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Technical descriptions of English windmills


ROWINGTON, “Bouncing Bess”

Tower mill, standing today


W A Seaby article in MWWG journal no 1 Summer 1980:

We have very little knowledge of the building as a working windmill but we can make some inspired guesses.  The sails were almost certainly four commons and luffing appears to have been by tailpole with cartwheel attached at the end to assist in winding the boat-shaped cap.  This wheel is believed to have finished up in the orchard of the Smith’s farm at Turner’s End during the present century.  The windshaft, brakewheel and wallower have long since disappeared; they may have been removed soon after the mill had ceased by the last decade of the nineteenth century, since they would only have added strain on the cap and main shaft, especially in bad weather, once the mill had come solely under steam power.

 A photograph taken of the mill by R Hancock in 1911 for the Warwickshire Photographic Survey, now housed in the Department of Local Studies at the Birmingham Reference Library, shows the tower with boat cap and apron over the curb.  The original weatherboard-ing had then been sealed over with metal sheeting to save timber repairs, and the hatch at the back of the cap is seen to be closed by a vertically boarded door.  If, as has been said, there was once a tailpole in place of the much more usual wheel and chain winding gear all trace of it had gone when Hancock took his photograph. Shown on the far side of the tower are what appear to be a boiler with chimney and, between it and a workman’s hut, an early form of oil engine on wheels.  Also seen is a layshaft set at a slight slope from the engine towards the tower behind which it disappears.  There it must have been geared to a secondary shaft, which entered the mill through a “drain pipe” above the doorway, and its pinion would have engaged with the face gear set on the underside of the spur wheel.

 It is believed the mill ceased operation and the external prime movers were withdrawn early in the First World War, certainly by the time it was sold to John Ryland in 1916.  During the later phase of the war German prisoners occupied the mill plot and the tower was used as their dormitory.  Fortunately neither Ryland nor the Wilsons appear to have interfered with the machinery in the mill and, apart from some patching of the roof and securing of the double doors on the ground floor, it remained for over fifty years much as it had been when last in service.  Simmons, writing in 1943, states that Mr Wilson intended converting it into a cottage but the scheme never materialised.  And it was not until 1976 that proposals were put forward to convert the tower into part of a house complex and Col. Wilson agreed to sell the property. Although local objections to the scheme were raised, the Warwickshire Planning authorities granted permission for modifications to the mill and erection of circular structures around part of it to form a house, since it was realised that if this listed building were allowed to decay further it might become dangerous and have to be pulled down. 

 Shortly before the builders, Warwick Construction Company, took over Mr Jennings gave permission for a team of enthusiasts from the MWWG to make a survey of the tower for record purposes.  We knew he was most anxious to conserve all the existing gear in the area of the ground floor but that the cap and curb would have to be removed, as well as the upper portion of the upright shaft, the sack hoist and most probably both pairs of stones. Therefore when measurements and photography were carried out during two weekends it was in the upper floors that most of the work was concentrated.  The following were the principal dimensions recorded on 17/18 September 1977:

                                                                     ft. in.            metres

Vertical height of mill, including cap          39  4             11.99

Vertical height to top of brickwork              28  4              8.74

Height of cap and dust floor                        12  4               3.76

Height of bin floor                                        7  8                2.34

Height of stone floor                                     8  0                2.44

Height of Meal or Ground floor                   11  4               3.45  

Interior diam. of curb (set back 6 inches)    15  2               4.62

Diam. at top of brickwork (outside)            17  8               5.38

Diam. at top of brickwork (inside)              14  2               4.32

Diam. of Bin floor                                       16  8               5.08

Diam. of Stone floor                                    18  6               5.64

Diam. of Meal or Ground floor                   20 10              6.36

Exterior Diam. at ground level                    24  4               7.42

 The depth of the brick footings below ground level was not determined but when the ground floor boarding had been removed it was noted that the four brick walls running E-W across the interior and supporting the floor joists went down at least three feet (0.91m) so the tower brickwork is likely to be much deeper.

