3) RW in HESS

LONG SUTTON Sneath’s Mill

Tower mill, standing today

TF 436244

Article by Jon A Sass in Lincolnshire History and Archaeology 1978 p63-6:

This unusual tower mill is often referred to as Lutton Gowts mill although it is situated just within the parish boundary of Long Sutton. It is known locally as either “Sneath’s Mill” after the last miller or “Roman Bank Mill” on which it stands. According to local information it is the sole survivor of a group of three similar mills. The foundations of one of the others stands about ½ mile to the north and a bungalow is built on the site of the third about 120 yards to the south. The three mills are clearly shown on Bryant’s map of 1828 and 1887 6in-1mile map.

 The only survivor of these three mills was erected in 1779 by a Thomas Ayliffe of Sutton St Mary. He leased the land from a Joshua Peart of Lincolns Inn Fields, Middlesex, for 99 years at an annual rent of £1. The erection was commemorated by a carved stone above the south door inscribed “1779 T.D.Ayliff”. This stone was formerly a sundial. The last miller, Mr John Sneath, came to the mill in 1863 and worked it until the early 1930s when the mill was badly damaged by a gale. The cost of repairs was prohibitive at that time and the mill was abandoned and has been steadily deteriorating ever since.

 It is an early example of a tower mill and was built on a mound on top of the “Roman” sea bank, the bricks coming from a section of it. It is unique in the county in that the red brick tower is octagonal and not round as is the norm.

 The tower is of four stories and stands 26ft to the wooden curb. Working upwards the floors are, ground floor, stone floor, bin floor, and dust floor. The entrance is by a door on the ground floor facing south. There is a bricked-up doorway on the north side. When the sails came so near the ground, as was the case with this mill, it was an important safety factor as well as more convenient to always have an entrance to the mill safe from the danger of the rotating sails.

 The first and second floors originally had four windows facing north, south, east and west, The tower is corbelled out below the curb. On surveying the tower in 1975, it was discovered that the mill is almost certainly a smock mill encased in brick. There are diagonal timbers in the walls of the top floor terminating with eight wooden “blocks”, probably the top of the original corner posts supporting the wooden dead curb. Future investigation would no doubt reveal further timber within the thickness of the walls lower down. The octagonal tower is to a degree asymmetrical. At the curb the flats vary from 6ft 2in to 6ft 9in. One theory is that the mill was originally a timbered smock drainage mill which was moved to the present site in 1779. It was then re-erected as a corn mill and the weakened frame was encased in brick at that time.

Cap, sails and windshaft

The mill was last worked by a pair of hand cloth sails and a pair of spring sails, the coil springs lying along the sail backs. The shutters were of the usual construction found in the area of sail cloth stitched onto a wire frame with a pine back. The sail stocks were mounted on the windshaft via a cast-iron canister or poll end. The square oak windshaft was the largest noted in a Lincolnshire windmill by Rex Wailes(1). The canister and iron neck were secured to the windshaft by means of a single long tongue and bolted through and strapped with wrought iron. The rode baulk or weather beam carrying the neck bearing and cast-iron chair has one cast iron roller between it and the curb. The wooden curb has an iron face plate laid on top of it. There was a boat-shaped boarded cap with a weather cock mounted on the back to inform the miller of the wind direction. The boat-shaped cap pre-dated the more universal ogee cap found on Lincolnshire tower mills. There were two cap frame centring wheels beneath the main sheers at the front and two at the rear.

Brake wheel and wallower

The elm brakewheel is of the clasp-arm construction with 52 coarse wooden teeth of 5in pitch mortised through the rim and pegged at the back. The brake was of iron. The wallower is a “trundle gear” with wooden pegs for teeth and is of all wood clasp-arm construction. There is a wooden ring eight inches wide by two inches deep on the underside of the wallower mounted on four inch distance pieces. The friction-driven sack hoist drove off this ring.

 The wooden upright shaft is approximately one foot square and was renewed after the First World War. The shaft passes down through the dust floor to the bin floor where it is joined to its lower half by a cross gudgeon of iron.

The stone floor and plant

There were two pairs of overdriven stones on this floor. A pair of 4ft 6in French stones with the maker’s name plate on the runner inscribed “George Maris 1847” are on the east side and on the west were a pair of Peak stones which were removed to Penny Hill Mill, Holbeach, after the mill stopped working.

