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Technical descriptions of English windmills




Naburn Mill, tower windpump 

Situated on the western bank of the River Ouse at Naburn Ferry, this was a small mill very similar to the brickyard windpumps at Elvington, Claxton and Howden. It had the same kind of weathervane in the form of a single piece of wood, and four short single-sided sails. Simmons seems uncertain as to whether the latter were clockwise or anti-clockwise. The shutters were canvas-covered and could be regulated by a lever set into a series of four holes at the tip of each sail. Roughly 22ft high and 6ft wide at the base, the untarred brick tower had a platform about eight feet up for servicing the sails. In 1940 the sails, which had fallen into disrepair, were blown off and a modern metal windpump built on the tower in their stead. The mill was photographed by Stanley Freese in July 1934.(1)

(1) HESS 


Hollow-post brickyard windpump

Roy Gregory, East Yorkshire Windmills, Charles Skilton 1985 (account prepared by Dr Allison, editor of the VCH of the East Riding): The pump was based on a wooden pyramid, nine feet square at the base and about fifteen feet high. At base level a diagonal brace held a single-acting bucket pump. About six feet above ground level was a walkway about eighteen inches wide, to which access was gained via a stepladder. A foot above the walkway were two pairs of horizontal diagonal braces. Each pair clasped either side of the corner poles, one pair above the other, so that in the centre of the pyramid they formed a square. On this square the foot of the post was stepped. The post was thirteen inches in diameter and eleven feet tall. It was supported about two-thirds of the way along its length by the top of the pyramid where the four corner posts met, bound by two sets of iron straps. The post protruded about four feet above the pyramid and terminated in a spigot.

 The cap comprised essentially two platforms with a skeletal framework. The four corner posts, which leant outward about two degrees, were made of six-inch square timber some seven feet high. The cap was therefore a fairly substantial structure and was mounted on the post by way of two holes. The upper platform contained the hole to fit the spigot, where the bearing was wood on wood, the lower platform contained a larger hole to take the full size of the post. An iron ring fitted to the underside bore on the iron ring at the top of the pyramid. There appeared to be no cover to the cap and it was exposed to the elements.

 The cap was winded by a fin mounted on two timbers protruding at the rear. The fin was the shape of a parallelogram and each timber was braced by a wrought iron strap. The timbers supporting the vane were set at an angle, the straps horizontal, thus the turning force of the fin was transferred to the cap frame by the strap. A chain was fixed to the fin to enable winding to be carried out by hand.

 The windshaft was of three inch square forged iron, four feet ten inches long with a single throw seven-inch crank. This gave a fourteen-inch stroke to the pump. The breast was nine inches higher than the tail. The windshaft carried a 24-inch diameter iron brakewheel fixed by a square hub wedged onto the shaft. The brake comprised a contracting iron band faced with leather and was fixed to a brake lever which would be raised or lowered by a rope which passed over a pulley mounted on a timber protruding above the cap.

 The iron connecting rod was mounted on the crank journal by means of a split wooden bearing. The little end of the rod was made into an eye which was pinned into a yoke on the upper end of the pump rod. On this same pin were the eyes on the end of two round iron arms, about six feet long, three-quarters of an inch in diameter. These arms diverged until they were about a foot apart at their ends where they were welded onto a T-rod, mounted on the upper platform. This arrangement caused the little end of the connecting rod to trace a shallow arc and presumably provided a simple form of parallel motion.

 The sails were common sails, each back being fourteen feet long, built up of two 2” X 6” timbers, the rear one being about twenty inches shorter than the front. A chain and hook were fixed to the staging to enable the sails to be secured when not in use. The sails were fixed to the windshaft by a cast-iron cross. The cross measured four feet from point to point and was of the flange variety. This is particularly interesting as the cross followed the Lincolnshire pattern, not the plain cross generally found in the East Riding. There are a number of wooden patterns, some at Wrawby mill from Wade’s Foundry formerly in Barton-on-Humber and some in the Museum of Lincolnshire Life, which came from Edlington’s foundry in Gainsborough, which are virtually identical to the one described by Dr Allison. The mill was built by William Edward Hunter.

