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Technical descriptions of English windmills




Tower mill, standing today


This survey is based on a combination of my notes, and an article by Peter Dolman in the SMG newsletter November 1979 with technical notes on the mill, drawn up c1972, by Adrian Colman.

Like that at Pakenham Bardwell mill is thought to date from c1830, despite the date 1823 on the old sprattle beam (renewed in the restoration, which is upside-down suggesting the timber may have come from another mill (it is of pine whereas the rest of the cap frame is oak and exhibits various redundant mortices and bolt holes). The mill ceased work by wind in 1925 after which an oil engine, installed by 1910, supplied the power until the business closed in 1937. First-aid repairs were carried out by the Suffolk Mills Group in 1979 and the mill was later bought by the Waterfield family who restored it to full working order. It subsequently passed to the Wheelers who continue to operate it. It was severely damaged in the hurricane of 1987 but eventually repaired. A new cap was fitted during the restoration.    

 The mill is a small one. The four-storey red brick tower, with convex batter, stands 32ft 9” high to the curb. The internal diameter is 17ft 6” at the base and 11ft 6” at the curb and the walls are two bricks (19”) thick.(1) The distinctive high-domed beehive cap seems to have been a peculiarity of at least one millwright in this part of west Suffolk, the smock mill at Edwardstone (now gone) also possessing it. Eleven feet three inches high and 14ft 6” in diameter(2), it is polygonal with a short decorative finial at the top and a skirt of vertical boards over the curb. It was at one time covered with painted canvas over the original weatherboarding(3). The 12” square sheers had been spliced and overlaid. The curved weatherbeam was 21” by 10” at the centre. The cap runs on eleven rollers, with seven centering wheels. An eight-bladed fantail drives down to the curb, the teeth of which are on top.(4) The large four-spoked, wood-rimmed chainwheel for the striking gear was mounted on an angled timber at the rear of the cap. A pinion on the end of its spindle engaged with the rack, which was external.

 The sails are typical East Anglian patents, here with eight bays and of equal width either side of the stock. The two-piece, with coupling behind the brakewheel, iron windshaft is 11ft diameter at the neck. It broke at that point in the hurricane and a new shaft has been fitted. The neck bearing is of wood. The old shaft currently lies on the ground beside the mill. The brakewheel, also renewed, is an all-wooden clasp-arm 8ft in diameter. It has 85(5) cogs a few of which could be removed whenever it was desired to use the engine. The brake and brake lever are wood.


The stairwell is on the southeast side.

A bevelled all-iron wallower, of small diameter (35” in this case, with 35 cogs(6)) as at Pakenham and Thelnetham, is mounted on an elm upright shaft which is 12”(7) square with chamfered corners. The sack hoist, on the northwest side just above floor level, consists of an iron-straked wooden bollard and a flanged wood pulley which receives a belt from the drum on the layshaft off the crownwheel on the bin floor.


There are windows on the east and west sides. The stairwell is on the east side below the window. The ladder to the dust floor is on the southeast side. The main ceiling beams run north-south.

 The crownwheel is a 4’ diameter(8) solid wood disc in upper and lower halves, both segmented. The upper half is bevelled and contained the 58(9) cogs, which are now missing. They meshed with those on an all-wood bevel pinion, with 18(10) cogs, on a square iron layshaft which is positioned north-south and carries a very large solid wood double pulley from which one belt, still in place, went up to the sack hoist on the dust floor while the other drove the dresser on the ground floor, the belt passing through slits in the flooring. The southern bearing of the layshaft is on a bowed timber tenoned into hangers from the main ceiling beams. This timber can be adjusted to tighten the sack hoist belt and put the hoist into gear.


Windows are provided on the north, south and east sides. There is a loading door on the west side. On the north side just to the right of the window is a spout from the bin floor.

 The main beams of a “dummy floor” run north-south and carry between them a bowed timber supporting the foot of the upright shaft. The great spur wheel is a wood clasp-arm 6” across. On the upper face of the rim the original wooden teeth have been partly sawn off and an iron ring of 102(11) cogs bolted on, which increases the diameter of the wheel. From this is driven, as well as the stone nuts, a third, all-iron nut on a vertical shaft which via a pair of bevel gears in a pit in the ground floor works a horizontal shaft running in a covered underground passage to the engine shed. The portable engine, whose stack can be seen protruding through the roof of the shed in an 1890s photograph, was scrapped many years ago. A second, bevelled cog ring on the underside of the great spur wheel is redundant. There are two pairs of French stones, 3ft 10” and 4ft 4” in diameter, overdriven via 15” diameter stone nuts with 22 cogs(12) and in octagonal tuns. One of the nuts is missing having been taken from the mill when it was derelict, along with the tentering gear and the rather fine flour dresser, by the restorer of Great Bircham windmill in Norfolk. The quant has been replaced.

 On this floor is a large bin for the absent dresser on the ground floor, which contains a curious device for stirring the meal, driven from a pulley on the base of the upright shaft via one of two belt drums on a vertical shaft and then a four-armed iron pulley on a horizontal layshaft which enters the bin.


This is brick-paved. There are doors on the north and south sides and windows on the west and east. The door on the south aide is not used; in front of it is the ladder to the stone floor. On the east side is a spout from the stone floor. The main ceiling beams run north-south and the stone bearers east-west.

 The tentering gear was removed at the same time as the dresser, and has been partly replaced with items from other mills. The bridgetree for the southern stones is still missing; that for the northern is iron. At one point during the restoration a lag governor, with pear-shaped weights, from Low Burnham mill, Haxey, Lincolnshire was installed for the southern stones, but was never used and is now in store; it is intended to replace it with a copy of the original(13). From it a steelyard travelled diagonally to a link on one of two timbers fixed between the stone bearers. For the northern stones, the main steelyard goes from the governor to a link on an iron hanger bolted to the western main ceiling beam, where it bifurcates, each stage going from that point to the bridgetree. There is provision for hand tentering.  

