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Technical descriptions of English windmills




Tower mill, stump remains


The cap was shallow, round and pointed. The fantail was mounted on vertical staging, supported at the rear by one wooden strut and at the front by two iron rods bolted to the cap.(1)

 The mill had rack and pinion striking gear. The spokes and boss of the brakewheel were cast iron, the rim and cogs wood. The smallest pitch cogs in a great spur wheel in the Cambridgeshire/Huntingdonshire region were found here (13 and a quarter inch). A water pump, housed in a shed adjoining the mill, was driven from a pulley on a shaft passing through the wall of the tower.(2)

(1) HESS

(2) RW 19/4/50


Smock mill, foundations remain


The smock was vertically boarded, with three floors including the base. The fantail was large and the patent sails had canvas shutters. Two pairs of stones were underdriven from an iron great spur wheel with a secondary cog ring for an engine drive. The upright shaft and the crown wheel, off which the sack hoist was driven, were of wood.(1)  

 This and Arrington were the only two mills in the Cambridgeshire-Huntingdonshire area where the patent sails were struck by rack and pinion, with chainwheel, as opposed to rocking lever. The windshaft had a wooden neck bearing, as at Over and Littleport. The brakewheel, which had been converted from trundle wheel or “cow-pop” type, had four cants and four intermediate supports between the arms. The upright shaft, which was corseted with 11 and a half inch by quarter-inch iron strips at the bottom to prevent splitting, was in two sections joined by a four-jaw (the usual method being two-jaw) iron coupling.

 This and Elsworth mills had the smallest great spur wheel in the Cambs-Hunts region, 6 feet in diameter. At Ashley it had 73 teeth of 3” pitch, the smallest number in the same area. The smallest stone nut teeth were the 15 and 17in. iron mortice nuts at Ashley. These were the only nuts in which slip cogs were used to throw them out of gear with the great spur. There was a vertical winch for raising the runner stones, operated by a worm and worm wheel on the drum.(2)

(1) HRH

(2) RW 19/4/50 and in HESS


Smock mill, gone


The smock was clad partly in vertical and partly in horizontal boarding. It was at one time painted white.(1) The neck bearing was of swing pot type. Instead of the great spur wheel, as was usually the case, the engine drive was via a separate bevel gear on the upright shaft.(2)

 A sketch by Stanley Freese dated June 1932 gives some further details of the mill’s internal arrangements. The windshaft was iron, the brakewheel wood. The wallower was iron mortice; all the teeth had been removed, probably when the engine was installed. Two pairs of stones were underdriven. A note on the drawing appears to indicate that the bridge beam was of iron. The clasp-arm wood crownwheel, located on the stone floor, drove the sack hoist on the bin floor through a pinion and layshaft, the latter carrying two belt drums the other of which was presumably for a dresser. There was an engine drive with external pulley, the pinion on the layshaft meshing with one of the stone nuts. The great spur wheel etc. were within the single-storey base.(3)

(1) Photographic evidence

(2) RW 19/4/50

(3) Mills Archive


Tower mill, standing today


Within the tower, beginning at the very top, the replacement cap is wooden-ribbed, and complete with a doorway to the fanstage. Many of the drive gears from the absent fantail are stored on the dust floor. Seven out of eight centring wheels remain attached to the headframe {cap frame}, where one of the forward timbers bears the carving JEE 1X7V (although it could be 187-). The large wooden clasp-arm brakewheel has a circle of cast-iron teeth. It was claimed by the late Rex Wailes that originally the brakewheel would have had sections of teeth instead of the current single casting. Wailes also mentioned in his Transactions of the Newcomen Society paper “Windmills in Cambridgeshire” that Barnack’s windshaft is the largest in the area, being 22 inches in diameter at the brakewheel tapering to 20 inches at its tail end. Forward of the brakewheel the windshaft can best be described as a “box-like” fitting, strengthened with clamps. Beyond that, an iron canister or poll end completes the assembly. Engaging the brakewheel is a cast-iron wallower fixed to a wooden octagonal upright shaft. One of the errors of the partial restoration is that the flooring has been replaced right up to the upright shaft, fixing it so tightly that it could never revolve. The internal diameter at this level is 13 feet 12 inches, while the wall thickness is 1 foot 7 inches.

 Typical throughout this mill are the white plastered walls and the two pairs of opposing windows on each floor. However in most cases the northwestern and southeastern windows have been bricked up, probably as an example of the Victorian window tax. Obviously these alterations were carried out in the mill’s early days, as many pieces of equipment were installed in their place, such as the wooden pulley measuring 1 foot 11 inches in diameter. This may be part of the sack hoist, but the only evidence for this claim is the fact that it is in line with the trapdoors found on every floor. On the third floor, where the diameter is 16 feet one inch, the sealed southeast window is hidden behind a wooden meal chute. Excluding the chute and the presence of the upright shaft, this floor is relatively bare. Equally sparse is the second floor down which used to be the bin floor, though now there are no bins. Apart from the upright shaft only a single diagonal metal strut is to be seen, although its purpose is unknown. The diameter of this floor is 18 feet 4 inches, and beneath here is the stone floor where the mill seems to spring to life again in a melee of gears and stones. Dominating this floor is the wooden clasp-arm great spur wheel which is set low over the stones, and at 10 feet in diameter is said to be the largest in the area. Two timber posts and a sagging crossbeam bear its weight, and three wooden stone nuts are fixed to iron quants. When writing of this mill in September 1961 Rex Wailes suggested the possibility that much of the machinery may have come from a watermill, or was constructed by a millwright with only watermill experience, making Barnack a unique windmill. 