 The great spur wheel is of clasp arm all wood construction, 7ft 5in in in diameter. The pitch of the 78 teeth is 3 ¾ in, the largest noted in the county and had a thirteen wooden cogged  iron stone nut one of, if not the smallest in the county(2). On the north side of the spur wheel is a 1ft 4in diameter iron nut with wood teeth mounted on an octagonal wooden spindle which is 6 inches square at its head. This passed down into the ground floor where it drove, via a 2ft 3in diameter wooden cogged iron bevel, the flour dresser which was mounted under the ceiling of the stone floor and has long since been removed. The bottom of the upright shaft has a pot and pintle thrust bearing let into an adjustable sprattle beam.

The ground floor

This floor housed the flour dresser and the meal was bagged up beneath the two spouts from the stones above. There were also a pair of early type lag governors on the stone spindles of each pair of stones. The miller’s desk stood on this floor.

Winding mechanism

The cap and sails were winded by means of a wooden tail pole with a winch and chain mounted on the lower end, the chain being run out to a series of wooden stumps around the mill mound. When not being winded the tailpole was supported and locked by two wooden legs resting diagonally onto the ground.

Dates and inscriptions

Above the south entrance to the mill is the date stone inscribed “1779 T D Ayliff”. On the first floor beam facing the entrance is “Thomas Ay…” also “IOH….RAM.” On the lower half of the upright shaft in the stone floor is carved “T.A.1779” and “T.OLIVER, W.HILLRAM 1783.”

The future of the mill

In 1939 the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings had an opportunity to purchase the mill for £75, but owing to lack of funds and the inadvisability of issuing an appeal it secured instead an option on the mill at £5 per annum which it paid for three years. In October 1941 Mr Wailes inspected the mill and found that the tail and storm hatch shutters were missing, the boarding of the cap had been torn away on the left hand side of the neck and centre beam, windows were missing from the dust, bin and stone floors and as a result the penetration of the weather was causing the deterioration of the mill. It was suggested that the mill should be locked, the windows bricked up, the tail and storm hatch shutters replaced and the weatherboarding of the cap repaired. Finally the SPAB told the owner that it could not continue paying for the purchase of the mill unless it was in a fit condition when finally purchased. The owner stated that materials were not available. In April 1943 the mill was fast becoming a ruin and dangerous. One sail had fallen off leaving the remaining three in such a condition as to be dangerous, and the top had been severely damaged in a gale. The owner then disposed of the mill for demolition.

 Despite this the mill survives but is now in a very derelict condition. For this reason it was thoroughly surveyed by members of the Industrial Archaeology Sub-Committee in November 1975. It still contained the windshaft and sufficient internal machinery on which to base a full reconstruction. An attempt to save the mill from further deterioration and secure it for a future restoration was made by interested parties. A meeting was held with representatives of the Long Sutton Civic Trust and local councils but it was reluctantly decided that there was not sufficient interest locally to raise the limited funds needed to carry out even its conservation – fitting a temporary cap and securing the door and windows until a restoration scheme could be contemplated.

(1) Rex Wailes, Lincolnshire Windmills, TNS Vol 29 p143

(2) Ibid p14-15


Provided by N T Wills of Long Sutton

Undated bill of repairs to the mill found in bundle of deeds and documents in possession of Mr Gerald Knight, Clenchwarton, Norfolk:

Estimate of mill repairing            £       s     d

4 New Sail Clothes 30ft long 5ft wide 4       10    0

Lines & all Complete                  4       0     0

Brake Wheel New Gearing              

Carrage Brasses and Bolts for Upright Shaft                1             0            0

Brake Rope and Handline for Sack Tackle                                              15          0

Turning Chain and two props & three posts                         1                 10          0

One Door & Frame & One Repairing                                     1                 12          0

Bottom Floor Repairing and New Steps                                2                 0            0

Wire for Machine tack & tin                                                                     15          0

Four Machine Brushes                                                           2                 10          0

Machine Case Repairing                                                        1                 10          0

Three Step Brasses                                                                 1                 12          0

Machine Pinion Geering                                                                           17          0

Six Mill Bills & two helves                                                    1                10          0

                                                                                                 24             1            0

(on third side)