 Dr Allison also has a letter from a Mr Kitching, the last operator in charge of this particular pump. In it he gives an insight into the sort of problems millers faced. He explains: “I have had several struggles with this pump; it was my responsibility for several years and this pump being the most powerful it took much more strength and knowhow to stop and reef down…during gale force winds you had to get several men to hang on to the chain and pull the mill around sideways to the wind direction, dash up the ladder onto the platform, slap the friction brake on, grab the nearest sail and make it captive by the hook and chain on the frame.

 At ground level where the top of the pump barrel and the spout are situated was a barrel which contained upwards of 50 gallons of water. This was used for priming the pump after you had got her in motion. You were always pleased if you got the pump primed with 10-15 buckets of water; needless to say the first thing you did when you got her pumping was to refill the barrel and say here’s to the next time.”


Tower brickyard windpump, standing today


Gregory: The pump at Claxton is very similar to the Howden one, subject to four basic differences. First, it is slightly larger, having an internal diameter at ground level of nine feet. Secondly the batter of the tower is not constant and has an inward curve just above the stage. Thirdly, the iron cross is of the simple East Yorkshire pattern, not the Lincolnshire ribbed variety. Finally there are no internal ladders to gain access to the top. These were replaced by a ladder hanging at the side of the fin, with a small truck wheel at its lower end which rested on the face of the tower.


Tower mill, standing today


Gregory: This charming little mill stands in a field which still contains clear remains of the ridge and furrows of the mediaeval farming system. The date of building is uncertain; it is not shown on the 1824 Ordnance Survey map and the first reference to a miller in the directories does not occur until 1840.

 The tower stands some 35ft to the approximate position of the curb, which unfortunately was removed at the time a concrete roof was put on, and the internal diameter of the ground floor is 15ft 3”. The stone floor is at first floor level and contains one pair of French stones and one pair of peak stones, both 4ft diameter. The stone furniture has disappeared. The main upright shaft is timber with a cast-iron great spur wheel approximately 4ft 10” in diameter, with 80 teeth. The stone nuts are 14” diameter with 24 teeth. There are the remains of a dresser. The bridgetrees and brayers are entirely of timber. The single pair of governors has disappeared.

 A third cog meshes with the spur wheel, having 29 teeth, mounted at the top of a circular timber shaft which passes down to the ground floor where it is fitted with a bevel cog in mesh with a second bevel cog mounted on a horizontal shaft, which passes through the wall of the tower to a belt pulley to connect to an engine. The lower end of this vertical shaft is supported by a footstep bearing mounted on a horizontal timber beam, the outer end of which is supported in the wall of the tower while the inner end is fitted into a slot cut into the central timber support to the first floor. The horizontal beam has a limited amount of vertical adjustment in the slot, to enable a fine adjustment of the cogs to be made. There is insufficient movement to enable it to be used to drop the cog out of gear. Adjacent to this vertical timber shaft is an iron shaft, also vertical, which probably drove the dresser on the floor above.

 Unfortunately one of the main beams holding up the stone floor has rotted at the point where it fits into the wall with the result that it has slipped about 12 inches. Consequently the stones, spur wheel and quants now lean at a rather alarming angle. The beam has been propped to prevent further movement. Apart from this the timberwork is in reasonable condition, due no doubt to the fact that the windows on the upper floors have disappeared thus allowing the wind to blow through the structure and dry out any dampness in the timbers. The lack of windows is a mixed blessing as it has enabled pigeons to colonise the tower, as a result of which the interior is covered with a thick layer of guano.