 Continuing with the description of the stone floor; of the stones themselves two pairs are encased in a vat while a third set is without. This pair, situated at the eastern point, measures 4 feet 6 inches in diameter. Much smaller is the western stone set, the wooden tun being calculated at 4 feet 8 inches. Both this and the southern vat retain horses but hoppers and other pieces of feeding equipment are absent. The remaining machinery comprises two auxiliary drive systems (in very close proximity to one another off the great spur wheel); one consisting of a small vertically positioned wooden spur gear which is connected to a wooden pulley located on the northwest wall, rather uncomfortably above the ground floor ladder. A matter of feet to the right (with the first floor doorway in between) is a four-spoked gear driven by a smaller cogwheel engaging the great spur wheel. It seems likely the wall pulley drove a dresser, while the spoked gear powered the sack hoist. (I repeat the claim made when referring to the dust floor pulley – my only evidence being the relation of these to the sack traps).

 The light from two windows allowed the floor to be measured with ease, this being 20 feet 9 inches in diameter. Instead of sealed windows there are doors, one (previously mentioned) at the northwest point and the other, its opposite, now bricked up. The ground floor is the only level where apertures have not been altered, and two doorways and two windows give access and light respectively. Three large square timber posts support the stone floor as well as the three bridgetrees, but sadly no trace of the single master governor or the rest of the tentering gear could be found. The ground floor itself is paved and has a diameter of 21 feet 6 inches and a wall thickness measuring 2 feet 8 inches. Should anyone be interested after this lengthy collection of calculations, the doors work out at 6 feet 2 inches by 3 feet 5 inches. (From Trevor Stainwright, in Windmills in Northamptonshire and the Soke of Peterborough, W D Wharton 1992)


Tower mill, standing today (tower only) converted to a house


Metal back stays were fitted at the tips of the sails. There was a weathercock on top of the cap. The brakewheel had a wooden rim and cogs, curved wood cants and eight doubled wood arms socketed into a cast-iron hub resembling a double-sided fantail hub.(1)

(1) RW 19/4/50


Wood End Mill

Tower mill, gone

The tower stood 30 feet high with three floors. Of brick plastered and tarred, and matchboarded inside on the ground floor to about four feet up, it was bottle-shaped {the lower part, incorporating the ground floor, being cylindrical}. This was the only windmill in latter years in the Cambridgeshire-Huntingdonshire area to have spring sails. {The cap was} tailpole-winded. The windshaft {was fitted with a weight to counterbalance the weight of the sails. The brakewheel and wallower were trundle wheel, the cogs of the former being mounted on iron pins and almost at right angles to the wallower.(1)

(1) RW 19/4/50


Post mill, standing today


A charming little open-trestle post mill with a boxlike body and a steeply-pitched mediaeval style roof, Bourn is the smallest proper windmill remaining in the UK apart from certain drainage mills and the tiny specimen at Bloxham, Oxfordshire (also an open-trestle post mill), which was intended only for farm use. The buck is 10ft 3” wide X 14ft 6” high and the mill is 31ft 6” tall overall(1).

 The mill is among the oldest still standing in the country, with many original timbers surviving. Documentary evidence shows there was a mill on the site in 1636(2). Carter’s History of Cambridgeshire appears to suggest that the mill was blown down in 1741 (though it could have been rebuilt using some of the existing materials), but this is now thought to refer to another one in the village. It is perhaps unlikely that the mill dates from the fifteenth century, as some have suggested in the past, but ancient styles of millwrighting endured for centuries in conservative rural areas and with its small size and general appearance it does provide a useful visual indication of what a mediaeval post mill would have been like (as does Bloxham), the more so as one pair of stones was removed, along with the dresser, towards the end of its working life. The mill had already gone over from corn to the grinding of beans for animal consumption, the removal of the dresser no doubt being connected with this. It ceased work in 1927 and a few years later was acquired by the Cambridge Preservation Society as an ancient monument. It has been carefully maintained ever since. The wide weatherboarding, another sign of antiquity, and lean-to roof over the buck door have not been retained in the current restoration. The crosstrees were removed in 1874, and bear that date plus the initials JUP for John Ulysses Pain of Caxton, who carried out the work.

The breast of the mill is unpointed and almost flat. Rex Wailes (3) measures the centre post at 18” square at the base and the crowntree at 16” by 18” deep.

 The mill ended its working days with one pair of common sails and one of patents, the latter with leading boards. The wooden windshaft is the smallest in the country, tapering from 15” at the neck to 12” at the tail(4). It carries a clasp-arm wood brakewheel and, according to common south Cambridgeshire practice, a smaller diameter iron mortice tailwheel. The brakewheel, 6ft 8” in diameter(5) with wood brake, has four straight cants and an iron cog ring is bolted to its rim in segments. The sack hoist is chain-driven from a wood pulley in front of it on the windshaft. The bollard and the machine drive shaft, both wooden, are mounted at their forward ends in a wooden frame whose vertical members, the right one of which is attractively and probably naturally curved, like some other timbers in the mill, are footed in the sprattle beam. The upper ends of the members terminate in the lower of a pair of horizontal timbers spanning the roof. In the upper timber is hinged the lever used to tighten the sack hoist chain and so engage the drive. The machine drive shaft has two solid wood pulleys at its rear end; the outer allows the shaft to be driven by friction from an iron band around the rim of the tailwheel while the inner belt-drove the dresser. It appears that the drive was originally from the brakewheel cogs via a toothed gear, this arrangement later being dispensed with. For some reason the new one was not a success either and the dresser was removed.(6) The tailstones, which were of French type and 4ft diameter, were taken out in 1918 when the tailwheel became cracked (7). The fitting of the band around the tailwheel was something to do with its speed when beans were being ground(8). The dresser was located at the side of the tail on the spout floor; it has now gone(9).

 The head stone nut is of iron mortice type, as was the tail one (10). The hopper is positioned to one side of the stones with a long integral shoe (there being no horse); this is another south Cambridgeshire feature and is also found at Six Mile Bottom. A harp was used to set the stones for dressing(11). The head governor is located in the front right hand corner of the mill looking towards the breast, with the steelyard jagged to allow it to pass over the bridgetree. The tail governor, now missing, was in the rear left corner(12).

“E Bismur 1758” is carved on a first floor stud. Other inscriptions to be found within the mill are the name William Hipwell and the date 1742.