 The machinery remaining in the mill is mostly seen in the elevation shown partly in the round and partly in section. Cap details are given in the Appendix by John Bedington who carried out measurement and made the drawings. Here is given such basic information on the rest of the building as it was possible to gather in the time at our disposal.  The main shaft, held in position by bearings on the sprattle beam and on the lower spindle beam, was 22ft 9in (6.93m) in length, octagonal in section, having a width of 18in. (0.45m) at the top and 21in (0.53m) at the base.  Below the three iron bands holding the head were cross slots 22in (0.56m) deep to take the arms of the missing compass type wallower.  Immediately below the dust floor and close to the ceiling of the bin floor was a sectioned wooden clasp wheel (“plank circle” as given by Summers) set on the main shaft, having a diameter of 3ft 9in (1.14m) with (originally) 32 teeth above and a bevel below.  It had a wide iron banding around the girth.

 This was the friction drive for the sack hoist which was still in position and was undoubtedly the one constructed by Summers, the millwrights. The overall length, including the spindles, was 5ft 10in (1.78m), the windlass or chain drum itself being 4ft 6in (1.37m) with a diameter of 6in (0.15m).  The bevelled head or pulley, made up of some 20 bolted wooden blocks and held in position on the drum with iron-banded collars on either side had a diameter of 19in (0.49m) tapering to 15in (0.38m).  The hoist had its bearings on cross timbers, the inner one being the control lever, themselves held in slotted supports morticed or otherwise fixed to the two ceiling beams. The friction drive was brought into play by a cord, attached to a perforation at the distal end of the pivoted control lever, and carried over a shear block in the ceiling down through holes in the floors to the miller with sacks of grain at ground level.  The control cord and sack chain had both gone, as indeed had most of the woodwork of the grain bins. Low arched windows faced N and S at this level.

 In the stone floor parts of the grain chutes remained but the hoppers and shoes etc. were absent, and only one horse, of cast iron, made by R G Handley, Moor Street, Birmingham, was extant.  This, carrying through a perforation in its central bar the spindle of the four-barred damsel, was still in its original position, set on the internal rim or flange of the vat surrounding the French burrs, which were positioned on the east side of the room.  The height of the vat from the floor was 1fr 9in (0.53m) and the wooden staves were held in place with the usual three iron bands; its diameter at the outer rim was 4ft 6in (1.37m).  The stones had a diameter of 4ft (1.22m) and, with their plaster covering, rose to a height of 1ft 3 and a half in. (0.39m) above floor level; the eye of the runner stone being 10in. (0.27m).

 There was no vat, horse or damsel existing with the pair of peak stones.  The bed stone was seen to have been well set into the floor with a brick curb surrounding it, and the two stones, sitting one on the other, only rose to a height of 1ft 0 and a quarter inches (0.31m) above floor level. The diameter of the peaks was 4ft 4in (1.32m) and the eye again 10in (0.27m).  Similar low arched windows, originally having two horizontal iron bars across the wooden frames, faced east and west on this floor.

 Very much more remained, and still mostly exists, in the Meal floor of this underdrift mill, now the kitchen/breakfast room of the house.  The wooden spur wheel is of clasp-arm construction and has a diameter of 8ft 6in (2.59m), excluding the 96 projecting morticed teeth.  To the underside of this wheel is bolted a cast iron circular face gear having 144 teeth which, as mentioned above, was driven through layshaft and pinion from an auxiliary engine housed outside the mill.

 The stone nuts, also wooden, with reinforcement iron rings, have diameters of 2ft (0.61m), excluding the 24 morticed teeth.  The spindles are square-sectioned where they pass through the nuts, being held in or out of gear with wedges.  The lower spindle beam taking the weight of the main shaft and spur wheel, as well as the two bridge trees, taking the lower bearings of the nuts, are considerably bowed downwards; and there is packing beneath the ends of these trees where they enter squared cavities in the tower wall. There are also massive cross timber braces in the body of the ground floor to take the other ends of the bridge trees and the spindle beam. 