                                      £       s     d

Brot Over                                   24        1            0

Six brasses for Stone Necks                                15          0

Second Floor Repairing & Window Frames & Shutters        2                10          0

Third Floor New Lineing Shutters and Trap Door              4                 0           0

Step Ledder for top Floor                                         12             0

New Hopper Ledder & Cases Repairing                                                  10          0

Brest & Sails Repairing                                                                            10          0

Sack Tackle Repairing Throughout                                        1                  0          0

Top Mending and Taring                                                        1                10          0

Fencing & reiling round the Mill                                            3                  0          0

Nails Bolts & Screws                                                                1                 10         0        

Time for Work                                                                       20                10         0

                                                                                               59                 18        0

To the Landlord repairs

If any sails or backs or braces or tail tree should brake in a Storm the Owner to put the same in repair and the tennant to keep the in side works in repair.


Some Vital Statistics of the Mill, measured 9 November 1975

Height of brick tower                                                              26 ft 0ins

Dia. of tower at curb                                                               12 ft 0ins

Dia. of tower at base                                                               18 ft 0ins

Height of ground floor                                                              8 ft  3in

Height of first floor (stone floor)                                               8 ft 6in

Height of second floor (bin floor)                                              6ft 3in

Dia. of stone nuts                                                    17in X 8 ½ in deep

Quants of iron                                                                  2 ½ in square

Gear Ratios: Brake wheel                                                         52 teeth

                     Wallower                                                              42 teeth

                     Great Spur Wheel                                                 13 teeth

                     Stone Nuts                                                            13 teeth

                     Overall Ratio 7.61 to 1

(Reproduced by kind permission of Jon Sass and the Society for Lincolnshire History and Archaeology)


Tower mill

The mill had four double-shuttered patent sails 33ft long by 8ft 6” at the tips. There was a wire machine.(1)

(1) HESS

LUDDINGTON, Luddington Mill

Tower mill, stump remains


The 40ft high tarred tower had five floors. The rack was internal. The sails were double-shuttered clockwise patents with canvas shutters. The brakewheel was a wood clasp arm with iron segment teeth and was mounted on a tapering iron windshaft with an iron cross. The wallower was iron with a wood friction ring beneath for the sack hoist. The all-iron eight-armed great spur wheel was 7ft in diameter. There were three pairs of stones, two French and one grey, all 4ft 6in and controlled by a single pair of governors mounted beneath the ceiling of the ground floor.(1)

(1) HESS


Post mill, gone

This mill had roller-blind shutters(1).

(1) HESS


Tower mill, standing today


The tarred brick tower has four floors, and the walls are 18” at the base. The cap was on a dead curb and steadied by eight centring wheels. The breast beam was strengthened on top by two small iron girders. Latterly the mill carried four single-sided patent sails with canvas shutters. Formerly there were one pair of doubles, from Boston Road mill at Horncastle and cut down from 31ft to 27, but this arrangement did not prove a success. The square iron windshaft tapered from 9” to 6” and had a brass neck bearing.(1) The thrust pad was of beech(2). The 7ft diameter brakewheel was a wood clasp-arm with iron teeth several of which could be removed to allow the stones to be worked by engine. The brake was iron. The wallower was of wood with a friction ring bearing on a 2ft diameter flat iron-tyred wheel on the sack hoist spindle. On the dust floor the upright shaft was of pine, 14” square with bevelled corners; below it was iron and round, measuring 5” diameter. The all-iron great spur wheel was 7ft diameter. It drove three pairs of stones on the third floor, two greys measuring 4ft and 4ft 6” diameter and one 4ft French, through iron nuts on long quants. They revolved ten times to one revolution of the sails. The single pair of governors on the ground floor were operated by a long spindle against the wall of the mill and a belt to a drum on the upright shaft above the great spur wheel.(3) Also on the ground floor was a bolter driven from an inclined iron shaft at the top of which an iron mortice bevel pinion meshed with the great spur wheel(4). A dresser, latterly disused, was driven via a drum off the great spur. There was a large external pulley for the engine drive. 

(1) HESS

(2) RW

(3) HESS

(4) RW


Tower mill, standing today


There were four patent sails fitted to the cross by the pan method(1).

