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Technical descriptions of English windmills




Tower mill, standing today


Built on a budget as a subscription mill, in 1813, North Leverton mill remained in constant use well into the twentieth century and at one time it and Pakenham, Suffolk, were the only two windmills still operating commercially in the country. Now run by a trust, it is still a complete working mill grinding both corn and livestock feed, and has never been derelict or disused for any length of time except when awaiting or under repair.

 It is a small tower mill typical of the Lincolnshire/Nottinghamshire area, which originally had common sails and hand luffing and a gabled cap similar to that formerly on Sneath’s Mill, Long Sutton. It was considerably altered and modernised in 1884 with double-shuttered patent sails and fantail and a vertically-boarded ogee cap being fitted, and probably widespread replacement of wooden machinery with iron. The tower was also heightened by the addition of an eight-foot high cylindrical section comprising the dust floor, a practice not uncommon in the region. The timbers on the ground floor, exhibiting empty mortices, which make up the frame to which the meal spouts are attached are from a post mill which stood at nearby Fenton Lane.

 Rex Wailes measured the mill’s height at 46ft 3in to the top of the cap. The tower was 16ft 6in in diameter at the base and 11ft 4in at the curb. The cap was 13ft 2in diameter; the ball at the top of its finial was at one time said to hold a bottle containing the names of the men who built it. It has been replaced since, but I have no idea if the story was found to be true. The sails which the mill carried at the time of Wailes’ inspection were 24ft long and 5ft 6in wide on the ground. The backs were 32ft long and fairly large for a small mill.

 The cap frame consists of the sheers, weatherbeam, with two angled members bracing it to the lateral timber in front of the brakewheel, the sprattle beam, a longitudinal member connecting the latter to the tailbeam, and a further longitudinal member going from the tailbeam to the final lateral timber. The iron dead curb rests on sixteen wooden plates let at intervals into the brickwork, in which it is anchored by the usual rods and bolts. There are nine centering wheels in all: one on each of the angled timbers connecting the weatherbeam with the second lateral timber, one on each sheer where the second lateral timber meets it, one on each of two short timbers projecting from the sheers at the sides just before the sprattle beam, one on each sheer just before the tailbeam, and one on the member connecting the tailbeam and final lateral beam.   

 The iron windshaft is square in front of the brakewheel and at the mounting for the wheel, tapering to cylindrical behind it. The neck journal was the smallest Rex Wailes had encountered on a tower mill in the Leicestershire, Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire region. The brakewheel is an all-iron affair with eight arms bevelled on their forward faces. A separately cast bevelled cog ring is bolted on. The brake is in the form of an iron band applied by an iron lever worked from below by a chain which passes round a pulley in it. The lever is mounted on the right sheer with an anchor point to the latter just forward of the second lateral member of the cap frame. Near the other end it is pivoted in a post terminating in a short horizontal timber bolted to two vertical members of the cap roof.

 Striking is by rocking lever; the chain, weighted at the bottom, descends from a pulley on a timber projecting from the fanstage through a slot in the lever to the ground. As elsewhere in the region an old tyre was formerly used to prevent it scraping against the tower. The lever is mounted in an iron frame within and at the rear of the cap, to the left of which is the cluster of iron fantail gears. 


Here the wall of the tower is stepped until the last foot or so of its height. The sack hoist and trap are on the southeast side, the stairwell on the south.

 Here and on the bin floor the upright shaft, of iron, is encased in wooden trunking for reasons of safety. Above where this begins it is cylindrical with squaring for the wallower mounting. The top bearing is located in a casting bolted to the front face of the sprattle beam. 

 The bevelled all-iron wallower has eight short arms. Its rim bears directly on the pulley on the sack hoist bollard, there being no separate friction ring. The bollard is mounted in a wooden frame based around four vertical posts; bolted onto it is an iron spindle carrying a pulley with a wooden rim, made up of four segments, on four iron arms. At the wallower end the bearing is located in a moveable timber resting in slots in two of the vertical posts, with a lever attached and at a right angle to it for adjustment.


The windows are on the east and west sides, the stairwell on the north, the ladder to the dust floor on the northeast, and the sack trap on the northwest.

 There are in fact no bins as such but rather hatches, with removable lids, on the southwest and southeast sides into which the corn was emptied and which led via chutes to the stones on the floor below. The south-western hatch is within a raised dais. 


The windows are on the west and east sides. The sack trap is on the northeast side. There are two stairwells to the northwest and northeast, the latter being intended for the purpose of providing access to this level for visiting schoolchildren. The (single) ladder to the bin floor is on the north side. 