 A centrifugal governor, set on its own timber support with the upper spindle in a blister bolted to one of the main ceiling beams, once controlled the speed of the nut operating the French burrs. This tentering gear included steelyard, fulcrum, tentering screw and brayer, so that even today only the belt between the drives on the two spindles is missing.

 Other features on this floor originally included doorways N and S, each 3ft 3in (0.99m) wide and 7ft 6in (2.28m) high, having double wooden doors.  The top of each opening was a low arch and the surrounds were carried out in rounded-off brickwork.  It was not possible to retain either of these openings as doorways in the present house plan; the one to the south has been mostly bricked up and that to the north has been half-closed leaving the upper part to form a kitchen window.  New doorways have been cut through, that to the east leading to the central hall of the house and the west one as a back door to the garden.  Windows, one 2ft 10 and a half in. (0.88m) high by 2ft 6in (0.76m) wide, set at 4ft 4 and a half in. (1.33m) above floor level, were placed just E of the N door and just W. of the S. door, but both had been bricked up earlier this century, probably to prevent vandalism.  The north one has now been reopened. Internally just beyond the windows were two fireplaces with chimneys running up through the wall. One of these, having a charming crested frontal to the grating, has been preserved and inserted in a similar position using the same chimney, on the first floor sitting room of the house.

 The main timbers and cross braces supporting the machinery have been strengthened and retained.  The woodwork was all sand-blasted and immediately thereafter the ironwork red-leaded to prevent further rusting. In the upper floors some of the main oak floor beams were also preserved; when the decayed ends had been cut away they were reinserted in the new ceilings. The original wall stairways between floors having average 8in (0.20m) treads, as well as joists and (many missing) floor boards were taken into account during the survey, but all were removed owing to their worm-eaten or otherwise rotten condition.

 It only remains to thank those who have helped in carrying out this survey.  On the historical side Lt Col E C Wilson, members of the staff at the County Record Office, Mrs Joy Woodall, who is writing the history of Rowington, and Mrs Eileen Measy, Keeper of Folk collections at St John’s House, Warwick, have together kindly supplied much data.  On the technical side my thanks go to my Midland Mills Group colleagues: Mr Tim Booth (as set out above); also Mr Barry Job, Mr Cyril Johnson and Mr John Bedington, all of whom risked life and limb to photograph and measure details of the mill.  Very sincere thanks also go to Mr and Mrs John Jennings for willing co-operation and much practical help.

Rowington Tower Mill: The Cap by John Bedington MWWG Journal 1980

The cap was of the design, common in Warwickshire, known as “boat-shaped”.  It was approx. 18ft wide at the widest point of its base and, as seen in 1977 was 18ft long, though it is conceivable it may have been slightly truncated, since as mentioned below, the back of the cap was modified in later years.  It measured approx. 9ft 6in from the cap circle to the roof ridge at the highest point of the ridge. 

 As can be seen from the drawing a basic wooden cap circle was extended outwards at the front and back to give a boat-shaped base and from this base rose 12 ribs (ie rafters) on each side of the cap terminating at a bow-shaped ridge beam and carrying horizontal overlapping wooden boarding overlaid (presumably at a later date) by vertical wooden boarding.  The roof ridge was capped with galvanised iron and the cap had a “petticoat” of tongue and groove boarding some 1ft 6in deep. 

 The cap turned on 10 iron skids running on an iron track: the skids are closer together at the front where the weight of the windshaft and sails had to be borne.  It was evidently centred by 6 wheels running against the inside of the curb in the usual way but only the mortices for the blocks which held these wheels remain. 

 The neck bearing of the windshaft was carried on a breast beam supported by a “lower breast beam” which straddled the shears at the front; the upper breast beam itself seems (from a depression cut in the lower side) to have originally been used the other way up.