Survey carried out by Guy Blythman 10th September 2017

(1)  RW 19/4/50

(2)  Cambridge Preservation Society (“Cambridge Past, Present And Future”) website

(3)  19/4/1950

(4)  RW 19/4/1950

(5)  Ibid

(6)  HESS

(7)  Ibid

(8)  Ibid

(9)  Ibid

(10) RW 19/4/50

(11) Ibid

(12) HESS


Tower mill, stump survives


It had two pairs of stones, peak and burr, and a dressing machine(1).

(1) TJM in HESS


Post mill, standing today


In July 2014 I was privileged to be able to see round one of the most interesting of the country’s remaining old post mills. What follows is my own attempt at an interpretation of its construction and workings; unfortunately it was not possible to make out all details due to lack of light and some features being hidden by stacks of timber left over from past repairs, but the machinery appears complete down to and including the auxiliary drive.

 It is an old mill, one of the crosstrees bearing the date 1746, though the iron windshaft is evidence of modifications in the late nineteenth or early twentieth century. The front corner posts have gunstock heads, indicating relative antiquity. While the exterior has been attractively restored, the interior by contrast is unrestored, though safe to explore if care is taken. Like Keston mill, Kent, of roughly similar age, this is a rare survivor; to enter it is like stepping back forty years to a time when there were still plenty of mills which had not been touched since they ceased work. Much of the original timberwork remains and cobwebs and rusty chains further add to the atmosphere of the place.

 The mill body is fairly large, and like many has been extended at the tail at some point. The high roof has a fairly steep curve – with the result that it appears straight-pitched when viewed from the side – which terminates in an ogee gable. The framing was infilled with lath and plaster, a reasonable amount of which survives. Elsewhere it is either exposed or boarded over. It is unusual in one respect: there are no side girts, the ends of the crowntree resting on saddle pieces mortised through the two principal vertical members of the framing on each side. The vertical members extend the height of the buck from the lower to the upper side rails, and the windows are framed between them. On each floor diagonal timbers brace them to the corner posts.

 The buck has distorted behind the crowntree causing the stone and spout floors to dip beyond this point, pulling the roof ridge out of shape and breaking the sheers which are now reinforced with RSJs. This distortion has been progressive over the past century and is evident in a photograph taken in 1923 when the mill was still at work(1). To counter general structural weakness an internal steel frame has been put in to relieve the strain on the ancient timbers.

 The mill was never modernised with spur gearing (and also ended its active life with one pair of patent and one pair of common sails). The clasp-arm wood brake- and tailwheels, the latter of smaller diameter than the former and from the look of it very old, are hung on square iron plates on the windshaft and secured by wedges and packing. The wooden brake remains in place, as do the head- and tailstones which retain their original furniture although the vats are falling apart. The sprattle beam for the headstones is curved. The head stone nut is of iron mortice type, that for the tail all-iron. The tail quant is square but with chamfered edges to act as a damsel; on the head quant this role is performed by four projections of semicircular section at the corners. The tailbeam serves as the sprattle beam for the tailstones but the upper bearing of the quant seems originally to have been mounted in a curved bracket fixed to the underside of the beam and projecting forward of it, for which I can see no other purpose.

 Within the roof, built out from the upper side rails, are the remains of a walkway from which the bins, now gone, were serviced. In typical south Cambridgeshire practice the hoppers are mounted at the side of the stones, on the left of the mill as one looks towards the rear, instead of above them, abutting the walls and almost coming into contact with the brake- and tailwheels, and the grain is fed to the eye through longer shoes than are normally encountered. The shoes were fitted with meshes to sift out dirt and other foreign matter, acting in effect as grain cleaners(2).

 The governor for the tailstones is located towards the rear of the stone floor on the right; it is mounted very low down with the balls almost touching the flooring, and the belt drum and steelyard are on the spout floor. This is the only example of such an arrangement that I know of.

 From its position it is clear that the sack hoist would have been driven by belt from a ring bolted to the forward faces of the brakewheel arms, which presumably still remains although I could not see it. A chain goes from the bollard to a roller and then down to the spout floor.

 The machine drive is very Heath Robinson. It is taken from the brakewheel, a lever being provided for disengaging it. The cogs mesh with the teeth on an iron-bound wood nut on a long hexagonal wooden shaft which terminates in a large flanged wooden pulley above and behind the tailwheel but not in contact with it. From this pulley a belt travelled diagonally down through an opening in the floor to the forward of two solid wood pulleys mounted on a joint layshaft. From the other pulley the belt was taken across the mill, fouling the upper part of the doorway, to a bolter suspended from the ceiling. The spindle of the latter is still in place; the reel has fallen to pieces but the fragments remain within the casing.

 Both sets of tentering gear are intact with their steelyards. The governor for the headstones is on the right side of the mill; the upper end of its spindle turns in a casting bolted to a side face of one of the stone bearers. The bridgetrees are curved; instead of being relatively short and suspended on hangers that for the headstones spans the width of the mill, its ends resting on horizontal members mounted between the front corner posts and the first, on each side, of the pair of vertical timbers between which the saddle pieces supporting the ends of the crowntree are mounted. The tail bridgetree, which is at a right angle to the head one pointing towards the tail, is supported at one end on an iron hanger depending from a lateral floor joist. The steelyard passes through a slot in the other, wooden hanger and the link and tentering screw are connected to the brayer via an iron plate bolted to the underside of the latter.

 I did not see the 1746 date, but “W.C.1829” is inscribed nicely on a crosstree and I also found, carved on a timber within the buck, a faint but still discernible representation of a post mill.

 All in all a fascinating old mill, and it is remarkable that it has survived so complete to the present day, especially given the lengthy period of decay – sixty years at least – it endured after ceasing to grind. My thanks to Peter Goulding for helping to arrange the visit and to the Stevens family, owners of the mill, for granting access.