(1) HESS


Tower mill

Standing today, tower only


The red brick tower had four floors. The sails were single-sided patents and the mill was always hand-winded by chain. There were three pairs of stones, two 4ft and one 4ft 2”. The runner of the latter pair, at one time preserved as an ornament in the garden of the mill house, was French, of a reddish texture, iron bound and  inscribed “George Maris, maker, Hull, 1849”. With it was the iron ball finial from the cap, hollow and moulded in two pieces. Another stone was embedded in the ground at the entrance to the station.(1)

(1) HESS


Tower mill, standing today


The attractively built tower stands 65(1) feet high with six floors(2) and an iron stage and windows(3). A stone over the door reads “HB 1867”(4). The ground floor was higher than usual(5). The segments of the curb were held in position by a wrought-iron band around the outside(6). The fantail and gearing were of the usual Lincolnshire kind. There were six double-sided patent sails, each 33ft long(7). Latterly the mill worked with only three, giving it a distinctive appearance. The machinery was largely of iron, including the brake lever and the sack hoist spindle, but the rocking lever was wooden. There are four pairs of stones, each with iron tentering bars and very large governors geared from the base of the upright shaft. There were slides on the shoes worked by levers. Three of the pairs had bell alarms worked by a string attached to the shoe which vibrated them unless they were held too high for the tongue of the bell to move by the grain in the hopper, the string turning the shaft carrying the bell. The engine drive is via a secondary upright shaft which apparently also drove a flour machine at one time. Another auxiliary shaft drives a large smutter on the fourth floor with an additional belt going from the shaft to a blower. There is a disused oat crusher on the ground floor. On the fifth floor was a moveable ladder to the top floor. The upper auxiliary shaft was held in or out of gear by a wedge which was knocked out when required.(8)

(1) HRH in HESS

(2) HESS; HRH says seven

(3) HRH in HESS

(4) RW 1928

(5) HRH in HESS

(6) RW in HESS

(7) HRH in HESS

(8) Ibid


Post mill, gone

This was a tarred open-trestle mill with four single-sided sails working two pairs of stones arranged head- and tail(1).

(1) HESS


Tower mill, standing today


Article by Jon A Sass in Lincolnshire History and Archaeology Vol 24 1999 p16-18:

Moulton is a pleasant village to the east of Spalding in south Lincolnshire, having several interesting eighteenth century houses, a village green and a large church with one of the finest Perpendicular towers in the country. South-east of the churchyard and vying with the church’s crocketed spire as a Fenland landmark is the tallest surviving windmill tower in the United Kingdom.

 This huge brick tower mill built for Robert King c1822 still contains much of its internal machinery but is bereft of its former white wooden cap and sails. The well-proportioned tower stands 80ft to the level of the curb on which the cap rotated. The distinctive ogee cap with ball finial so familiar to Lincolnshire tower mills would have given an overall height of 97ft.

 Moulton has a long history of milling. In the reign of Henry II Moulton’s vicar, pleading his parish’s poverty, was sharply reminded by the prior of Spalding that there were in the parish of Multune five mills.

 The King family were certainly well-established as millers and grain merchants in Moulton by the late C18. Surviving account books of that period record the buying and selling of great quantities of corn, barley and beans. Robert King owned a three-storied wooden-framed octagonal smock mill having four hand-clothed sails driving two pairs of millstones and containing a flour-dressing machine. The cap and sails of the old mill were turned into the wind by a braced tailpole. It would appear that this mill was kept in operation until the new large tower mill was completed. In 1828 the remaining components of this mill which stood near the Bell Lane (formerly known as Elloe Mill Lane), were advertised for sale and removal from the premises. Mr King astutely stipulated that the mill should not be rebuilt within five miles of Moulton therefore nullifying competition with his expensive masterpiece.

 Although the tallest surviving tower in Great Britain it was by no means unique nor the tallest ever built. The highest English windmill was at Bixley near Norwich, purposely built in 1838 to upstage High Mill, Southtown, Great Yarmouth. This latter giant, built in 1812, was reputedly 100ft to the curb and 122ft to the iron cage above the domed cap.