 The back 4 feet or so of the sheers (with the back beam that they carry) have been sliced off at some stage (apparently after the mill stopped working by wind).  This is a shame as it would have been nice to know how the tailpole was fixed.  The complete absence of any toothed rack (or pegs for an internal winch) seems to prove that tailpole winding must have been used to the end of this windmill’s working days.

 Although the windshaft, brake, brakewheel and wallower had gone at the time our drawings were made in 1977, the position of notches in the shears for the brake, and of mortices in the shears for the beam that had supported the tail bearing of the windshaft allowed us (as can be seen from the drawings) to calculate the position, and certain other details, of the windshaft, brakewheel and wallower within a matter of inches: – the length of the windshaft from tail bearing to neck bearing inclusive was approx. 14ft, the overall diameter of the brake wheel 8ft and the overall diameter of the wallower (which at least at one stage was compass arm) 4ft.

(See original articles for footnotes)


Tower mill, gone


This was a small but well-built mill with four-storeys and walls 2ft thick at the base. There were arched doorways on the ground floor on the north and south sides, while openings in the wall on the east and west had latterly been infilled in brick with windows in the upper portions.

 An iron-sheeted dome cap with short finial was winded by tailpole. There were four common sails, shortened after the mill ceased work, which remained until 1943 when they were removed after becoming dangerous. Two pairs of stones, one peak and one French, were underdriven. The windshaft (with iron poll end) and upright shaft were both wooden; the latter tapered below the great spur wheel, whose arms were morticed into it, and was 1ft 3” square above, with chamfers from the first floor upwards. It was strengthened both above and below the great spur with tie rods. The great spur had had gone by the time of Simmons’ visit but clearance recesses in the hangers for the bridgetrees indicated that it was approximately 5ft 6” in diameter. The bridgetrees themselves, measuring 9” by 7”, remained.(1) 

  For some years after closing the mill was maintained as a picturesque, and latterly ivy-clad, relic but subsequently fell into disrepair and was demolished in 1968, by which time the cap and sails had gone.

(1) HESS


Tower mill, gone


Shrewley tower mill was undoubtedly old, probably built during  roughly the same period as that at Tysoe which dates from before 1725. The short, almost cylindrical tower had three storeys. The domed, almost conical cap was iron-sheeted with a short finial and very similar to that at Tysoe and other tower mills in the county. It was manually winded by means of a chain and a wooden  worm engaging with wooden pegs let into a substantial wooden curb. In fact all the main machinery was of wood including the windshaft (with iron poll end), brakewheel, upright shaft and great spur wheel. The upright shaft was octagonal and extended down to the ground floor, where the footstep bearing was let into a substantial bridgetree supported on four massive wooden uprights. The great spur wheel was 4ft 6” across and underdrove a pair of peak and a pair of burr stones through iron-bound wood stone nuts 2ft in diameter by 10” deep. A single pair of governors, with spoked wooden belt pulley, appeared to control both pairs of stones; it was located beneath the ceiling of the ground floor and driven from the foot of the upright shaft. There was provision for engine drive, with the usual external pulley.(1)

There were four clockwise common sails(2).

(1) HESS

(2) Ibid


Tower mill, gone


Southam Mill, which stood along with its bakehouse and the tiny mill cottage to the northwest of the village on the north side of Bascote Road, was a white-painted four-storey brick tower mill standing on a shallow mound. It had a distinctive semi-conical cap with a flattened roof, such as was also found on East Haddon mill in Northamptonshire. There were four single-sided patent sails with canvas shutters. The mill was working by wind up to 1918 when one of the stocks became weak and the millers then decided to use steam power only. The stock had been put on new only five or six years previously, but the timber had proved unsuitable.  To reduce wind resistance it was decided in about 1923 to take out the shutters, and having removed them from one sail the miller released the brake and pulled the next sail down to repeat the operation, but it broke off and fell with a crash causing some damage. For safety’s sake the remaining sails were taken off there and then. The stock that broke had been fitted by Goodwin, the local millwright, c1900. The mill was hand-winded using a wheel and chain, a small toothed gear on the spindle of the wheel engaging a slotted ring laid on top of the wooden curb. The latter was live, with rollers provided for the cap to turn on. There were no countering wheels, and the method by which the cap was maintained in a central position was not apparent to Simmons.