(1) Mills Archive

(2) Vincent Pargeter to G Blythman, September 2014

Visit made on 17th July 2014

BURWELL, Stevens’ Mill

Tower mill, standing today


Believed to have been built around 1820 on an ancient site called “Mill Field”, Stevens’ Mill continued to operate commercially until 1955, thus surviving into the later twentieth century in reasonable condition with its machinery complete. Since repairs were first carried out in the early 1970s there have been several restorations, the most recent of which has seen the mill returned to full working order, in 2014. It was granted to the Burwell Museum Trust in 1998. It is a reasonably typical nineteenth-century Cambridgeshire tower mill, with some components that may have been inherited from an older mill on the same site. During the last restoration, in 2013 the floor of an earlier unrecorded mill was found under the present one. There is a cellar.

 The four-storey tower, which has a convex batter, is of clunch rendered over and tarred, upon a low brick base. The cap is a vertically-boarded dome with a taller finial than on other surviving mills in the area, and a triangular dormer at the rear giving access onto the fan stage. The original version had a slightly sharper taper than is seen on the present, rebuilt one. The fan cradle is double-stayed diagonally to the apex of the cap roof and to the lower part of the cap in the typical regional fashion.


In 2013 a new set of four patent sails was built and fitted. Their design of these new sails replicated as far as practicable the available images of the mill as last worked in the 1950s. They are the traditional double-shuttered clockwise type with eight leading and eight trailing bays, all containing three shutters. The inner bays on the inner sails are permanently shut to avoid striking the tower. The shutters are timber-framed and covered with flat wooden wind boards.


The cap frame consists of the breast beam, connected by two short longitudinal timbers to the lateral timber in front of the brake wheel, the sheers, sprattle beam, tail beam, then two more short longitudinals bracing the tail beam to the rear lateral timber. Between the rear longitudinals is mounted the frame carrying the striking rod. The sheers are closer together than usual, with the result that all the lateral members are shorter, apart from the second which in fact extends to the cap circle, and the side ones which are longer. The top bearing of the upright shaft is located on the rear side face of a timber fixed to the underside of the sprattle beam.

 The wooden curb ring is set on solid wood blocks on the top of the tower with an iron running plate in its upper surface. The remains of six original curb anchoring bolts are located in apertures in the wall near floor level on the dust floor: these were made redundant during the 1970s restoration work when they were replaced with six new anchoring bolts in eye-level apertures. The curb is dead, with ten iron skid plates plus two roller plates under the breast beam added in 2013. The skids are bolted to the undersides of the cap frame members: one at each end of the first lateral member; one on each of the timbers projecting from the undersides of the sprattle beam, one on the end of each of two side timbers angled backwards from where the tail beam meets the sheers; two attached to the timber under the fan stage door; and one on the end of each sheer. The two rollers are attached to an iron plate under the breast beam: they were found to be necessary to allow the cap to turn freely when the second pair of sails was fitted in 2013. There are four centring wheels, one either side of the rear sheers and one at each end of the sprattle beam. These were added in 2014 to enable the cap to turn more smoothly. The small roller under the fan stage door that originally limited rearward cap movement is still in place but no longer in contact with the curb.

Striking for the sails is by rocking lever pivoting on a short shaft between additional timbers between the rear sheers.

 The windshaft is of cast-iron with four fins supporting the cast iron box on which the brake wheel is mounted. It has a cast-iron canister for the stocks and a swingpot neck bearing. It carries an all-wood clasp-arm brake wheel (50 teeth) to which is applied an iron brake band.

The cast-iron wallower has 29 teeth. There is an ancient repair to a crack in it, where a plate has been bolted on to hold it together.

 There is evidence that the brake wheel was originally located further along the windshaft towards the sails. It is thought the present wallower replaced the larger original one in the 1862 repairs.

 The cap frame contains timbers from the original build, with repairs carried out in 1862 after major tail-winding damage to the mill and also in the 1970s and 2013 restorations. The cap roof was rebuilt in the 70s restoration and in 2013 some spars were replaced and the aluminium covering replaced by a double layer of vertical red cedar boarding with a Belzona protective outer covering.


There is a single window on the south side. The sill of a window on the north side is visible from outside, but this window was bricked up when the top of the tower was rebuilt in the 1970s.

 A bevelled all-iron 8-armed wallower is mounted on an upright shaft which is wooden throughout most of its length; on this floor it is square initially, becoming octagonal lower down.

The sack traps are on the northwest and the stairwell on the west.

There is a slit in the floor on the northeast side through which the sack hoist chain passes up to and then over an iron flanged pulley hanging on the wall.

 There are two boarded-over holes in the floor, one to the east and one to the southeast. These lead to the vertical hoppers on the bin floor, and are presumably for cleaning and filling.

There is a wooden 12-sided safety wall approximately four feet high around the base of the upright shaft: the age of this is unknown.


There are windows on the east and west sides. The stairwell and beside it the ladder to the dust floor are on the west. In the flooring on the southwest side are two small square openings, now boarded over, for feeding grain to the stones below. The two main ceiling beams run north-south, the joists between them forming a frame around the upright shaft where it passes through. For the upper third of its height the shaft is strengthened by additional timbers bolted to all but two of its eight faces. The lower third is encased in protective 12-sided trunking.

There are two large spouts (hoppers) on the east side, serviced from the dust floor, which extend from floor to ceiling.

 The sack hoist, in the form of a wooden bollard (unusually short) and flanged, segmented belt drum, is on the north side, positioned between and parallel to the main ceiling beams. The bearings of the bollard are located in hinged timbers suspended from hangers fixed between the beams, the southern being just to the left of the upright shaft. The belt passes up to the drum from the stone floor through a wooden box-like structure. The north end of the bollard can be raised to tension the belt by a leather belt around a shaft turned by a small wooden pulley. A rope round this pulley descends through holes in the bin and stone floors to the ground floor. Pulling the rope turns the pulley which winds the leather belt which raises the bollard and engages the drive.

 In the northeast corner of the floor are the remains of wooden partitioning, most likely originally used to store grain. This area now holds a collection of old mill timbers including the tun for the north stone. The identity of many of the timbers is unknown.

In the southeast corner is a newly constructed vermin-proof grain store, and against the south wall a tool cupboard, also new.