In the original arrangement as in the current one, the steelyards were connected directly to the bridgetrees without tenter bars/brayers. The bridgetrees were wooden and very substantial. Between them was the frame on which the two governors rest.(14) 

 The machine drive is mounted just under the ceiling to the left of the door as you come in. The layshaft, running north-south,  carries an iron double pulley which receives the belt from the bin floor.

A flour dresser from elsewhere and a Boby machine are displayed on this floor.

Guy Blythman’s survey carried out 3rd October 2010

(1)   Colman

(2)   Ibid

(3)   Dolman

(4)   Colman

(5)   Ibid

(6)   Colman

(7)   Ibid

(8)   Ibid

(9)   Ibid

(10) Ibid

(11) Colman

(12) Ibid

(13) Adam Marriott, Windmill Hoppers website 17/9/2012

(14) Colman, HESS


Smock mill, standing today


Crowfield mill is said to have originally been a drainage mill near Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, something which is given credence by its small dimensions. Its move to the new site and conversion to a corn mill probably took place between 1837, when it is not shown on the Ordnance Survey map, and 1843 when the first reference to it at Crowfield, an advertisement in the Suffolk Chronicle for a miller’s assistant, occurs. It worked by wind until 1916 when it was tailwinded and the cap, sails, windshaft and brakewheel all blown off. A conical roof was put on the smock and the mill was subsequently power-driven until the business closed in the 1950s.(1) In 1983 the owners carried out emergency repairs to the derelict structure, including reboarding the whole of the smock. As a result of this the mill is sound, weatherproof and safe to explore.  

 The octagonal smock stands on a one-storey brick base, probably dating from the re-erection at Crowfield, whose batter matches its own. No stage was required. Overall the mill is 34ft high with internal diameters of 14ft 6” at ground level and 6ft 6” at the curb. There were four patent sails of about 50-60ft span and a fantail.(2) The tiny boat-shaped cap had a petticoat and there was a braced tailpole beneath the fanstage for the striking chain. During its working life the mill was painted white.(3)  

 The framing may have been altered to some extent during the 1980s repairs, or even during the mill’s working life. Generally the pattern is: Stone floor – two central uprights with two horizontals in the upper part of the panel, except for the door and window panels and one in which there are two uprights and two horizontals, the lower at mid-height, plus a row of short uprights between the upper horizontal and the ceiling. Bin floor – two uprights beneath a single horizontal near the top of the panel, except for the window panel which is framed accordingly. Dust floor: a single upright in each panel with a horizontal near the top, again excepting the window panel. There is metal cross-bracing in all the panels on the stone floor save for those containing the window and door, two panels on the bin floor, and three panels on the dust floor; the other dust floor panels each have single metal struts, these running alternately northwest-southeast and southwest-northeast so as to form a zigzag pattern most of the way round.   

 Many of the cant posts have been reinforced with additional timbers one on either side, throughout either the whole or part of their length on each floor.

 The machinery matches the mill’s diminutive proportions, the gearwheels being of small diameter and the upright shaft very slender. It is almost entirely iron and of late date, suggesting a refitting subsequent to the reconstruction at Crowfield. This may have been done when the steam engine was first installed to supplement the wind.   


There is a single window, with a pulley above it which was probably for the sack hoist chain. The original wooden curb remains in place beneath the conical roof, but the rack has gone. Just beneath the roof is a wooden framework in one of whose timbers another pulley is mounted. The top section of the upright shaft with the wallower is missing, the coupling protruding just above the floor.  


The bins are no longer present. There is a window on the west side, and the stairwell is to the northeast.

 The main ceiling beams run west-east and between them is a horizontal timber to which is bolted a steady bearing for the upright shaft. On this floor the shaft is square at the top, with chamfers, then octagonal, with a large square boss at the bottom that appears blind.


There is a window on the south side, and the stairwell is on the southeast. On the southwest is a loading door.

 There were two pairs of underdriven stones here; they are no longer in situ but two millstones, one on top of the other and in fragments, are preserved as a garden ornament. There was also an oat crusher which I did not see. The current floor, put in in 1983, is of plywood; the top of the spindle of the southern stones protrudes up through it.

 On this floor the upright shaft is square down to and including the crownwheel mounting. The squared section is chamfered at the bottom; the shaft then becomes octagonal. The crownwheel is an eight-armed iron mortice bevel gear. From it was presumably driven the oat crusher, and any other auxiliary equipment, but the drive is difficult to interpret. Spanning the floor on the east side is a long layshaft with a number of drums/pulleys on it; going north-south, a four-armed iron pulley, a solid wood drum, then two more  four-arm iron pulleys, the last in fact being a double pulley with a smaller, six-armed one mounted closely between it and the wall. This whole apparatus looks very modern, that is dating from the first half of the twentieth century. It must have driven ancillary machinery but is not in contact with the crownwheel, though passing very close to it. The layshaft turns at its north end in a bearing on a horizontal timber in the upper part of the framing panel, and at the other in a block of wood just above and at the eastern end of the upper window lintel. A steady bearing at about mid-length of the shaft is carried on an iron hanger from the ceiling.

 Stored on this floor are various displaced items of machinery; it was not possible to make all of them out but they include a governor, a balance weight and maker’s nameplate from the stones, and what is probably the sack hoist. The latter is older than the other equipment in the mill and consists of a large flanged solid wood pulley, rotted in places, on a short iron-straked wood bollard.


The entrance door is on the west side; there are windows on the north and south. A single large timber spanning the floor serves both as the bridge beam and as the mounting for the stone nuts and engine drive; its ends rest on blocks on short horizontal timbers between two vertical ones let into the walls, and it is supported at mid-length by a wooden column from floor level. The vertical timbers help support the main ceiling beams, connecting with the cheek pieces on which the latter rest. The great spur wheel is all-iron with eight ribbed arms. On the south side it meshes with an iron mortice stone nut; this is adjusted by means of a ratchet in a wooden frame, connected to a lever which worked the nut up and out of gear with the spur. The upright shaft and southern stone spindle taper beneath their respective gears to the lower bearing.