 A slender, circular iron windshaft carried an 8ft diameter clasp-arm wooden brakewheel with wood brake. There were two sack hoists, both driven from a wood friction ring on the underside of the 4ft iron wallower. The wooden upright shaft was 16” square with chamfered corners above the great spur wheel; below it was circular {as at Shrewley tower mill}, and tapering slightly to the footstep bearing. The 6ft diameter great spur was of iron mortice type with eight arms and was cast in four sections. Originally there were three pairs of stones but one was removed to allow installation of a drive shaft for a flour machine on the ground (spout) floor. The shaft was an old line shaft taken from another mill and retained three redundant belt pulleys. Here it was mounted vertically and driven from the great spur wheel. On its end a 2ft iron mortice bevel gear meshed with the nut on the dresser spindle. The other two pairs of stones, 4ft 4” burrs and peaks, were located on the east and west sides on the third floor up, flanking the upright shaft. Their casings were circular. The stones were overdriven via 1ft 9” iron nuts on square quants, and each had its own governor. Also on the stone floor {the first floor} was an Albion oat crusher, latterly disused.

 At some point a steam engine was installed to supplement the wind, and was used until 1929 when it was replaced by a 16 h.p. Hornsby oil engine, which the miller much preferred. The drive belt entered the mill through an opening at ground floor level  and went to a pulley mounted in a frame bolted to the floor. It seems from Simmons’ description that the drive was then transferred to an upright shaft located near the wall. This shaft was bevel-geared to a horizontal one which drove the stones through iron mortice bevel gears, the second gear presumably being mounted in each case on the quant extension (Simmons implies the first gear operated on the stone nuts direct but this cannot be if the latter were on the floor above). Between the two gears driving the stones the shaft carried a 15” diameter grooved circular metal disc which drove through friction a second, smaller one on a vertical shaft for the modern type sack hoist latterly used.

 The millwrights employed here at one time to do repairs and refitting were Grooms of Eastcote, Northamptonshire; at the time Simmons compiled his notes, which was probably in the 1930s, they were still in business but no longer worked on mills.(1)

The stump of the tower was demolished in recent years.

(1) HESS



Post mill, moved to Avoncroft Museum of Buildings at Stoke Prior, Hereford and Worcester (SO952682)

Danzey Green mill, as it is still known, is the sole surviving West Midlands post mill and thus of particular importance. It is believed to be typical of the region. Last worked c1870, it then decayed until taken down in 1968-9 and reconstructed at the Avoncroft Museum of Buildings at Stoke Prior, Worcestershire, where it has been returned to working order. 

 One characteristic Midlands feature is the lack of diagonals in the buck, the intermediary framing consisting entirely of uprights. This did not, contrary to what one might expect, unduly prejudice the mill’s longevity and in fact it stood for the best part of a century after being left to decay, as did the post mill at South Normanton in Derbyshire, where council negligence in leaving the timbers to rot on the ground after the mill was dismantled for possible re-erection at a new site achieved what the elements failed to do.

 The buck is tarred, with very small windows that are little more than rectangular slits closed by means of sliding wooden clats. The wide weatherboarding does not cover the corner posts, which are instead plated on their outsides with vertical strips of wood. They extend slightly below the lower side rails, with no decorative moulding. The breast is more or less flat; the weather beam projects forward of it but not so visibly as at older post mills such as Outwood (Surrey) and Keston (Kent), lacking the prominent cheek pieces found on those examples. The rearmost pair of roof timbers, which are exposed, are attractively scalloped as is also, less obviously, the lowest roof board on each side, over the upper side rail. Constructionally another feature of note is that the tailbeam is  not morticed into the upper side rails but into vertical timbers, one on each side, between them and the side girts. There is a simple porch in the shape of a sloping roof, not particularly prominent, over the door and a removable hatch in the rear roof gable. 