Tower mill, brickyard windpump, standing today


Gregory: The brick tower is of unusual shape. The external diameter of the base is 9ft, from which it rises with the usual batter some 15ft 6” at which point there are five further courses of brickwork corbelled outwards and surmounted by a ring of stone blocks having an external diameter of just over 5ft.Although aesthetically this gives the tower a very pleasing appearance, from an engineering point of view it produces a weakness in the structure as evidenced by the fact that it has been necessary to add two tie bands, one at the narrowest point of the tower and one a few feet lower. The reason for this form of construction can only be surmised. It is usual for the top of the larger corn mills to be corbelled outwards and it may be that this is simply an attempt to follow that practice. However it seems to me more likely that at some point in the past the tower was adapted to take a wider curb ring than was originally intended. The tower has a stage 5ft above ground level which is simply held by putlogs without bracings. The stage is interrupted to allow for a door opening.

 The curb and cap arrangement are very similar to the Howden pump but of lighter construction. The cast-iron curb ring, which is mounted directly on the stonework, is wider but thinner and the timberwork, being of 2” by 3” English oak, is substantially lighter.

 The pump is fitted with four common sails 12ft long. The backs are of pitch pine, 6” square at the heel and 4” square at the toe, while the sail bars are of Douglas Fir. The weather reduces to nil at the outer end. The overall width of each sail including the leading board is 3ft 9”. The sails are mounted by a king bolt (the four bolts are linked by steel straps for extra stability) and two bridle irons, on a cast-iron cross identical to that at Howden, which in turn is mounted on a square section wrought iron windshaft. The windshaft is generally 2” square but widens at the neck to two and a half inches. The pump rod is held onto the windshaft with two keys. The bearings are of brass and as part of the restoration oil bottles have been added to the neck and tail bearings and a greasing screw to the pump rod bearing. The 21” diameter brakewheel consists of what appears to be a cast-iron pulley which is gripped by a contracting steel band. The brake lever comprises the usual arrangement except that the lever is made of wrought iron and a 14-pound lead weight is suspended from it inside the tower. An iron hook hangs from the cap frame to engage a spigot on the brake lever to hold the brake in the off position.

 The cap is winded by a square vane linked by two steel rods to the rear of the cap frame. Unfortunately when restoration started none of the original vane had survived, and therefore this part of the restoration can only be conjectural.

 The pump barrel is 7” in diameter but as the original bucket has disappeared and it proved impossible to find a replacement of that size the diameter has been reduced to 6”. However, using the original dimensions of a 7” diameter barrel and a 10-inch throw and assuming the sails turned at about 12 rpm it can be seen that the pump would move around 571 gallons per hour. The clay workings, now filled with water, are apparently 35ft deep. The outlet from the pump is some 6-8ft above water level, which indicates the pump may have raised the water a little over 40ft.

HESSLE (Cliff Mill)

Tower mill (whiting mill), standing today


Gregory: The basic operation for the production of whiting started with the extraction of the chalk from the adjacent quarry, which was conveyed to the mill and dumped on the floor in the base of the tower where it was broken into hand-sized lumps using sledgehammers. The lumps were then shovelled into the crushing tub in which a pair of millstones rotated on edge to crush the stone to powder. Water was added from a well on the site and the fine powder floated to the top of the tub to form a slurry. This slurry then overflowed into a launder by which it was led to a settling pit where the coarse sand and flints settled out. The remaining slurry overflowed into a sump from where it was pumped into a bank of settling pits, probably twelve in number. As the slurry flowed across the pits the particles of chalk settled out, the coarser ones in the first pits while the finest particles remained in suspension until the last pit was reached. The mill had a second bank of pits along which the slurry could be diverted whilst one or more of the first bank of pits were being emptied. The settled-out chalk was lifted out of the pits, a skilled operation if the operator was not to fall in, and placed in drying sheds.