 One may wonder why such a tall windmill came to be erected in Moulton. In 1822 a tower windmill equipped with self-regulating Cubitt’s patent sails and a fantail mounted on the rear of the cap was still the state of the art in windmill technology. Cast iron gearing, governors to regulate the gap between the grinding faces of the millstones, improved grain cleaning and flour-dressing machinery all contributed to a highly efficient plant for its day. Steam engines at that time were still frowned upon by insurance companies as dangerous and liable to explosions! Moulton’s location in the flat Lincolnshire fenlands provided an ideal location to process the grain grown on the extremely fertile soils and benefit from the convection currents created by the relationship of land to the North Sea. Coal transported inland by road from the ports was still relatively expensive in the pre-railway era. A tall tower gave the long sails unimpeded access to the wind above the surrounding roofs and trees. Additional floors provided ample storage space for grain to be ground and the cleaning and flour-dressing machinery necessary to satisfy the discerning palates of the more prosperous bakery clients. Robert King could now provide premium products to outsell his competitors. His colossal mill stood as a fitting edifice to a successful and progressive entrepreneur.

 Robert King employed a number of journeymen millers and bakers until his retirement from the bakery and retail flour trade in 1841 after thirty-four years. He was succeeded in managing the milling business by James Measure King and he in turn by Arthur Gowler King by 1882. By the 1870s a new milling process was posing an increasing threat to the traditional English miller reliant on millstones grinding locally grown wheat. This process used a series of steel roller mills and multi-layered sieves called plansifters to gradually reduce hard imported red wheats to make a refined white flour. The roller milling process had transformed milling from a craft to a science. It gave a higher extraction of four from the wheat berry and the use of blended grains improved colour, baking and keeping qualities. The greatest threat to the smaller country miller was from the competition created by cheaper bulk-purchased grain and the vastly improved productivity of large roller mills. These were usually sited at ports to minimise the raw material transport costs. The railway network was then used to distribute the mass-produced, standardised quality flour throughout the realm. Astute roller mill owners like Joseph Rank in Hull and William Marshall in Grimsby made large fortunes by purchasing shiploads of grain, playing the futures market and supplying grain at a good profit to the smaller mills.

 By the late 1880s the decline in Moulton Mill’s profitability caused Arthur G King to lease it to Arthur West Tindall who had prior experience with roller mill practice. He had the large red-brick extension built to the east of the windmill tower and instructed Messrs E R & F Turner Ltd of Ipswich to install a two-sack per hour roller milling plant powered by a steam engine. Wind power came to an abrupt halt on the night of 12 December 1895 when the four double-sided patent sails were wrecked in a storm. Prior to the accident four pairs of millstones could be driven on the fourth floor; subsequently only one pair was powered by steam.

 The roller mill venture was such a success that Mr Tindall purchased another local milling concern that had been hit by the same advance in technology. This was the Barrington Road Mill in Holbeach built up around a tall former eight-sailed tower mill. In the 1920s the Biggadike family, father, then son, began a long association with Moulton Mill, finally purchasing the mill in 1950 from the King family. Changing farming practices, decline in small holdings, pig clubs etc all contributed to a gradual decline in the mill’s viability. When John Thomas Biggadike Junior retired as a feed and grain merchant in 1995 the mill finally closed its doors.

 The windmill tower was built and fitted out to a very high standard. It was 28 ft 9 inches internal diameter at ground level and 12ft diameter at the curb level. The basement contains the engine drive gearing which is then taken via bevel gears and vertical shaft to the great spur wheel above the millstones on the fourth floor. The spacious ground floor contains a partitioned office, unusual in a windmill. The first floor houses a Hunts roller mill and a Turner kibbler both of which are electrically powered. The second floor contains large storage bins. The third floor has meal spouts descending from the stone floor above. The tentering mechanism to adjust the gap between the millstone faces and a large pair of governors were also found on this floor. Access to the former reefing stage was via opposing doors from this floor. These have now been partially bricked up and windows inserted.

 Two pairs of French burr stones remain on the stone floor together with their wooden furniture. One pair, of 4ft 4in diameter, have a cast iron plate around the eye inscribed “W J & T Childs, maker Hull 1853”. A pair of 4ft 8in diameter peak stones have been raised and are now leaning against the wall. The 8ft 9in diameter great spur wheel above the stones has a cast iron morticed rim with wooden teeth. The rim is secured to the iron hub by eight radial wooden spokes. The usual practice in Lincolnshire mills is to have cast iron teeth on the great spur wheel driving wooden teeth on the stone nuts; at Moulton this is reversed. The engine drive engaged the spur wheel by a further cast iron nut.