 The engine drive was to the northern pair of stones. On that side of the mill the external double pulley is mounted on an iron layshaft which carries, within the building, an eight-spoked iron pulley from which some kind of machine (the oat crusher?) would have been belt-driven and a four-armed all-iron bevel pinion engaging with an iron mortice nut which is the upper of two gears on the stone spindle; the lower is a four-arm bevelled iron mortice meshing with the great spur wheel. It looks as if the engine could drive both pairs of stones through the great spur if required. Iron tentering bars are mounted in a line with each other beneath the bridge beam, on each side of the support column. The southern one is connected to another iron lever, purpose unclear, on the bridge beam to the right of the stone nut. It retains its rod with handle for manual adjustment, which passes down the right side of the support column. The steelyards are missing, unless stored somewhere on site. The arrangement and design of the tentering gear, along with the tapering of the upright shaft and “wind” stone spindle at their lower ends, recalls Rattlesden tower mill and suggests the same millwright fitted out or reconditioned both it and Crowfield.

 Mounted on the bridge beam between the eight-spoke pulley and the second and final stage of the engine drive, with the vertical members tenoned at their upper ends into a ceiling joist, is a wooden frame in the shape of a letter H with the crossbar carrying a bearing for the layshaft. There is a steady bearing outside, on an iron plate inserted through the brickwork. Beside the external pulley (the outer part of which is missing a section of the rim) are the remains of some kind of apparatus involving a catch hinged in a plate in the wall.  

(1) P Dolman, SMG newsletter August 1989

(2) Ibid

(3) Photograph in Mills Archive


Post mill, standing today


Framsden mill is one of the three surviving large Suffolk post mills (not counting Ramsey mill, Essex, which is of the same type), though it was not always so big. Here, in 1836 (the date is scored in two places in the brickwork)(1), an eighteenth-century buck was raised and a large two-storey roundhouse, in comparison with which it appears disproportionately small, built up underneath. The total height of the mill from ground level to buck roof ridge is 48 feet.

 A number of other alterations were made at the same time. The ladder fantail and associated mechanism were added(2), while common sails were replaced with patents and wooden machinery, probably including the windshaft, with iron, the stones being driven by spur gearing in the breast. The mill worked until 1935; fortunately when it was still in fair condition the owner, John Ablett, had repairs carried out, these taking place between 1966 and 1971. It has thus been enabled to survive relatively unchanged, unlike many others. Mr Ablett has kept it in good repair ever since, and further work was done in 2013.   

 The 1960s restoration involved some replacement of studding plus insertion of additional timbers to strengthen existing ones(3), but the framing, of oak and lightly built, is mostly original and thought to date from c1760. During the 1836 modernisation the sprattle beam, tailbeam and bridgetrees were renewed in pitch pine(4). Although altered at some point to give it a rounded breast and typical East Anglian lattice-framed windows, the mill retains the high curved roof which marks it out as an older specimen, and serves to contrast it with Friston and Saxtead Green among others. The buck has been extended by two or three feet(5), probably coevally with the other alterations, to accommodate a flour dresser which is now missing; the side girts end at the main corner posts. There is some degree of “bodging” with second-hand parts; the left-hand extension corner post is a length of whip from one of the old common sails, with a piece of oak sailbar still in one of the mortices. On inspection during the repairs the rear gable framing was found to be extremely crude, and was possibly the work of the miller at the time of the extension, rather than of a millwright.(6)

 Distinctive features of the exterior are the small pannier added to accommodate the left-hand stones when the buck was found to be too small for both pairs, and the excrescence housing the striking wheel. There was a pent-roofed porch, now missing, over the access door.

 The roof was until recently clad in tarred felt, which was replaced by white-painted sheeting in 2013. Until the Second World War the breast of the mill was covered in canvas soaked in white lead paint(7).

 Some degree of structural distortion has been observed over the years, and the right side girt is completely broken through above the crowntree, but angle irons and tie rods have been fitted to counter these defects(8). The crowntree is very far forward, which with the weight of the spur gearing and stones in the breast renders the mill visibly headsick; the runner of the right-hand stones has been removed and placed in the tail to counter this, not entirely successfully. 


Some of the features detailed below may not be original, but stem from alterations made during the restoration with the aim of strengthening the structure. The tailbeam and sprattle beam are tenoned into the side rails as usual, the former being rebated at the point of contact. 

Stone floor, breast framing: The prick post is flanked by two uprights, one on each side of it. They are broken by diagonals which go from floor level to the post at about two-thirds of its height, forming an inverted V.

Stone floor, tail framing: Between the extension corner posts are three uprights with a transverse beam fixed to the faces of the second and third (going from left to right).

Stone floor, left side, beginning at tail: Extension corner post; main corner post; three uprights, the first two broken by a diagonal which terminates at the foot of the third; then two more uprights between which the window is framed, with a short vertical member supporting the lower lintel (the upper is formed by the side rail) from the floor. After this point full details are hidden by the stones etc. The bearing on the left end of the capstan for lifting the stones is located in the side rail.

Stone floor right side, beginning at breast: Corner post; upright; two uprights forming frame of window, lower lintel of which does not appear to be supported from below; a fourth upright; three uprights with diagonal going from side girt between fourth upright to seventh upright, breaking the fifth and sixth; extension corner post. The upper side rail appears to be doubled for the first few feet of its length, with the first and second uprights tenoned into the lower timber which ends flush with the third upright. 

Spout floor, breast framing: There are five uprights between the corner posts, including the prick post which has been doubled with a newer timber stuck on. On either side the uprights are broken by diagonals which together form a V. There is a nice twist peg on the left-hand diagonal where it breaks the second upright. 

Spout floor, tail framing: This is divided into two sections, between which the uprights are staggered, by a transverse timber. In the lower section two stout uprights form the door frame along with the floor and the transverse beam. In the space between the left door upright and the extension corner post are one diagonal and one upright; in the upper section, three uprights with diagonals going from the top of the first to the foot of the second and from the foot of the second to the top of the third, forming V shape.