 There are no remains of the sails or fantail but photographs show that the mill had five roller-reefing sails with air brakes. The striking rod was controlled by rack and pinion. This type of system is shown in Norman and Smithson’s drawing of Maud Foster mill which is reproduced as plate XII in The English Windmill by Rex Wailes. However the chainwheel under the fantail seems to have been set too high for this exact arrangement and it may well be that the lesser-known illustration of “a mill near Hull” reproduced from earlier publications in the TIMS Second Transactions 1969, where there is an intermediate vertical shaft linking the chainwheel shaft with the striking rod, may represent the arrangement at Hessle. It is of course quite possible that Norman and Smithson built Cliff Mill but there is insufficient  evidence to form a conclusion. The fantail appears to be a fairly standard eight-bladed arrangement supported on a gallows-type fan frame.

 Sufficient of the cap frame has survived to give an accurate picture of its construction. The sheers were pitch pine, 12” wide and 15” deep, and were set 9ft apart. The front cross beam had two studs supporting the rode baulk which was tied back to the front cross beam by two wrought-iron tie bars. A slotted timber was bolted to the underside of the studs which it has been suggested may have held a centering wheel. This may well be correct but if so the axle would have been turning in a timber bearing and the hole does not show undue wear. Consequently I cannot help wondering if this is part of the control mechanism for the air brake.

 The sprattle beam was a fairly standard arrangement with the bearing attached to the tail side of the beam. The tailbeam was however an odd arrangement. This beam was the largest in section of all the cap frame members, being approximately 16” square. The odd feature is that the beam was not morticed directly into the sheers but into a spacer or pad which in turn was bolted onto the sheers. The sheers were tied together by two wrought iron bars, one immediately behind the front cross beam and held to it by wrought iron staples, the other some two feet behind the tail beam. The cast-iron pigs on which the cap frame rested on the curb were of different designs, some being fitted with a rectangular spigot as at Skidby while others had a simple square peg.

 The cast-iron curb ring (internal diameter 13ft 3”) is made up of ten segments which were bolted onto a circular timber frame of eight segments. The timber ring rests on eighteen timber bearers 12” wide by 15” deep, held together by a timber hexagon frame, the bearers fitted into the brickwork being cut off flush with the outside of the tower. The hexagon frame is held down by three wrought-iron tie bars and the joints are held together by timber pegs of approximately 1” diameter.

 The main shaft was in two sections and the top portion has disappeared. The lower section is of pitch pine, 26ft 6” in length and 16” square with chamfered corners. Cast-iron pintles are let into each end and the lower end carries a cast-iron spur wheel, 37 and a half inches in diameter with 41 teeth. The stone nut has unfortunately been removed with a sledgehammer at some time in the past leaving only the hub in situ, from which it can be seen it was made of cast iron with eight spokes. It was fitted with wooden teeth. The diameter of the stone nut must have been in the region of nine feet and it may have been possible to move it out of gear by sliding the bearing beam laterally. The drive shaft (quant?) powered a pair of 5ft 1” diameter edge runner stones fitted with cast-iron tyres, held in place by timber wedges. As the stones turned in water the wedges expanded to ensure a tight fit. The tub, 8ft 6” in diameter, was made of vertically mounted boards held by a metal hoop. The quant carried a scraper which directed the chalk under the crushing stones.

 The windmill also powered two pumps, one pumping water from the well, the other the slurry from the sump to the settling pits. Each pump was a single-acting bucket pump; the pump rod was connected to a square section beam which in turn was connected via a bell crank to a second beam which passed horizontally through a hole in the side of the tower at ground floor level and at the inner end these were attached to a crank at the lower end of an iron shaft which passed upwards to the first floor, i.e. the level at which the spur wheel and stone nut are situated. The connection between thes vertical shafts (one for each pump) is not clear but it looks to me likely that the two shafts were driven by belts from a layshaft which was driven by a cog in mesh with the spur wheel. There was a clutch arrangement in the two vertical shafts by which each pump drive could be disconnected, controlled by a rope from the ground floor. By pulling on the rope the operator could disengage the drive and it could be held in this position by slotting a toggle on the rope into a slot in a horizontally-mounted timber strut. The throw of the crank and therefore I assume the vertical movement of each pump was 12”.  

 In the 1930s a second bowl-shaped crushing tub was constructed in which a pair of 6ft diameter stones were driven from an underground chamber by an electric motor.