There are windows at all four compass points. The stairwell is on the northwest side and the ladder to the bin floor on the west. The main ceiling beams run east-west. The upright shaft is squared for the crown wheel, and then tapers sharply below it through a hexagonal section to a circular one at the very bottom.

 There are three pairs of under-driven stones on the west, south and north sides. The southern stone tun is circular while the western and northern stones are in octagonal wooden tuns. The northern being very old has been removed to the bin floor store area to facilitate visitor access.

 The west and south stones are French burrs; the south has a maker’s plate “Hughes & Sons London”. The north stones are unused: the bedstone is a very old and worn French burr, and the runner is a nearly unused Peak stone that has been lifted and is displayed against the north-east wall.

Hanging from the south ceiling are two C-shaped hangers running east-west. These currently hold two old wooden chutes and a miller’s proof staff.

 The crown wheel is an all-wood clasp arm which appears older than all the other gears in the mill. Its 66 teeth and the upper face of the rim are bevelled. It engages with an 18-tooth wood-cogged iron bevel pinion on a layshaft carrying four pulleys, in order going from south to north: (1) a large iron one with six curved arms; (2) a smaller, solid flanged wooden one; (3) another solid flanged wooden one. The final wooden flanged pulley drives the sack hoist by belt, while (2) and (3) were presumably for ancillary machines which have now disappeared. At each end the layshaft turns in a bearing on an adjustable timber suspended on two hangers from the ceiling, the southern ones being bolted to the side face of the southern main ceiling beam.

 On the east side spanning the main ceiling beams is another iron layshaft with an iron pulley at each end.  It would appear that the north end pulley was driven by a belt from pulley (1) (see above) as they align perfectly. The south pulley probably drove a bolter which was inserted into the east side of the stone floor: this appears to have been lost sometime before the 1970s.

There is a small wooden pulley block on the west wall near the stairs, whose purpose is unknown.


Here there are windows on the east and west sides and opposing external doors on the south and north. These doors are modern stable-door types, similar to those shown in 1950s photographs.  The ladder and stairwell are on the northwest side.

 The bridge beam for the upright shaft, given additional support by a vertical post footed in the cellar, is fixed between two lateral beams running south-north well below the ceiling joists and parallel to them and connected by four short vertical timbers. Mounted between these lateral beams are seven longitudinal beams in all; these are, going from south to north: (1) the support beam for the governor for the southern stones; (2) the bridgetree for the latter; (3) no apparent purpose, apart from generally strengthening the whole arrangement; (4) the bridge beam; (5) as (3); (6) the bridge tree for the northern stones; (7) the support beam for the governor for the northern stones. The western bridgetree is mounted between two longitudinal timbers running east-west off the north-south beams (above) towards the wall, and the governor on a line with it in the southwest corner on a diagonal timber going from the western north-south timber to the wall. The governors for the south and north stones are located near the southern and northern ends respectively, the drive belts and steelyards going to/from them tangentially. All three bridgetrees are wooden.

 In the base of the upright shaft is a gudgeon pin standing in an oil pot: the bottom of the shaft is bound with iron bands. The great spur wheel is a very large iron mortice affair with 129(?) teeth meshing with all-iron stone nuts with 24 teeth. The northern nut has a jack ring for lifting it in/out of gear. Below the western nut on its spindle is a six-armed iron mortice bevel gear for the engine drive, reinstated in the 2013 restoration, whose layshaft runs east-west to terminate in the usual external pulley. The engine was housed in a shed adjacent to the mill and the belt from it to the pulley was covered. The lever to engage the belt is mounted by the west wall, but its controlling fork has been lost.

 Between the ladder and the stairwell, mounted between the wall and the western lateral beam, is a flanged wooden drum connected to what appears to be a jockey pulley. There is still a worn belt around this pulley and gaps between beams can be seen in a north-south line, but there appears to be no sign of its matching pulley. 

There are access hatches in the floor to the south, east and north-east providing access to the remains of the floor of the earlier mill on the site.

 Three meal spouts are present, one for each of the south, west and north stones: the south spout was replaced in the 2013 restoration, while the other two are much older. The spouts are unusual in being very kinked to avoid the lateral beams. Between the north door and the north spout is a full height wooden panel to reduce the effect of draughts from the door on the spout. On the door side of this panel is a hand-operated fire alarm.  Adjacent to each spout is its matching tentering screw.

 In the southwest corner by the south door is a modern cupboard housing the electrical switchgear for the mill. A sack balance has been hung from the timber supporting the west governor. A sack barrow and portable sack scales are displayed, as are two hand-operated quern stones.

Based on survey carried out by Guy Blythman 2nd August 2009 and updated in 2016 by Colin Marshall (Mill Trustee) from a survey by Andrew White (Museum volunteer)

CAMBRIDGE, Chesterton

French’s smock mill

Standing today


A plaque on the wall of the base states that this smock mill was built in 1847 and purchased in 1850 by William French, in whose family it still remains. According to Mr Michael French, the present owner, it was said to have never been successful as a windmill; steam power was installed in 1868, although wind must have continued to have been used for some years, at least part of the time, for the sails remained until 1910-11 (the plaque says 1912). The steam engine was later replaced by a suction gas plant which in turn gave way, in 1932, to a diesel. A roller mill was built alongside in 1896. The milling business closed in 1955 and the windmill then became derelict; in the late 1970s repairs, as part of which the cap and windshaft were removed, were carried out and in 1986 the base was converted to offices, the upper part of the mill being made safe with new weatherboarding fitted but otherwise left untouched. The sails and windshaft have not been replaced (indeed the current whereabouts of the latter are unknown), nor the fantail and its supporting structure, but a very nice replica cap roof has been fitted over the existing base frame; this reproduces more or less accurately the pattern of the original, which was vertically-boarded and dome-shaped with a gallery and rear cowling, through which access was gained to the fan for maintenance, tapering downwards from just below the apex of the roof. The finial is missing and there is no provision for the fitting of a new windshaft if desired. Internally, although the machinery is incomplete with the stones, stone nuts and quants, tentering gear and auxiliary plant all missing a fair amount of it still remains; certainly enough to be of interest to the serious enthusiast.