 There are storage bins on the fifth and sixth floors. The seventh is empty and the eighth floor gives access into the cap space. This upper floor, known as the dust floor, houses the wooden clasp-armed bevelled wallower with wooden teeth. The wallower transmitted the power from the primary gear or brake wheel via a 14in square wooden upright shaft to the great spur wheel on the stone floor. A short cast iron shaft of 5.5 inch diameter connects the spur wheel below this wooden shaft.

 The original ogee cap was replaced in 1928 with the present roof. The cast-iron windshaft together with the brake wheel and fantail assembly have long since gone. All that remains is the cap frame secured to the large horizontal sheers and the hand-winding mechanism of the dismantled fan tackle. This turns the cap above the iron track and inward facing tooth ring fitted to a hexagonal wooden frame. Parts of the brake wheel survive in the basement providing a pattern to replicate a new wheel in the future. The four double-sided patent sails were carried on timber stocks passing through the cast iron canister of a “poll end”.} This arrangement is more typical of Norfolk practice than the usual Lincolnshire one where heavier sails dispensing with the stocks are mounted directly to the arms of an iron cross. The cross is keyed in turn to the nose of the windshaft.

(Reproduced by kind permission of Jon Sass and the Society for Lincolnshire History and Archaeology)

Moulton mill has justly been referred to as “England’s flagship windmill”, on account of its being, at 90ft to the curb and 97 to the top of the cap (article by Jon A Sass in Lincolnshire History and Archaeology, see above), the tallest remaining in the British Isles apart from that at St Patrick’s Distillery in Dublin, Republic of Ireland. It lost its cap and sails in the great gale of 1895 but continued to operate under other sources of power into the late twentieth century. It has now been restored to working order including the fitting of a new cap, sails, windshaft and brakewheel and now grinds corn regularly under a team of volunteers.  

 The builder of the mill, Robert King(1), was a wealthy man and decided to invest in the biggest and best the windmill technology of the period could supply. The attractive yellow brick tower has nine floors, with a stage at fourth floor level, plus a basement. There would have been plenty of space for auxiliary machinery, all of which has now gone, and for storage. In 1999(2) there were a Hunt roller mill and Turner kibbler, both electrically-powered, on the first floor. The mill has an an internal diameter of 28ft 9in at the base and 12ft at the curb. 

 I did not have time during my visit to note details of the cap frame, curb, truck wheels and rollers if any. Sass notes that the rack is on the top of the curb, which rests on a hexagonal wooden frame on top of the tower, with the teeth facing inwards.

 The mill has four double-shuttered patent sails, replaced since my visit, which are surprisingly small for such a huge mill, though they did not have to be particularly large as they would catch the wind easily enough at the height they were at. Unusually for Lincolnshire the stocks are mounted in a poll end rather than a cross. Striking is by rocking lever. The usual fantail on a lofty support structure is fitted, with provision for hand winding.


The iron windshaft and brakewheel are, as noted, both new; the latter was constructed using parts of the original which had been preserved in the basement. The brakewheel engages with a clasp-arm all-wood wallower, sharply bevelled, on an upright shaft which is 14in(3) square, wooden and very stout, with a short cast iron section at the bottom on which the great spur wheel is mounted. The sack hoist operates by means of an endless chain with a counterweight(4); the traps are on the south side. It takes the form of an iron pulley and spindle carrying at the other end a wood pulley bifurcated gor the chain as at Burgh-le-Marsh and elsewhere. 


This floor is taken up mainly by the bins.

SEVENTH FLOOR (secondary bin floor)

There are windows on the north and east sides. The stairwell is on the west side with the ladder to the bin floor located just to the south of it. There are various boarded-over holes in the floor. Extending from the north-west side to the centre of the floor is a partitioned bin constructed in such a way as to create a wood-walled “chimney” for the upright shaft to turn in. Within this bin in the floor is a circular opening suggesting some structure or item of machinery which has now been removed. 


This floor is almost entirely taken up by bins, which occupy the whole of it except for the south-western quarter, where there is a stairwell with the ladder to the stone floor southeast of it. As on the seventh floor a space is left in the middle for the upright shaft. There are windows on the north, south and east sides.


There are windows on the north, south and east sides. The stairwell is on the southeast side, the ladder on the south just to the left of the window. Two more large bins take up most of the northwestern and southwestern quarters of the floor.