 Rex Wailes commented that the post and trestle were older than the buck framing, the former having been hand-sawn and the latter machine-sawn(1). Simmons measures the post at 2ft 2in square within the roundhouse, above which it is circular (he says “octagonal to the first floor ceiling and round in the stone floor.”). 

 The brick roundhouse, 12ft high according to Simmons, is in the form of a truncated cone, with a skirt of vertical boards, attached to the underside of the buck, forming a roof. The latter protects the curb on top of the roundhouse walls which assists the buck in turning smoothly, a feature found on many bygone, and all surviving, Midland post mills. The 5ft high(2) piers, along with the ends of the crosstrees which are boarded over to protect them from the weather, protrude outside the walls where they are tapered. The buck is rotated by means of a spoked wheel like a cartwheel on the end of the tailpole, which runs on a track encircling the mill. The wheel is turned by means of a lever and winch through intermediary gearing. The mill has been restored with a sack slide on the steps.

 I didn’t have time to examine the curb in detail. There seemed to be two rollers each in a wooden shoe mounted on the underside of a transverse timber of the spout floor, and at an angle on the wooden curb ring and two wooden skids attached to the sheers, to transverse timbers and to the curb ring.

 The mill ended its working days with four common sails. At Avoncroft it worked for a time with two common and two spring.


The all-wood clasp-arm brakewheel, which Wailes(3) believed had been rebuilt at some point, has two concentric rims, the inner being a friction ring for the sack hoist, operating on a solid wood drum on the octagonal wooden bollard of the hoist, and the outer containing the cogs, which engage with those of an iron mortice stone nut. The sack hoist chain goes to a pulley mounted between a pair of vertical stub timbers between short horizontal members fixed to two roof spars, and then down through the mill. The windshaft is circular, wooden and consists of part of the original shaft, which was roughly shaped(4) with a new section scarfed on. It is not clear whether the shaft was ever drilled for a striking rod for patent sails. Simmons states, “the noddle {the knob on the poll end which was used as an attachment when lifting a new stock into position} which is well-designed is drilled for striking gear, and unless there was some arrangement here that called for its use (no picture of it in working order has yet come to light) it seems that the shaft, which is a roughly shaped wooden round one, may have been taken from an earlier mill.”

 The brake and brake lever are of wood, and connected by an iron strap. The brake rope emerges through a gap between two weatherboards and hangs down the outside. The mill drives only one pair of (peak) stones, located in the head, in contrast to most later post mills in other parts of the country. It is uncertain whether this was always the case. Rex Wailes(5) believed so, though Simmons states “The tailwheel with its accompanying pair of French stones has been removed.” The bins are on a half-floor above and to the left of the windshaft looking towards the front, with a long spout going from them to the hopper of the stones.

 The forward bearing of the sack hoist bollard is located on a timber, adjustable in order to throw the hoist out of gear, hinged in a pair of vertical posts flanking the windshaft with a further horizontal member lower down, above the shaft, imparting additional rigidity to this support frame. The posts are attached at their lower ends to the sprattle beam, which I note has had to be rebated to allow the windshaft to turn. 

 Above the level of the bins (to which part of the mill access is denied visitors, so that the details have to be made out by looking up from floor level) a layshaft runs across the rear face of the brakewheel, with a toothed nut meshing with the cogs of the latter on the left side; on the outside of this is a belt drum from which a belt, currently missing, went to a corresponding drum, the drive then being taken down, again by belt, to the pulley on the spindle of the large four-spout dresser located in the rear of the stone floor. The present machine is a replacement from Weston Jones watermill in Shropshire, the original having disappeared at some point during the mill’s life.