 The main beams of the dummy floor which in mills in the south-east of the country, for example, would support the foot of the upright shaft (whether the mill was overdrift or underdrift), and here serve as mounting for the quants and machine drive only, run east-west. Between them and the ceiling the shaft is fitted with a journal which runs in a wooden bearing formed of two tie-beams(1). Below the great spur wheel and governor drive the shaft is square with chamfered corners, and tapers from 5¾ in square(2) to 3¼ in(3)  where it terminates within a wooden box, enclosing the footstep bearing, which is mounted a few inches above the floor on two short timbers flush with each other.

 The spur wheel is all-iron with eight arms. There are three pairs of stones on the east, west and south sides respectively. The east and south stones are overdriven, the west stones underdriven by oil engine. The west stones are in an iron casing but have wooden horse, hopper etc which are original. The  southern pair are without casing or furniture; they bear a nameplate with the cast inscription “R NUTT MAKER HULL”. The eastern stones retain their casing, which is of wood, and furniture.

 The nuts for the east and south stones are of iron mortice construction. The southern nut and quant are currently displaced and lying on the floor on the northwest side. On the north side the spur wheel meshes with a large solid all-wood but iron-bound third nut on the auxiliary upright shaft for the dresser drive, which like all other exposed shafts in this mill which remained active into modern times is encased in trunking. All the nuts are of large size; where they mesh with the great spur safety guards are provided which follow the circumference of both gearwheels. The quants, like the shafting for the engine drive on the ground floor, bear attractive painted designs. The upper bearings of the eastern and western quants are located in longitudinal timbers which flank the great spur wheel between the main dummy floor beams; that of the southern quant in a wooden block on the side face of the dummy floor beam, and that for the auxiliary upright shaft on one of an arrangement of three wooden brackets off the northern side face of the north main dummy floor beam.

 At one time a bell alarm for the French stones was rung by the arms of the great spur wheel, which hit a leather striker on which it hung(4). 

 The governor drive is by twisted belt from a flanged wooden disc below the great spur wheel to the drum on the governor spindle on the southwest side, which passes down to the ground floor where the governor itself is located. The upper bearing of the spindle is bolted to the side face of a timber projecting from the wall.


There is a door on the east side, and windows on the north and south. Ladders are provided on the northeast and northwest sides.

 The main ceiling beams run east-west. At mid-length each is supported by a vertical post from the ground floor. There is a longitudinal timber positioned between the beams at this point and given additional support by the northern vertical post. This timber serves as the brayer for the eastern stones; tenoned into it at a right angle is the long bowed wooden bridgetree which terminates at the door, at one point resting on a support beam which again is fixed longitudinally between the main ceiling beams. The bridgetree for the southern stones is of iron, with the “dogleg” shape typical of this part of the country, and mounted laterally between two joists off the southern main ceiling beam. At its western end a vertical rod and screw for hand tentering are provided. The western stones also have an iron bridgetree, of the same kind, mounted between the main ceiling beams and with provision for hand tentering at their northern end.

 The drive from the engine to the western stones enters the mill on that side, a four-armed all-iron bevel gear on the layshaft meshing with another on the quant extension. There is a bearing for the shaft on a vertical stub timber depending from a steel girder between the main ceiling beams. The shaft carried four pulleys: one drove an oat crusher, which was at some point removed although it can be seen where a section of wall had to be scooped out to accommodate it; a second, now missing, a grain elevator, also no longer present; the other two were within a wooden lean-to against the tower at the base of which is the wooden housing for the engine, the purpose of one being unclear while a belt went down from the other to one of three pulleys on a horizontal shaft connected to the engine.

 One large governor on the southwest side, its spindle terminating in a timber projecting from the wall, with a steady bearing on the side face of the southern main ceiling beam, controls the two wind-driven pairs of stones. A steelyard goes north-east to a link, with tentering screw, on southern end of the brayer for the eastern stones. From a link on the steelyard itself a second, shorter steelyard goes to the western end of the bridgetree for the southern stones, where the rod and screw are provided. No steelyard and link were provided for the engine-driven stones, whose tentering appears to have been entirely by hand, the bridgetree being fitted with a hinged iron lever for the purpose.

 On this floor the secondary upright shaft is partly surrounded by a wooden shield depending from a ceiling joist. A steady bearing for it is bolted to the side face of a timber fixed between two joists at a right angle to them. The shaft ends in a four-armed iron mortice bevel gear one of whose applewood cogs bears the pencilled mark “tree felled 1864”, suggesting the mechanism was installed prior to the 1884 modernisation. The gear drove a dresser on the northeast side of the mill which was removed in the 1970s to accommodate the second ladder designed for use by schoolchildren, and is currently stored in an outbuilding on the site. The machine was put in and out of gear by a sliding top bearing(5).