Spout floor framing, left side (looking towards rear): Corner post, then upright to which tentering screw is attached, then second upright with spout on it. Then window whose lower lintel is supported by a third, shorter upright; there appears to be no upper lintel, the opening being formed by the crowntree and the second and fourth uprights. There is a short diagonal bracing timber between the second and third uprights. The fourth upright is staggered, being broken by a diagonal which goes from the side girt to halfway up the short upright supporting the window. A fifth upright is broken by the diagonal near its top while a sixth terminates in it at the upper end. One unbroken upright, corner post with twist peg, extension corner post. 

Spout floor framing, right side (looking towards front): The end of the transverse beam in the tail appears to rest on a horizontal stud fixed across the faces of the first, second and third uprights. The second and third uprights, the latter terminating at the lower lintel of the window, are staggered between a diagonal that runs from the first upright to the stout fourth upright supporting the lintel. Two uprights and the side girt form the window opening. The left-hand diagonal has been doubled by the addition of a second timber of roughly equal width to it; it goes from the fourth upright to the side girt. A short upright from the floor terminates at the diagonal just to the left of the fourth upright. A final upright is staggered between the diagonal before the front corner post is reached.

The post is relatively small in section and also badly split; it has therefore been heavily reinforced with iron rods and hoops(9). The (slightly curved) quarterbars are also of light construction.

 The roundhouse, with which the semicircular piers are blended, is of red brick; its roof was recovered during the 1960s restoration with three-ply felt(10). The upper parts of the piers and the trestle are wholly on the upper floor of the roundhouse; the crosstrees/quarterbars support a part floor higher up as at Friston, but most of this has now disappeared. The quarterbars are braced to the crosstrees at the point of intersection by short vertical timbers. In the upper floor on the west side is a loading door, with windows to the north and south. The stairwell is to the right of the centre of the floor, with the ladder from the lower storey adjacent to it.

 The fantail had six blades(11) and was mounted relatively low down, compared to say that at Friston, on a carriage on the ladder in the usual Suffolk fashion. The fan is now missing but the fan blades are stored in the roundhouse. The tailpole survives cut off flush with the step strings. The ladder has 33 steps(12) with a double handrail and is strengthened by iron ties bolted beneath the strings in the form of a cross.

 The carriage wheels and associated gearing, all of iron, remain. The mechanism is mounted between two curved timbers with four short longitudinal members between them to act as steady bearings for the shafting. Two large iron rollers with six iron arms, mounted on a joint spindle with a six-armed bevelled cog ring, run on the track. The fantail gearing is missing but the drive from the fan was taken down to a 6-armed bevelled all-iron gearwheel at mid-point on the right-hand one of two horizontal shafts with meshing bevel nuts at their inner ends and at the outer, bevel nuts engaging with the cog rings on the spindles of the carriage wheels. The overall similarity of the mechanism to that at Syleham, Thorpeness and Saxtead mills points to a common millwright, probably Whitmore and Binyon of Wickham Market(13). The carriage, one tramwheel and two of the bevel nuts date from the 1960s restoration(14). 

 The four double-shuttered patent sails, eight feet wide and really too large and heavy for the relatively ancient and lightly constructed buck, were eight feet wide and had eight bays of wooden(15) shutters. Their weight eventually caused the mill to lean to the right(16) (being anti-clockwise), and the buck was tilted by the restorers to correct this. Only one pair, without shutters, now remain.   


An area on the left side, extending slightly beyond the longitudinal centre line of the floor, where there is a safety rail, is taken up partly by flooring and partly by the bins. A section of this has been boarded over and on this rests a bearing of some kind which has become displaced. There is one window in the tail. The stairwell is just before mid-point on the right.

 The windshaft, with a wooden neck bearing(17), is cylindrical and painted red like most of the ironwork in the mill. It has a square section at the tail but it is not clear whether this was ever the mounting for a tailwheel, nor if the mill was converted straight from one pair of stones to two in the breast only. Hung on a pair of iron plates on the shaft is a small wooden brakewheel consisting of a rim, four cants with four felloes, the outer edges of which are straight, mounted within the corners of the square formed by them, and two sets of very short clasp arms. According to a notice on the wall the wheel was made in 1760 and recogged in 1971 with hornbeam. It has 78 teeth, mortised into oak segments which can be unbolted from the wheel; these were added at the same time that the mill was converted to spur gearing and a new iron wallower installed, as part of the modernisation of 1836. The wheel was converted from a compass-arm model and the sockets for the original arms are still visible in the cants(18). The segmented elm brake was repaired in 1969, two of the sections being replaced and mild steel ties used to join the new ones(19).

 The sack hoist is driven from a large wooden flanged disc bolted to the rearward of the two iron plates on the windshaft to which the brakewheel is attached. A leather belt goes to a flanged drum on the octagonal wooden spindle of the hoist; the belt was tightened by pulling a cord which raised the drum(20). The bollard is also of wood, straked with iron. The aft end of the spindle is located in a timber spanning the floor between the rear gable and the stairwell; the forward end in another lateral timber, apparently adjustable, mounted between the weather studs.  In the apex of the roof directly above the sackhoist is a solid wood pulley, still with its drive belt, on an octagonal horizontal iron shaft. Meanwhile, above and to the left of the sack hoist is a small flanged iron pulley on a short iron horizontal spindle. A rope descends from this and then goes up  to a second, smaller flanged iron pulley on an iron spindle positioned to the left of the first spindle and on a level with the sack hoist. This presumably represents an auxiliary sack hoist system, perhaps two. Both spindles are mounted between curved blocks of wood fixed to two of the roof rafters. 