The bridgetree runs fore-aft on the centreline of the mill. At its front end it is hinged in a block on the prick post; at the rear, mounted between two hangers depending from the ceiling just in front of the crowntree. The brayer is in the form of a transverse beam fixed to its underside near the front so that the two timbers form a T-shape. The single governor is mounted on a wall bracket on the right of the floor, with a belt going from it to a flanged wooden drum on the stone spindle extension. The steelyard travels from it at a slight angle to a link on the left end of the brayer, beneath which at this point a handle is provided for manual tentering. Further to the left is a spout from the stones. The hanger for the brayer is on the right.

Based on survey by Guy Blythman, 24th September 2016

NOTE: The Wailes notes are taken from the Simmons Collection. Simmons’ own observations on the mill (less accurate on the whole, I suspect) are not dated.

(1) 26/4/1961, in HESS

(2) HESS

(3) 26/4/1961, in HESS

(4) HESS

(5) 26/4/1961, in HESS


Tower mill

Standing today (tower only, house-converted)


Thurlaston mill last worked in 1919, the sails being removed a few years later(1). It is a brick tower mill of five storeys(2), now devoid of cap and sails, stripped of machinery and converted to a house. A conical roof takes the place of the original cap, which was a plain dome without a finial(3), and is implied by Simmons to have been constructed entirely of iron. The curb was also iron with the rack on top. There were three rollers under the breast beam. The cylindrical iron windshaft, 10” diameter, carried an 8ft clasp-arm brakewheel on a 12” square iron boss and with wood brake. The wallower was also clasp-arm and 4ft in diameter. Below it on the upright shaft was a separate 3ft 8” solid wood gear which friction-drove the sack hoist, bearing on a 2ft by 5ft iron-faced wood drum on a 9” wooden layshaft carrying a smaller one at its other end, near the east wall. The hoist was lifted in and out of gear by chain. The wooden upright shaft was round throughout most of its length but 14” square at the great spur wheel, beneath which it tapered to 12” at its lower bearing which was located in a 14” by 9” beam laid flat on the floor. The great spur was a 6ft diameter, all-wood (as were the stone nuts) clasp-arm in four segments 7” deep and strengthened by spars positioned beneath them.

 The two pairs of stones were on the third floor and placed east and west. The west stones were 4ft 6” peaks with a two and a quarter inch square quant and a 22” by 8” wooden nut. Tentering was by means of plain screws with eye pieces but the mechanism, including the governors, had disappeared by the time of Simmons’ visit. Two pairs of steam-driven stones mounted on a platform on the ground floor had also gone.

Simmons noted that the tower leaned slightly to the northwest.

(1) HESS

(2) Ibid

(3) Photographic evidence


Tower mill, standing today


The following was written in June 2012 but based on a visit to the mill by Luke Bonwick and Bob Paterson (my thanks to them both) on 24th August 2009 and photographs taken on that occasion.

 Tysoe mill is a prominent landmark, standing as it does on a hill overlooking the Tudor mansion of Compton Wynyates amid beautiful countryside. It is one of about half a dozen tower mills dating from the early eighteenth century or before, and may well occupy the site of a mill attached to the manor in the thirteenth and fourteenth. The first record of it is its appearance on Henry Beighton’s map of Warwickshire in 1725(1).

 The small, squat tower is built of yellow ironstone and is twelve-sided until about three-quarters of the way up at which point it is stepped in and above is octagonal, the batter also increasing whereas below the walls are almost vertical. There are three storeys, working downwards: a combined bin and dust floor close under the cap, the stone floor and the spout/ground floor. There are two doorways in the ground floor in the shape of rounded archways with keystones, whose effect is aesthetically pleasing. The mill is not supplied with much natural light and consequently great care is called for when exploring it. There are only two very small windows on the stone floor, which are in fact doors that can be opened, once reached by means of a ladder from outside, to give access.

 There is a circular iron boss on the outside of the tower above the level of the dust/bin floor.

