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Technical descriptions of English windmills




There was a mill at Woodhorn in 1663(1), and in 1750 and 1751 a windmill was among properties on the estate of the late Lord Widdrington which were to be sold pursuant to a decree in the High Court of Chancery(2). Although the present mill dates from the early nineteenth century some of the machinery is thought to have come from a previous one. Thomas Erlington and Hugh Howitt were millers in 1828 and 1879 respectively. The mill ceased work by wind in the latter year when the sails were blown off in a gale, and was then engine-driven until 1897. The 1921 one-inch Ordnance Survey marks it “Old Windmill” and by 1945 when Karl Wood painted it(3) the cap roof was gone. The windshaft, brakewheel and broken stocks with striking gear remained until 1972 when the owners, Alcan Ltd, decided to carry out repairs. A report was commissioned from millwright Derek Ogden and shortly afterwards the cap frame and the remains of the sails were removed, a flat roof placed over the tower, the external stonework repaired and the entrances blocked to keep out vandals. A second report was commissioned in 1976 from Messrs Gormley and Goodman, the intention or so it was understood being to eventually return the mill to working order, but since then nothing has done. At least what remains has been conserved so that a full restoration can still be undertaken at some point, although it is not clear what has happened to the windshaft and brakewheel.  

 Unusually, the five-storey tower is built from blocks of ashlar, dressed both to the batter and to the round in the manner of a lighthouse. There was a stage at first floor level. An old photograph(4) shows the cap to have been the usual north-eastern dome.

 Inside the tower, the main gearing remains including the great spur wheel and two stone nuts of large diameter(5). Woodhorn mill is of importance in being the only windmill in Northumberland with internal machinery.

 In its working days the mill stood in an isolated position, with no mill house or other buildings near it, and in fact stood out so much against the landscape that sailors could use it as a navigational aid. The miller evidently came in to work it from elsewhere.

(1) SPAB Wind and Watermill Section newsletter July 1985

(2) LG Dec 15-29 1750; NCo 30/3/1751

(3) KSW no. 1248 8th April 1945

(4) SPAB Wind and Watermill Section newsletter July 1985

(5) Windmill Hoppers website December 2014