 The brakewheel cogs are skewed because the stones are oddly matched – the left ones being 4ft, the right 4ft 6in – with the result that the wallower/upright shaft/great spur wheel assembly is slightly off-centre(21). Hence the machine drive is by skew gear, on a horizontal octagonal wooden shaft across the rear face of the brakewheel. At the other end of the shaft, juxtaposed with the wheel but not in contact with it, is a solid flanged wood pulley from which a belt would have driven the dresser on the stone floor through an intermediary mechanism. As with the auxiliary sack hoists (if that is what they are), the ends of the drive shaft turn in short timbers fixed between roof rafters.


There is a window on either side forward of the crowntree. The  stairwell is on the right at mid-point with the ladder to the bin floor just beyond it, aft of the crowntree. The sack trap is on the left partly beneath the crowntree. The side girts are above floor level. 

 The brake lever, which runs to just aft of the crowntree, is on the right as usual, positioned at an unusually steep angle. It is connected by an iron strap to the brake which is entirely on the floor above.  

 The cylindrical iron upright shaft carries an 8-armed all-iron wallower plus the solid wood belt drum from which the single governor, mounted in a timber projecting from the prick post, is driven, its spindle passing down to the spout floor to operate the steelyards. Below the wallower the upright shaft is square in section, then cylindrical until the great spur wheel mounting.

 The floor is raised forward of the crowntree to form a platform on which the two pairs of stones are mounted. The left-hand pair have been set up with the vat, horse and shoe from an old power mill. The runner bears the nameplate of Tinsley’s of Ipswich. It had for many years lain on the floor against the left side girt, and when it was moved an inscription was discovered with the date 1794.(22) The right-hand stones are exposed with the runner removed and placed in the tail to correct the forward tilting of the buck. Lying on it is a displaced all-wood bevel nut.

 Mounted beneath the ceiling just aft of the crowntree, and running much of the width of the floor, is a long, slender wooden roller with mortices for the insertion of crowbars; this would have been used in raising the runner stones prior to dressing. One end of it turns in a longitudinal timber, from which a second bell alarm hangs, running from the crowntree to the tailbeam towards the east side of the mill.

At the far end of the floor on the right looking towards the tail is a chute from the bins.

 At mid-point of the tailbeam two short longitudinal timbers go from it to the transverse beam on the rear wall, and between them is the rack of the striking gear; the latter was originally external but when the buck was lengthened the chainwheel was left partly inside it, with the shaft and pinion meshing with the rack outside. The mechanism is now enclosed within a boxlike excrescence, with a separate small cover protecting the rack. 

 Hanging on a nail on the central upright of the tail framing is a displaced six-armed bevelled all-iron gearwheel, whose purpose was not apparent to me. In the breast to the left of the left-hand stones, mounted in hangers from the ceiling joists, is a short horizontal spindle carrying a wooden flanged disc. 

The dresser was located at the rear of this floor, a gaping hole testifying to its former position before this was boarded over(23).


As in other old post mills this is starting to slope up to the post. The ladder to the stone floor is on the right just behind the crowntree. Just forward of the latter on the left side is the spout from the left-hand stones. There is one window on each side below the crowntree.

 At some point after the 1836 modifications the tentering gear was renewed in metal. The upright shaft and stone spindles are footed in a single iron bridge beam which spans the width of the mill. The great spur wheel is all-iron with eight arms. The left-hand stone nut is of iron mortice type, cogged in apple; the right-hand nut with its quant is missing but was likewise an iron mortice according to Ronald Hawksley. The nuts were lifted out of gear using a rigger consisting of a horizontal spindle on which is a pulley grooved to receive a cord; pulling on the cord turns the spindle and winds around it two chains attached to the nuts(24). Beneath the bridge beam each stone spindle extension terminates in an iron tentering bar which runs underneath and parallel with the beam to the wall, where a rod incorporating a hand screw is mounted on the side face of one of the vertical members of the framing. It was not quite clear to me how the governor operated the steelyards, which appear to be fixed in the prick post, from which they travel diagonally, forming an inverted V shape, to cross over the bridge beam at which points short vertical rods connect them to the inner ends of the tentering bars. Beyond the bridge beam they terminate in links from which two iron rods, whose purpose was uncertain, go tangentially to the mid-transverse beam in the breast.  

In the breast to the right of the tendering gear for the right-hand stones is a spout from the latter.

Various pulleys and shafts, which may have been part of the machine drive, are stored in the roundhouse.

Framsden mill is a very good example of an older post mill which has been modernised during its working life, and as such its preservation is important.

Survey carried out by Guy Blythman 9th August 2010

(1)  RW, November 1941, in HESS; Flint p27

(2)  RW November 1941, in HESS

(3)  Flint, p114 onwards

(4)  Flint p22-3

(5)  Flint p12

(6)  Flint p114 onwards

(7)  Flint p28

(8)  Flint p114 onwards

(9)  Flint p114

(10) Flint

(11) RW November 1941, in HESS

(12) Flint p20

(13) Flint p75

(14) Flint p114 onwards

(15) RH in HESS

(16) Flint p114 onwards

(17) Ibid

(18) Flint p24

(19) Flint p114 onwards

(20) Flint p12

(21) SF in HESS; Bill Griffiths, Windmill Hoppers 5/12/2014

(22) Flint p114 onwards

(23) Flint, p83

(24) RW in HESS, November 1941


Post mill, standing today


The post mill which dominates the quiet village of Friston is the tallest, if not quite the largest – that distinction belongs to Windmill Hill mill near Herstmonceux, Sussex – in the country, at fifty-one feet (Wright says 55) from the ground to the ridge of the buck roof. Potentially it is certainly the finest, but although major repairs were carried out in 1976, full restoration has sadly yet to materialise, and from time to time urgent works have had to be executed to keep the mill watertight and prevent collapse in stormy weather. These have involved the construction of a steel frame to help support the buck. The mill remains more or less sound (partly due to being built with larger section timbers than is usual in this part of the country) and apart from the missing stones reasonably complete internally, although not all the machinery is set up.