 The present cap dates from the restoration carried out in 1974 by millwright Derek Ogden, and is a more or less accurate replica of the original judging by old photographs of the latter. It is a dome with a sharp taper, approaching a cone in outline. At the front a pent-roofed excrescence over the neck of the windshaft slopes up to a short finial. At the rear is a square extension, also pent-roofed, which formerly housed the winding gear, now removed and the space where it used to be boarded in. Whereas the original cap was leaded(2) its replacement is covered with aluminium sheeting except for the winding gear “tailbox” which is clad in wide weatherboarding (and has a small hatch in it which like the windows in the tower can be opened like a door). There is a flange over the curb which appears to imitate a skirt of vertical boarding. The weatherbeam and the ends of the sheers protrude beyond the cap circle but are covered over by the metal sheeting.

 The winding gear was of an unusual type. Instead of cogs holes were provided around the curb into which a pin was placed. Two horizontal ungeared winches on either side of the cap at the tail were used to wind up a chain attached to the pin and thus turn the cap in either direction.(3)

 The four common sails were replaced in 1974 but are now down to the stocks. According to  R Hawksley(4) the originals were clockwise.

 Internally the mill is almost complete, and pleasingly retains its primitive character; the machinery is almost entirely wooden. Perhaps because of its isolated location it never underwent much in the way of modernisation. According to an information sheet the cogging on the gearwheels is mostly of hornbeam though apple, pear, thorn and beech are also used.


A large section of this is missing. Looking up into the cap we see that the wooden windshaft, which like most surviving examples has an iron poll end, carries a clasp-arm wood brakewheel engaging a solid all-wood wallower with iron binding hoop. This wallower has a convex bevel. Most of its teeth are missing. The brake is wooden. The iron pintle on the tail of the windshaft has become displaced from the hole in the tailbeam into which it sockets.

  The truck wheels are of iron. Their number was not noted owing to a bird’s nest preventing inspection of those at the front. The rear pair are carried in vertical wooden housings bolted to the transverse member of the cap frame behind the tailbeam. Two more are mounted in wedge-shaped blocks on the tail ends of the sheers just forward of where the transverse beam is mated with them.


One pair of stones, with a peak runner, is still in position though lacking its furniture. A displaced timber lies across it (this floor is in some disarray with much loose woodwork and other debris scattered about). On the circular wooden upright shaft is a nearly solid all-wood clasp-arm crownwheel, a downturned face gear, with substantial straight cants. According to Hawksley (1948) the sack hoist, now displaced or missing, and wire machine were driven from this. It is divided vertically into three segments; the top and bottom ones are convex and bevelled, and the middle section straight-sided. 


There is a fireplace here; Hawksley states there were two. The upright shaft rests on a substantial wooden hurst consisting of two longitudinal beams spanning the mill with the bridge beam, and the bridgetrees flanking it, fixed laterally between them. The longitudinal beams are braced to those in the ceiling by short vertical posts. Additional vertical timbers have been put in at some point to help support the stone floor.

 The two pairs of stones were underdriven from an all-wood elm(5) clasp-arm great spur wheel of small diameter with a flanged wooden disc beneath it for the governor belt drive. A wire machine is suspended from the ceiling. Some items lie displaced on the floor having been left there following repairs or fallen from above: (1) a pair of French stones; (2) one of the bridgetrees with jack ring and hand tentering screw; (3) a large, solid all-wood iron-bound stone nut on a short iron quant, the latter being square and tapered (the other stone nut remains in position and appears of iron mortice type, with its wooden cogs still in place; it has been put out of gear with the great spur wheel); (4) what is most probably the machine drive, in the form of a large solid all-wood bevelled nut on a wooden layshaft. The other bridgetree with jack ring etc. is still in situ; here manual tentering is by a pair of long vertical rods with six-spoked iron wheels at their lower ends. The governor and steelyards appear to be missing.

Outside the mill a Peak stone is used as a doorstep.

(1) R J Brown, Windmills Of England (Robert Hale 1976)

(2) HESS 24th September 1943

(3) Rex Wailes, The English Windmill, p106

(4) In HESS, 1948 

(5) Ibid