 The mill has certain features in common with that at Impington, and this and their geographical proximity to each other may indicate a common millwright. Both are tall, and effectively part smock and part tower mill, with important machinery being contained within the base; and both have cross-braced framing, which gives them greater structural strength and rigidity and partly explains their survival intact to the present day. However there are also major differences. French’s Mill is octagonal like most smock mills whereas Impington is hexagonal. The smock accounts for a greater part of the mill’s height relative to the base than at Impington; the smock has three floors while the base has only two. The base also has a steeper batter, and the latter is stepped in from it by several feet. Whereas Impington has conventionally-shaped windows those at French’s Mill, unusually, are triangular to conform with the cross-bracing. French’s has many old empty mortices in the framing, indicating a major reconstruction at some point. Additionally there are lots of odd timbers that may date from repairs over the years; it is not easy to tell which components are original (though many are) and which put in subsequent to the mill’s ceasing work as part of patching-up operations.

 There is no evidence of a stage ever having been fitted, suggesting the mill probably had patent sails from the beginning. They were double-shuttered, each having apparently two control rods for the shutters, one going down the centre of each of the halves the stock divided the sail into. Their frames were attached further out from the canister than was usual so that very long, angled fork irons connected the spider to the shutter cranks and bars. Tie rods braced the fantail cradle, which was not constructed in the usual Cambridgeshire fashion and canted sharply backwards, to the cap roof. 

 The smock was originally clad in white-painted weatherboarding; the current boards are tarred. Its batter is noticeably less than that of the base, and in fact steeper than most other smock towers in the country, bearing comparison with the mill at Walton, Felixstowe which is another “smock-tower” hybrid although more akin to Impington than Chesterton.

 The precise construction of the framing varies from panel to panel; sometimes the timbers are curved and sometimes straight. But in each there appears to be a double set of cross-braced timbers, one set placed over (not flush with) and reinforcing the other, and together with the central horizontal member which divides the panel into two gives the effect of a Union Jack. In the panels where there is a window the framing is rough-hewn and mostly modern, as when the mill was renovated the windows, which had at some point been changed to squares, were restored to their original triangular pattern, the framing around them being altered to match. The main beams making up each floor appear to be staggered in relation to those of the one above or below.


Some timbers of the cap frame seem to be original and some new. It would appear to be fixed as the centering wheels are missing. The cap circle turns on iron rollers, how many I did not note, on an iron track on top of a segmented wooden curb to which it is secured via large iron bosses in the form of upside-down chevrons.

 As noted above the windshaft, which had a swing-pot neck bearing (1), has been removed. All traces of the brakewheel have also gone, although photographs in the Mills Archive reveal that it was an all-wooden clasp-arm and the shaft, on which it hung on a large iron plate, iron and cylindrical. Wailes(2) records that the brake was the heaviest in the Cambridgeshire-Huntingdonshire area, 8 inches wide and 7 inches thick. The top bearing of the upright shaft turns in a casting located on to the side face of the sprattle beam, with an additional timber bolted on at some point to steady it. The 8-armed bevelled iron wallower does not appear to have been cast integrally but in separate components, as a pair of large screws at the end of each arm where it joins the rim indicate. It has a segmented wood friction rim, also bevelled as is the 8-armed iron pulley on the iron-straked wooden sack hoist bollard, which turns in a bearing on an adjustable timber mounted in grooves on two vertical posts with cross-bracing between them. The upright shaft is iron, and begins square before becoming cylindrical and tapering towards floor level; it then remains cylindrical throughout its length until squared again for the great spur wheel mounting on the spout floor.  


Here the outer sets of timbers within the panels are braced to the ceiling in places. The main ceiling beams run north-south and their ends rest on the upper horizontal members of the framing in each panel. There is a square mortice in the underside of the eastern north-south main beam at each end. Parts of the flooring are missing. It is complete on the northeast side but otherwise seems to be missing apart from a small section on the southeast. There is a large square opening on the south side. The ladder to the floor below is on the west side. There is a boarded-over sack trap to the north, and a window to the east. Also on the east side are two square holes in the flooring near the window. There are a square and a circular hole on the northeast, the former possibly marking the former position of a chute.

The upright shaft has a dog clutch in it just above floor level.


This was presumably the stone floor, given that the preference in this part of the country was for underdrift gearing, but as the stones themselves have gone it is impossible to be sure. It has been overlaid with plywood, which effectively forms a new floor higher than the old one, which again is missing in places.

 The stairwell to the floor above is on the southeast side. The windows are on the north and south sides. The ladders to the floors above and are on the southeast side. Between two curved timbers on their undersides, at mid-point, is mounted a lateral timber to whose side face is bolted a steady bearing for the upright shaft. Just below this the shaft carries a flanged, segmented wooden belt drum with iron arms. It is altogether a more “modern” arrangement than the usual crownwheel, and even given that the mill must have been fairly advanced at the time it was built indicates a late refitting, probably after the introduction of steam power in the 1860s. The belt would have gone to a corresponding drum on a secondary vertical shaft but what machinery it ultimately drove is unclear; the plant was probably located within the base.


This floor, which was presumably the spout floor, and the one below are used as offices. A large modern staircase in the centre of the room leads down to the ground floor. There are windows on the northwest, northeast, southwest and southeast sides. The ladder to the stone floor is on the south side. The main ceiling beams run north-south from the corners of south and south-west, south and south-east, to the corners of the north and north-west and north and northeast walls of the base. Below and at right angles to the main ceiling beam are the timbers of the dummy floor supporting the upright shaft. Between these timbers at mid-point an iron bridge beam supports the foot of the shaft. The whole arrangement is given additional strength by two lateral timbers, one to the left and the other to the right of the bridge beam. Mounted on the northern end of the right-hand lateral timber is a wooden lever which passes through a hanger from the northern dummy floor beam, and was worked by a rope which is still present. The lever in turn raised or lowered by chain an adjustable timber carried in hangers from the eastern ends of the dummy floor beams. This was for moving what was probably the engine drive in and out of gear with the great spur wheel; on it is an empty bearing for a horizontal shaft. 