 The mill worked by wind, on one pair of sails only after 1943, until 1955; it was then power-driven, using the machinery in the roundhouse (see below) until the business closed in the mid-1960s. Sometime in the nineteenth or early twentieth century a pair of 4ft millstones and an oat roller were set up in the former millhouse, now demolished. These were driven by a 4 h.p. Garrett portable steam engine until 1908 when it was replaced by a 14 h.p. Blackstone hot bulb oil engine. In 1923 the then miller Caleb Reynolds Wright junior and his brother installed the stones and oat roller in the roundhouse.(1) If the latter is thought of as having three floors the bins were on the top floor, the stones on the middle floor and the roller on the ground floor(2). In 1936 a half-ton mixer driven by a 3 h.p. electric motor was installed(3), and in 1956 the Blackstone engine was replaced by a 32 h.p. Ruston single cylinder diesel engine(4), which was probably housed in the corrugated iron shack, visible in photographs, which once stood against the wall of the roundhouse but has now been demolished. None of this equipment remains today. Most likely the machinery within the buck was never power-driven owing to the awkwardness of fitting the necessary equipment.

 Most of the large Suffolk and Suffolk post mills were the product of rebuilding and refitting in the mid- or late nineteenth century; Friston mill may well have begun life much shorter, with common sails, hand winding and a wooden windshaft. Vincent Pargeter believed it was heightened c1874, when the sails were lengthened, and found evidence for the tailpole and an original narrower main ladder, as well as the renewal of the crowntree and the refitting for the current arrangement of the stones. The original components of the buck are those which are well-finished with neat chamfers and run-out stops.(5)

 The buck, which has recently been given a new coat of white paint, is 18 feet 6 inches (19 feet if the curvature of the breast is taken into account) long and 11 feet 9 inches wide. It is of typical Suffolk/north-east Essex design with rounded breast, a curved porch over the buck door, lattice-framed windows and a curved roof whose boards slightly overlap those on the sides. According to Kenneth Farries the latter feature is a characteristic of the millwrighting of Collins of Melton, who may therefore be presumed to have built the mill. They moved Ramsey mill, Essex, which is similar in some respects, from a site near Woodbridge in 1842; Friston is also said to have been moved from Woodbridge, in 1812, but this rumour may have resulted from the two mills getting confused. It is equally likely that it was built anew, at roughly the date in question, on its present site, which in 1811 was purchased by William and Mary Scarlett, the land being described when sold to Joseph Collings the following year as that “upon which a post windmill hath lately been erected”(6). The chief difference between this mill and Ramsey is that Friston’s buck is noticeably wider as well as more sturdily constructed. An interesting and attractive feature was the small Gothic lancet window, such as is more usually found on churches, in the rear of the stone floor. This survives but its shape was unfortunately altered during repairs, the arch now being rounded rather than pointed. There is a blister for the striking gear, which protrudes very slightly beyond the wall of the mill.

 The buck shows no sign of having been extended. The framing throughout appears to be of orthodox, if highly robust, construction. Instead of two principal uprights of more substantial construction than the others, at the crowntree with similarly substantial diagonals going to them, on both sides there is simply a row of uprights, plus the occasional diagonal, of relatively greater thickness than would be found in South-East England, for example. This is the case with at least some other Suffolk post mills, such as Framsden; here, in so far as it is structurally weakening in the first place this is compensated for by the solidity of the main timbers: corner posts, side girts, crowntree etc. The number of verticals and the position of the diagonals varies between floors, the explanation for this possibly being alterations made during past repairs. The diagonals where present either break the verticals or the latter are rebated.    

The arrangement is as follows:

Stone floor left side framing (looking from tail towards breast): Eight uprights in all, the fourth and fifth of which frame the window. Diagonals go from the first upright to the foot of the second and from the foot of the sixth to the corner post. The forward sprattle beam tenons into a timber bolted to the front faces of the first three uprights.

Stone floor right side framing (looking from tail towards breast): Eight uprights in all, with diagonal from foot of first to top of third. Again, fourth and fifth frame window. Diagonal from foot of sixth upright to corner post.

Spout floor left side framing (looking from tail towards breast):

Six(?) uprights, then two (more substantial than the others) framing the window. Diagonal goes from fourth(?) upright to the foot of the first window upright. Then three more uprights with a diagonal going from the foot of the second window upright to near the ceiling.

Spout floor right side framing (looking from tail towards breast):

Six uprights, with diagonal from the fifth to near the bottom of first window upright. Second window upright. Finally three uprights with diagonal from near bottom of second window upright to eighth upright.  

Breast framing: On the stone floor the prick post is braced by two curved diagonal timbers from the ends of a pair of longitudinals, flush almost with the side girts, resting on the rear and front mid-transverse beams (unless they rise from the transverse beams themselves, the longitudinals being rebated for them – it was not clear which, a close inspection proving difficult on account of various obstructions and part of the floor being missing). There are three uprights on either side between the prick post and the corner post, the inner two being broken by the diagonals. The arrangement appears to be repeated on the spout floor although  the framing to the right of the prick post is boarded over. I could not establish the method of mounting the diagonals due to a stack of timber being in the way.

Tail framing: On the stone floor the details are difficult to make out because of the various items of machinery, but there appear to be at least five uprights, two of which frame the “Gothic” window although the left-hand one these, looking north-south, is broken by a diagonal. On the spout floor there are six uprights, the middle two framing the door, and two diagonals going from the ceiling to near the foot of the second vertical on each side.

{NB Mark Barnard of the Suffolk Mills Group queries this interpretation of the framing}

 The sack traps in the bin and stone floors are on the left side of the mill. There are two opposite windows on the stone floor above the ends of the crowntree, and two in the same position on the spout floor; also a small window in the rear of the bin floor and the “Gothic” window in the stone floor referred to above.

