Weston-under-Redcastle, Hawkstone Park, tower mill (oil mill)
This mill was built c1795 to crush linseed grown on the Hawkstone Park estate to make oil and cattle feed; later it ground bone for fertiliser. It is thought to have been the work of William Hazeldine, a well-known millwright and engineer of the period who had dealings with Thomas Telford. It was definitely standing by 1799 when it is mentioned in a guide book to the Park. As well as having a practical purpose it was regarded as a visual amenity and one of the principal features of the Park, which had been landscaped by its owners the Hill family to serve as a tourist attraction, with follies, grottoes, caves, towering cliffs and artificial ravines. The mill was painted in the colourful Dutch style and complemented a house, known as “Neptune’s Whim”, on the other side of the river running through the Park which was designed after the fashion of northern Holland.(1) Externally resembling a conventional windmill, it is a large red brick tower mill of five stories, which formerly had a stage at first floor level (such as would have helped to give it a Dutch appearance). The top floor appears to have been very shallow. The boat-shaped cap was of the typical West Midlands kind, with a large wheel at the rear for manual winding, and the sails were probably commons. The weather beam was external. The winding wheel was mounted on a platform with a cross-braced handrail.
When Guy Blythman visited the mill in 1986 a full inspection of interior was not possible as the lower floors had collapsed and the remaining web of timberwork above obscured the view to some extent. However the windshaft, whose poll end at least was of iron, wooden clasp-arm brakewheel, wallower, upright shaft and part of the winding wheel remained in position, and still do (though I am not sure about the winding wheel). On the lower end of the upright shaft is a spur gear of small diameter from which a pair of edge runner stones were driven. These stones now lie on the ground outside the mill; in 1986 one was broken and the other had a tree growing out of its centre.
Comparatively little is known about the mill’s history, including when it ceased work; a photograph probably taken in the 1930s shows it derelict with the cap still largely intact, apart from the front gable, but the sails and stage gone. The cap roof had disintegrated by the 1980s. In the 1990s a temporary cap was fitted, which hopefully is serving to protect the interior from further deterioration, but there seems no prospect of full restoration at present, which is a pity as the Park remains a tourist attraction, open to the public, and the mill could potentially be an asset to it, as it was two hundred or so years ago. Besides, it is one of just three industrial windmills with machinery remaining in the country today, and the only one which produced oil.
To the rear of the mill is a small outhouse containing a well.
(1) Roy Gregory, The Industrial Windmill in Britain, p24-5