 A longitudinal timber between the brayer and the support beam for the bridgetree acts as a mounting for two of the three large spouts coming down from the floor above.

At one time the engine drove a pair of stones on the ground floor, mounted on a hurst frame(6).

The attractive painted designs noted on some of the ironwork (quants, engine drive gear) are original.

Based on inspection carried out by G Blythman 8th September 2012

(1) RW, in HESS 

(2) Ibid

(3) Ibid

(4) Ibid

(5) Ibid

(6) Ibid

The Wailes references may also be found (as for Tuxford) in his paper with Paul Baker “The Windmills of Derbyshire, Leicestershire and Nottinghamshire” (Transactions of the Newcomen Society 1962)

TUXFORD, Mill Mount

Tower mill, standing today


Built c1820, Tuxford mill ceased grinding in the 1920s and then stood derelict for many years. When purchased in the early 1980s by Mr D Ostick, who subsequently restored it to working order, it retained a fair amount of the original workings including the windshaft and brakewheel but there was much reconstruction and replacement, particularly of smaller items such as the governor(1) and quants(2). Under the present owners the mill regularly produces flour on a commercial basis.

There was a post mill nearby until c1950 when it was demolished.

 The small (34ft high) tower is very steeply battered, almost cylindrical, with dog-tooth cornicing at the curb. There is the usual East Midlands/Lincolnshire type of ogee cap, here fairly large, and fantail. According to Ronald Hawksley(3) the original cap frame had two inner sheers flanking the brakewheel and carrying centring wheels at their ends. Wailes states that the curb is live. 

 There are four double-shuttered patent sails with rare “bull nose” striking gear. The last working set (before the restoration) had odd bays: one pair with four containing two shutters each, three of three and one of two, and the other pair with one of one and seven of three. This feature was also found on Coddington, Riddings (Derbyshire) and Waltham-on-the-Wolds (Leicestershire) mills.(4)  The wooden windshaft, one of only two examples known in the East Midlands to carry a cross, is a replacement, fitted during the restoration of the 1980s and 90s, but the original, also wooden, is preserved on site. Rex Wailes(5) measured the brakewheel mounting at 22” square. The wheel, whose woodwork was I believe was renewed during the restoration, is a clasp-arm type with an iron cog ring which replaced a double wooden one(6).


This is close under the cap. Access to it is currently forbidden but some details can be made out from below. There are four square apertures in the brickwork, positioned more or less at the main points of the compass, in which are the bolts for anchoring the curb. At roughly half height of this floor the wall is rebated at intervals, for what reason was not clear to me. 

 The bevelled all-iron wallower friction-drives the sack hoist which is positioned at an angle on the northwest side and is in the form of a four-armed iron pulley on a square iron spindle on which is mounted the cylindrical flanged bollard. The upright shaft is in two sections, a wooden upper one and a shorter iron one on the stone floor. The wooden section is square with chamfered corners.


The ladder well is on the northeast side. Most of the east side is taken up by the bins.


There is a loading door on this floor, and a single window. The ladder well is on the southwest side.

 Here the lower iron section of the upright shaft, which terminates within a wooden “box” on the floor, carries a fine eight-armed iron great spur wheel which overdrives two pairs of stones (there were originally three, two French and one peak(7)  controlled by one governor(8)) through iron mortice stone nuts on square quants. Spaced around the circumference of the wheel on the upper face of the rim are ten neat circular holes; these are for the mounting of a now missing bevel ring which received the drive from a Grasshopper steam engine. This engine was to have been given to a museum after the mill stopped work but instead was bought up and sold abroad(9).

 On the upright shaft above the great spur wheel is a flanged wooden disc from which a belt goes tangentially to a pair of vertical wooden rollers mounted in a frame, which tension it, and then to a wooden drum on a secondary upright shaft which serves as the governor spindle. According to Hawksley(10) there was another auxiliary upright shaft which drove a smutter with a blower and a large oat crusher; these machines have now gone.


There are doors on the east and west sides and windows to the north and south. The bridge trees and brayers are of iron and at right angles to one another. The originals had bridging boxes cast integral(11).  The governor, from Legbourne mill, is of large size as was the Tuxford original.

Based on survey carried out by Guy Blythman September 2008

(1)  John McGuinness, “Windmill Hoppers” website 8/9/2012

(2)  RH in HESS

(3)  In HESS

(4)  RW, in HESS

(5)  Ibid

(6)  RH in HESS

(7)  Ibid

(8)  RW in HESS

(9)  RH and RW in HESS

(10) In HESS

(11) RW in HESS