 The buck stands above a substantial two-storey (with a part floor resting on the crosstrees) roundhouse whose brickwork is attractively painted Venetian red  It has a loading door, in two halves like that of a stable, in the upper floor on the north side, above which two iron reinforcing bands encircle the brickwork. Originally there was an octagonal loading platform about 8ft wide on a level with the door(7). There are opposite entrance doors, on the north and south sides, on the lower floor and windows on the east, west and south sides on the upper. The ladder from the first to the second floor is just to the left side of the door (to whose right on the inside the inscription “D + R” is cut nicely into a brick). A temporary ladder has been fixed up giving access to the buck as the external one, by which entry would normally be gained, is unsafe to climb.

 When the power-driven stones were moved into the roundhouse in 1923 the loading platform was removed and four new trapdoors fitted to allow for hoisting onto the top floor of the buck in any wind direction. To provide bins for the stones and oat roller two quarters between the crosstrees were filled in and fitted with trapdoors. When the {half-ton} mixer and its motor were put in in 1936 the remaining two quarters were also filled in, with the top floor of the roundhouse being accessed by ladder through an unused trapdoor.(8) 

  The cylindrical piers supporting the trestle, which rise to above second-floor level, are blended with the brickwork of the roundhouse walls. The post, substantial and still in good condition, is square with chamfered corners. The quarterbars are curved as on many other East Anglian post mills, but here more prominently so – they are also less robust – and the collar square as at Framsden for example. On the spout floor the post tapers slightly; it is reinforced with three iron collars and two iron rods on either side of it.

 The large patent sails are now missing, as is the fantail. They originally had a span of 67ft, but after one pair were wrecked in a thunderstorm, the stock having broken, all four were replaced, the new set having a total span of 75ft. Each sail was 32ft long by 9ft wide with eleven bays and carried 29 canvas-covered wood-framed shutters on either side of the stock, making a total of 232.(9) The fantail was 12ft in diameter, with six blades each 6ft in length, and painted dark green. It was mounted on the usual backwards-inclined carriage, here tall in proportion to the rest of the mill, which was cross-braced and attached by horizontal stays to the main access ladder to the buck, whose strings terminate just below the roof of the porch. The ladder is stayed to the buck with iron tie rods.(10) It has literally thirty-nine steps and climbing it was always a daunting prospect, though there was a safety handrail.

 Today both the ladder and the carriage are badly rotted, in the former’s case at any rate, and becoming overgrown at the bottom which makes interpretation of the winding mechanism difficult at this point. The drive from the fan spindle, which remains in place along with the hub into which the fan spokes socketed, via a nut on the spindle and a 6-spoked iron toothed  gear to the wheels on which the carriage runs begins on the outside of the left hand (looking towards the tail of the mill) fly post (as the vertical members of the fan carriage are known in Suffolk), the shaft then travelling down at an angle (partly fouling the steps) to terminate at the bottom in another bevelled iron gear, almost solid with holes rather than spokes as in the Bulleid Pacific steam locomotives of the former Southern Railway. This engages with a fourth gear on a horizontal shaft ending in a fifth. Though from this point details are difficult to make out it would seem that the drive is then split, a nut somehow transmitting it to two large spoked iron gears at a right angle to and engaging the cog rings cast on the substantial 8-armed tramwheels. The twin horizontal members at the base of the ladder/carriage structure serve as mounting for the wheels and the final stages of the drive mechanism.

 The sails were hung on a cylindrical iron windshaft, slender as is often the case in East Anglia but nonetheless the largest in Suffolk, needing to be substantial to support the weight of the huge sails. It is twelve inches square at the brakewheel and fourteen inches diameter at the neck, where the bearing is a four-inch square brass let into the wood of the breast beam and wedged up(11). The Wrights state that it runs on a “swinging chair-neck bearing” at the head and that there is a bronze stepped thrust bearing at the tail(12). Above the shaft on the bin floor runs a walkway between the bins, which hang down on either side of it. On this (bin) floor are stored the spider, which is of “swastika” design, and triangles, plus some pulleys and shafting I could not identify.

 The 9-foot diameter(13) clasp-arm elm brakewheel is mounted on a large iron boss, with four short horns, on the windshaft. It has two concentric circles of cogs on its rim, the outer being for the wallower and the inner for the machine drive. On the right the inner cogs mesh with a skew gear on a horizontal iron layshaft positioned across the rear face of the brakewheel. The layshaft also carries an iron pulley with four curved spokes and, at its opposite end, a second iron pulley with six straight ones. It is not clear how exactly these drove the ancillary equipment on the stone floor; from its location on the shaft the first pulley could have been for the mechanism on the far right of that floor (see below), or the separator, but beyond this not enough evidence remains to be able to come to any conclusions. The sack hoist was driven by belt, tensioned by means of rollers, from a 6ft(14) iron pulley on the face of the brakewheel(15) which because of its position is not normally visible. A semicircular notch is neatly cut in the rim of the brake to accommodate the bollard, which is wooden and built up with additional timbers and leather padding throughout its middle section, around which the chain is wound. The latter passes to an iron-straked wooden roller in the roof ridge and then down to the floors below. There is a further longitudinal shaft, carrying a flanged pulley, forward of the brakewheel and to the right of the roof ridge; what this did I don’t know, but it may have been a part of the sack hoist mechanism which became redundant when the latter was remodelled at some point.

 The wooden brake is applied to the brakewheel by a long curved wooden lever, hinged in a cheek piece on the side face of the front right hand corner post, through two linked intermediary iron straps. 

 Descending to the stone floor, we find that as might be expected in a technically advanced mill such as this there were three pairs of stones, arranged two side-by-side in the breast and one in the tail. They were removed in 1962, large holes in the floor now marking the former positions of the headstones while the packing and joisting which helped support the tailstones remains in place along with the hexagonal wooden “plinth” which surrounded the base of the tun. The headstones were 4ft 6” in diameter; one pair were for wheat and the other, along with the 4ft tail stones, for animal feed.(16) As with Ramsey and other late Suffolk-type post mills there were double wallowers, upright shafts and great spur wheels, one set of gearing being for the two pairs of breast stones with the second in the tail. While the tail set is still in place, the components of the head one lie separated on the floor; the glut box has gone but the casting in which the top bearing of the upright shaft was located indicates its former position on the forward sprattle beam.