 The very fine 8-armed iron great spur wheel, cast in two segments, has an auxiliary cog ring, also iron, attached via large lugs to the upper faces of alternate arms. Not enough evidence remains to show how the quants were mounted but on the right of the spur wheel, on the southern longitudinal timber of the dummy floor, is a bearing, as elsewhere in the form of a large iron casting, for a vertical shaft which would have carried a gear meshing with it.  

From the western of the main ceiling beams on the north-west side of the mill is suspended a cast iron rod which passes down through the floor.

 The dummy floor beams are additionally supported on the west side by a cast-iron column from floor level which terminates in a timber, with curved ends, fixed to their undersides and overlapping the western of the lateral timbers between them.


There is a door on the east side, and windows on the north, south and west sides plus one very small one just above ground level on the south-west. The windows are in fact probably modern. The three main ceiling beams run east-west; on the central beam, towards its eastern end, is an iron bracket mounted at an angle, which appears to have carried a shaft of some kind as it is fitted with lugs with holes in them for the shaft to pass through. There is further bracketing on the southern main ceiling beam just after mid-point.

The base abuts onto and is entered from an outbuilding which is now part of the modern business.

Based on survey carried out by G Blythman 7th May 2010. Thanks to Michael French, the owner, for allowing access.

(1) Wailes 19/4/1950

(2) 19/4/50


Tower mill, stump remains


This mill had very narrow single-shuttered patent sails. They were mounted on an iron windshaft 9 inches in diameter with a 14in sq casting for the brakewheel, which was an 8ft diameter wood clasp-arm with iron teeth in segments.(1) Whereas the usual  brake wheel is almost a face gear, this one was much bevelled with double curved cants between the double arms and let into them(2). The brake was wooden. The rack was internal, and the curb live. The centring wheels were placed one at the head and two each side. The 4ft 6in diameter wallower was an almost solid wood clasp-arm with iron teeth in segments on its bevelled rim. Mounted four inches beneath it on wooden spacing blocks was a 3½ in deep by 9in wood friction ring for the sack hoist, a 1ft 9in by 7in drum on a short 8in long bollard. {By the time of Simmons’ visit} the hoist had been removed from its working position and lays on floor.

 According to Simmons the upright shaft was wooden, 14” square at the wallower and octagonal from about a foot below it. However Wailes states that it was a graft shaft (the largest of seven found in the region), part wood and part iron, the upper wooden section being 18in octagonal and the lower iron one, which was circular, 7in diameter(3). The iron mortice great spur wheel was 10ft in diameter, with 8 T-section arms and doubled teeth.(4) The shanks of the cogs were forked to clear a rib in the centre of the rim, which was bolted onto the arms as at Guilden Morden, Thorney and Wisbech(5). The overdriven stones were located on the fourth floor down on the west, east and south sides. They had round tuns and wooden horses and hoppers. The stone nuts were of iron mortice type. The east nut measured 16” in diameter, the southern 17”. The western nut with its quant had gone. The eastern and southern quants were 2¾ in round. Owing to the spur wheel being placed 6ft 6in above floor level the quants were unusually long and steadied by iron brackets, suspended from timbers above, and bearings mounted 3ft 6in below the nuts.

  The governors were belt-driven off the west and south stone spindles. For the east stones the governors were mounted directly onto the stone spindle while also supported by a tenter bar which itself rested on a wooden beam. The spindle for the south governors had its tenter bar on a wood bridge. The west governors were much larger than the other two, and mounted on a wooden bracket.(6) Wailes(7) claims that all the governors are mounted on the spindles. The western pair of stones had its own independent engine drive, which latterly also drove the sack hoist according to Wailes(8). The second and third floors down were the meal floors.(9)

(Date of Simmons’ inspection was 14th September 1946)

(1) HESS

(2) RW 19/4/1950

(3) HESS

(4) Ibid

(5) RW 19/4/1950

(6) Ibid

(7) Ibid 

(8) 19/4/1950

(9) HESS 

ELLINGTON see Madingley


Smock mill, gone


This mill had a very odd straight-pitched pent roof cap. There was a flange on the end of the windshaft held on by straps bolted to the shaft. The brakewheel was mounted on a cast-iron box in halves and held to it by four keys. The mill was the only one in Cambridgeshire/Huntingdonshire with a composite great spur wheel. This had an iron hub, iron T-arms and a wooden rim with wood cogs held on by dovetailed wedges. At 6ft in diameter it was the smallest great spur wheel in the region {along with that at Downham Road, Ely}. The stone nuts were moved in and out of gear by lever.(1)

(1) RW 19/4/50 


Downham Road

Smock mill, gone

Downham Road mill was unusual among smock mills in that although the frame was octagonal, the vertically laid weatherboards were shaped so as to give a round appearance. The mill is said to have been originally used for drainage and moved from elsewhere(1). It was considered similar in some ways to Soham Mere mill. The timbers appeared very old. The three-storey smock stood on a two-storey brick base, also round, with no stage. The dome cap had no finial. The fantail was mounted high, the spars going at a slight downward angle to the top of the dome cap, which had no finial. The curb was dead and the rack internal. There were four double-sided clockwise patent sails with canvas shutters.(2) The circular iron(3) windshaft had a counterweight to balance the weight of the sails(4). The brakewheel and brake were wood. The main upright shaft was also wooden, 17” square but octagonal at the base (Wailes(5) says it was in fact round and the only such upright shaft in the region), and mounted on a beam set in the floor. The great spur wheel was of iron and 6ft in diameter. The mill was a large, roomy one and in common with Willingham (Ingle’s Mill) and Wisbech (Leach’s Mill) had four pairs of stones, which here {and at the other two mills} were all arranged on one side(6). They were located on the third floor up, and underdriven; there were two peaks and two burrs. One stone was dated 1856 and by Thomas Stapleton, Hull; another (French) had “1828” stamped on the band around the runner.(7)

The main great spur wheel drove an off-centre layshaft, presumably for ancillary machinery, via a pinion.