 On the east side two pairs of stones are overdriven from the 8ft 9in diameter(5) great spur wheel, which has an iron rim, with wood teeth, and eight wooden arms mounted between the two flanges on the circular iron boss on the base of the upright shaft. The stones retain their furniture and maker’s nameplates, one being by W & J Childs of Hull and dated 1853. The stone nuts are iron with four arms each. The northern quant is square and then cylindrical, the southern cylindrical throughout its length. Both are their own damsels. There were originally a third and fourth pair of stones, but these were at some point dismantled; the southwest pair may now be seen leaning against the north wall.

 On the west side is the nut and secondary upright shaft for the engine drive; the nut is larger than those for the stones but of the same type. The shaft, which descends to the ground floor, is square in section and sheathed in protective trunking.

 The floor above is reached by a staircase rather than a ladder, with a moulded newel post.


Here a raised horizontal beam in the floor supports two ornate cast-iron columns carrying the main lateral beam in the ceiling. There are windows on the north and south sides and doors to the stage on the east and west. The stairwell is on the southeast side with the ladder to the stone floor immediately northwest of it.

 The iron “dog-leg” bridge trees are bolted to the stone bearers. They are at right-angles to each other, the northern one running west-east, the southern north-south. Steelyards go from the governor, which is mounted on a horseshoe-shaped bracket bolted to the side face of the lateral beam in the ceiling, to the northern end of the south bridgetree and the eastern end of the north one. The tentering gear for the southwest stones appears to have been removed when it was dismantled, or subsequently.


There are windows on the north, south and east sides. The ladder to the spout floor is on the southeast side and the stairwell located within a kind of cupboard behind it. On the northwest side a wooden column supports the main beam in the ceiling. The southern window is between two bins, one large and one small and the former taking up most of the south-western quarter of the floor.


There are windows on the north, east and south sides, and on the west side a door into the granary adjacent to the mill.


On the northern side is the miller’s office, with one window in it. There is a second window on the south side of the floor. The entrance door is on the east side, the ladder to above on the southeast. The two main north-south longitudinal beams in the ceiling are supported by columns, two for the western beam and one for the eastern. On the west side the secondary upright shaft passes down through the floor into the basement where the engine is located. Access to it is not possible at present but visible from above through a glass screen are the pair of bevel gears by which it drives the vertical shaft via a horizontal one. There is a spare pair of stones on the southwest side. 

Based on survey carried out by Guy Blythman 13th September 2008

(1-3) Sass

(4) N Everitt, “Windmill Hoppers” January 2015

(5) Sass

MOULTON Moulton Seas End

Tower mill, gone

This was a tarred mill with eight sails and an eight-bladed fantail(1). The brakewheel and upright shaft were wooden, the  great spur wheel iron mortice, and the wallower iron. One pair of grey and one of French stones were driven by wind and a further pair of greys on the ground floor from an engine(2).

(1) HESS

(2) HC August 1946


Tower mill

Standing today, tower only


The red brick tower had six floors. The brakewheel was wood and the windshaft, wallower and great spur wheel iron. There were two pairs of grey and one of French stones on the stone floor and a second pair of greys, engine-driven, on the ground floor.(1)

(1) TMS 9/1940


Post mill, gone

A timber from the mill had “H Chester 1721” carved on it. Other dates included “June 7th 1741” and “1737”.  The centre post, which Simmons’ informant Mr Speed said was very massive and the biggest he ever saw, was taken to York Minster after the mill was dismantled but later disappeared from there. The windshaft was of iron {almost certainly replacing an earlier wooden one}; it was not drilled for a striking rod. The canisters measured 18” by 13½” and the boss for the brakewheel 24”. The sails, two common and two single-shuttered spring, were clockwise. Wooden brake- and tailwheels drove two pairs of stones arranged head-and-tail, greys in the former and French in the latter. All stones appear to have been 3ft 10” in diameter. The tailwheel also drove a dresser. A steam engine was used at one time.(1)

(1) HESS


Tower mill

The tarred tower had four floors. Four double-shuttered sails drove three pairs of stones.(1)

(1) HESS


Tower mill

Standing today, tower only


The tower was built of stone, with a top floor of brick added later, and tarred. A keystone over the east door read “RW 1810”. Four pairs of stones were on the third floor.(1)

(1) HESS