 Both sets are of iron and indicate a degree of refitting and improvement at some time in the mid- or late nineteenth century. The wallowers and the spur wheels had eight arms, and the former were bevelled. The headstones were overdriven, the great spur wheel being located just below the wallower on the upright shaft, the tailstones underdriven and positioned to the right of the aft upright shaft looking towards the rear. At least one stone nut, of iron mortice variety, and quant remain, placed on the floor in the former position of the tailstones along with a solid wood pulley and the rack of the striking gear. The other nuts appear to have been of the same type. 

 The fine iron mortice tailwheel, of smaller diameter than the brakewheel and with eight arms, has an all-iron toothed gear in front of it on the windshaft which acted as a cam working the jog for the right-hand headstones through a strap and iron-shod lever(17). The teeth of the tailwheel are of apple or hornbeam and secured in place by tapered wedges(18).

The purpose of a hinged wooden lever adjacent to the tailwheel on the left (looking towards the tail) and passing partly in front of it is not apparent. 

 In the far rear of the floor, going from left to right, are in succession the striking wheel, a mysterious apparatus whose purpose I could not identify, and a large silk screen flour dresser with two drive pulleys. The striking wheel, positioned at roughly head height, has four ribbed iron arms and a wooden rim flanged for the weight chain. It is mounted on a square iron spindle ending in a nut which meshed with the rack. The rod remains in place. The “mystery machine” consists of what looks like the bed of an oil or gas engine on which is mounted a shaft carrying two pulleys, one large with six curved spokes and the other small. A photograph in the Mills Archive, taken when the machine was more intact shows that it had a hopper. The dresser has seen better days, but is still a fine and impressive piece of work; the makers were Turner of Ipswich. According to the Wrights there was also an oat roller at one time. The jog scry (known in Suffolk as a jumper) has already been mentioned. It was very noisy and the knocking sound it made could be heard all over the village.(19)

Stored on the floor, leaning against the right-hand wall, is an 8-armed all-iron gear of light construction.

 There are spouts from the bins opposite each other towards the front of the mill, on the left and right, and a third on the left looking west towards the rear.  Adjacent to the left hand forward spout and clearly associated with it in some way is a flanged pulley on a short layshaft terminating in a stub timber attached to it.

 The ladder to the bin floor is on the left (looking towards the tail) between the stones and the sack trap. The stairwell is a little further back on the right, adjacent to the brake lever.

 The ladder to the stone floor from the spout floor is on the right side of the latter (looking towards the breast), more or less opposite the stairwell which is between the crowntree and the timber which serves as the bridge beam for the tail upright shaft. There is a spout in the bottom right hand corner (again looking towards the breast). 

 Tentering is by iron bridge trees depending from the lateral timbers supporting the upright shafts and stone spindles, each with a rod and screw arrangement for hand adjustment. The head ones run fore-and-aft, the tail one west-east. The governor for the tailstones remains along with its double steelyard; it is driven by leather belt from a flanged, bevelled wooden disc on the upright shaft just above the great spur wheel. The headstones each had their own governor, mounted on the bridge beam(20), but these and their steelyards have gone. The tail governor is located to the left of the great spur wheel (looking towards the breast) on a short timber off the main lateral one, which is morticed into a hanger from a ceiling joist. Another joist takes the upper bearing of the spindle. It has a wooden belt drum and cylindrical weights (those of the other governors were spherical). 

 There is a nice inscription “IDL IBL 1855” on a vertical member of the intermediary framing, near the front left-hand bridgetree; and according to Rex Wailes(21) another somewhere in the mill to the effect that “Joshua Reynolds hired mill and premises 1833”. 

 It is quite possible that machinery described above as missing is still present, whether intact or dismantled, among the unidentified items and debris from past repairs which litter the mill; building up a complete and accurate picture of what is left may have to wait until the tidying up which comes with a proper  restoration. Nonetheless the clear impression is gained of a very powerful mill, capable of driving a range of auxiliary machinery, with which it was abundantly fitted out; according to Simmons it was however a poor starter, especially when facing the high ground to the north.

 In a county where post mills was built bigger (in terms of height at least), than anywhere else, as well as taken to the peak of their technological development, this is the best surviving example of them. It is thus a vitally important – within the county of Suffolk, the most important in my opinion – survivor and every effort should be made to ensure not only that it continues to stand, but also that at some point it regains its former glory, which will perhaps allow its special interest to be best appreciated.

Unless otherwise stated all internal orientations are given as if one is standing in the breast of the mill looking towards the tail.

Bob and Mary Wright state that a major inspection, with repairs where necessary and repainting, was carried out every few years during the working life of the mill. For the paint, which was mixed on the premises, a quarter of a ton of white lead, 20 gallons of turpentine, 20 gallons of pure linseed oil and 5 gallons of boiled linseed oil were needed. In what reads like a Who’s Who of Suffolk millwrighting, those known to have worked on the mill include Alf Clarke, Sam Clarke, George Clarke, “Si” Nunn, Ted Friend, Amos Clarke, Robert Martin senior, Robert Martin junior and Neville Martin. 

Based on survey carried out by Guy Blythman 26th May 2012

(1)  Friston Mill, A Brief Description, by R A {Bob} and M J {Mary} Wright, February 1980

(2)  HESS, G N Shann in HESS

(3)  Wright

(4)  Ibid

(5)  Mark Barnard of Suffolk Mills Group, 8/1/2014

(6)  R J Brown, Windmills Of England

(7)  Wright

(8)  Ibid 

(9)  Ibid

(10) Ibid

(11) RW November 1941, in HESS

(12) Wright

(13) HESS, Wright

(14) Wright

(15) Photograph in Mills Archive, taken during the 1970s repairs

(16) Wright

(17) RW November 1941 in HESS

(18) Wright

(19) RW November 1941, in HESS

(20) Photograph in Mills Archive

(21) 1956, in HESS