 There was provision for working the mill by Hornsby oil engine; the external pulley was on the ground floor and received a belt from an adjacent shed(8). At one time a ratchet was incorporated in the coupling between the engine and wind drives so that both could be used at the same time; this was not a success and was abandoned(9).

(Date of Simmons’ inspection 6/9/1947)

(1) HRH in HESS 1947

(2) HESS

(3) Ibid

(4) RW 19/4/1950

(5) Ibid

(6) Ibid

(7) HESS  

(8) Ibid

(9) RW 19/4/1950


Smock mill, gone

The tail beam is of cast iron and is braced to the sprattle beam with two wrought-iron ties. The brakewheel is 9ft 3in diameter.(1)

(1) RW 19/4/50


Smock mill, standing today


Built in 1808, Fulbourn is a larger version of the squat type of smock mill once common in east Cambridgeshire. It is in fact one of the largest smock mills in the country in terms of internal area, although no detailed comparisons have been made with other specimens. This is most apparent on the roomy stone floor, which contained three pairs of stones – although the mill only had two until the third, driven by steam, was installed in c1860 – all still in position, and a now vanished flour dresser.

Beneath the cap there are three floors in all, a combined bin and dust floor, the stone floor and the spout floor within the base.

 The framing of the octagonal smock is cross-braced, giving it additional strength; this feature was seen on a number of other Cambridgeshire mills including Impington and Cambridge (Chesterton), both still extant. The weatherboarding, formerly white-painted, is horizontal on some quarters and vertical on others, another regional feature which is observed on one other surviving mill, at West Wratting. At one time the mill was plastered inside and some traces of this may still be seen. The whole stands on a single-storey tarred brick base with battered walls, in which there are two doors opposite one another on a north-south axis.

 The dome-shaped cap roof is vertically boarded, with a deep petticoat, has a decorative finial at its apex and is encircled by a gallery. It is sheathed in copper, which was renewed and leaded in the 1990s. The protection this affords helps to explain the survival of much of the mill’s original machinery and structure.

 The cap being large and heavy, there are at least a dozen centring wheels. The curb is live; there were at one point a pair of skids under the weatherbeam but these were replaced by wheels a few years ago to make the cap easier to winch round using strops.

 The mill last worked with four double-shuttered patent sails, the frames of which have been replicated in the restoration. The striking gear remains intact, and is by rocking lever. As well as hinged to the principal horizontal member of the fanstage the lever is suspended by a chain from a curved iron bracket which is a distinctive feature of the mill. This bracket is fixed to a timber projecting from underneath the horizontal member. On the inner pair of sails the shutters are operated by a longitudinal wooden bar connected to the spider and running the length of the sail on each side of the stock.

 Fulbourn is a remarkable mill due to the amount of original timberwork and components which survives. All the main gearing, apart from the wallower, is of wood, including the windshaft and clasp-arm brakewheel. Stephen Buckland in his manuscript on older smock and tower mills, held by the Mills Archive, notes that the iron poll end of the windshaft is cast in the form of a rectangle, with the “boxes” not integral, imitating the form of a wooden poll, which would have had mortices in it for the stocks; it may therefore have been an early example, inherited from an older mill. Also of note is the curved brake lever which has iron pegs bolted to it to serve as attachment points for the catch, as on some other mills in East Anglia. The bevelled iron wallower is mounted on a square wooden upright shaft; the mill being overdriven and squat in its proportions, with only two floors to the smock despite its large internal area, the shaft is very short, and entirely on this floor. The sack hoist is a solid wood bollard on a short spindle mounted in a simple wooden frame.


At the lower end of the upright shaft a large clasp-arm great spur wheel is supported by a frame of four beams and the sprattle beam, forming a shallow dummy floor which is partly boarded in. The two main longitudinal beams of this frame, which carry the sprattle beam, are tenoned into the cant posts and braced to them by neat curved wooden brackets.

 A wooden gear ring is bolted to the upper faces of the arms of the spur wheel; its cogs mesh with those of a solid wood nut on a square iron layshaft which carries a flanged wooden drum, from which a belt goes to the floor above to drive the sack hoist, and then a bevelled four-armed iron gear whose precise purpose was not clear to me, but which appears from its design to be coeval with the engine drive, suggesting that the whole arrangement dates from the latter’s installation and was intended to be worked by steam as well as by wind. It is not clear what drove the auxiliary machinery.

 Again due to the drive being from above, the iron stone spindles are each very long, and in two sections coupled together. The nut of the engine stones, which could be wind-driven from the great spur wheel as well as underdriven from the engine, protrudes slightly through the ceiling onto the bin/dust floor where there is a wooden cowling around it, open-topped to allow access for maintenance. The iron stone nuts are of the “tambourine” rather than the “cartwheel hub”-type shape, and unusually have five arms.

 The casings for the wind-driven stones are octagonal, while that for the steam-driven pair is circular. There is a vertical windlass for raising the stones for dressing; this is mounted on a table-like structure and is operated by turning a handle on a shaft with a worm engaging the iron gear on the bollard of the windlass. The rope from the windlass is carried over a pulley on a hook on one of the timbers of the spur wheel supporting frame.

 One of the bins is known as the “cat hutch”, on account of containing a mummified cat, which may be seen by squinting through a hole in the boarding. It is thought the animal was old and sick and crawled in there to die. At one point another such specimen was discovered beneath some floorboards.


Here is found the tentering gear for the three pairs of stones.  That for the engine-driven stones is of iron and located on the south-eastern side of the mill near the door. The engine drive shaft enters the mill at this point to end in a bevelled iron mortice gear meshing with another, all-iron bevel on the quant. The shaft also carries a four-armed iron pulley whose purpose I couldn’t work out. Outside, an area of brickwork has been cut away from the base to allow for the passage of the belt drive from the engine to the external pulley, which is still in evidence. Presumably disconnecting the wind drive from the steam was simply a matter of throwing the stone nut out of gear but I did not note the means of doing this.

(Description, not quite complete, based on visit made on 4th August 2007. My thanks to Peter Filby for checking it.)