Tower mill (brickyard windpump), standing today


Gregory: The brick tower is a little under 12ft high, with an internal diameter at the base of 7ft and at the top 2ft 7”. The brickwork is twelve and a half inches thick at the base, up to a height of 15ft whereupon it reduces to a thickness of eight and three quarter inches.  

 Timber beams are set into the brickwork to provide steps to climb to the top. There is a stage, eight feet three inches from ground level, formed by four timbers which pass through the brickwork. The timbers extend outwards some five feet nine inches, giving the tower a much wider stage than on the post mill type. A diagonal cross brace helps to locate the pump rod. The tower has a straight batter to the top, in contrast to the Elvington pump which has a large corbelled top.

 The cap frame has more in common with the corn mill than the post mill version. The frame comprises two sheers five feet six inches long with a breast beam, tail beam and end beam. This is mounted on a cast-iron ring having an internal diameter of three feet two and three quarter inches, the front mount being three and four-eighths inches higher than the rear support. The cast-iron ring is bolted to the timber frame on top of the brick tower and held apart by a cast-iron spacer. The ring attached to the cap frame has eight small rollers set into the circumference which act as centering wheels. The lower of the sandwich rings has eight rollers set into its face on which the ring attached to the cap frame rotates. The timber frame is held on top of the tower by four tie-rods which pass inside the tower and are anchored to the stage timbers.

 The crankshaft is again of wrought iron, two and three-eighths inches square. The brakewheel is made up of four layers of timber, each one and a quarter inches thick and one foot six and three quarter inches in diameter. It is not clear whether the windshaft passes through the brakewheel or whether it is in two pieces, bolted to either side of the wheel. The brake system is otherwise identical to that of the post mill at Broomfleet.

 The neck and tail bearings are of wood mounted in cast-iron blocks; the tail bearing is also packed with timber to take the lateral thrust. The sails are fixed to the windshaft by a cast-iron cross of identical appearance to the cross at Broomfleet. The sails however were different, being four springs. The same occurred at Claxton but not at Elvington, which had common sails.

 The pump rod is similar to Broomfleet except that there is no parallel-motion device. An interesting feature is that the bearing at the top of the connecting rod is of brass whereas all the other bearings are wood as has been noted. The pump fed water into an underground pipe which discharged into a ditch some hundreds of yards away. 

 The mill was winded by a fin mounted on a single timber beam. This fin appears to be in the form of a fantail blade, comprising a number of boards, set in a slot cut in a six-inch square timber end braced to the cap frame with wrought-iron stays. It was fitted with a chain for manual winding.

 The timbers at the top of the tower bear the inscription F.L. & M.N. 73, which when related to the documentary evidence suggests the mill was built in 1873 {the date fits in with the development of the brickworks}.


Old Mill, tower mill, standing today


Gregory: The present mill dates from the beginning of the nineteenth century. It was advertised for sale in 1813 as a brick corn mill with three pairs of stones and a new well-built house and about half an acre of land. A subsequent advertisement of 1881 describes it as a corn windmill with granary, warehouse, stables and newly-erected dwelling house. The new house of 1813 has now been demolished and an attractive bungalow built on the site. The 1881 house still remains. The mill tower has all the indications of having been built in two stages, as the batter changes above stone floor level (the second floor). The extended portion of the tower is not cylindrical as is usual in such cases but is also battered, though at a less steep angle than the lower portion. Indeed the raised portion has a marked curve in the wall similar to the top half of a barrel.

 The tower stands some 40ft 8” to the curb. The ground floor has an internal diameter of 20ft 1” and the curb an internal diameter of 11ft 8”. When last powered by wind, around 1910, the mill had a typical Lincolnshire cap, four double-shuttered patent sails and a gallows-type fantail. The windshaft was of cast iron. After the sails and cap roof were removed a small conical cap was built onto the cap frame but this was blown off in 1920, following which the windshaft and cap frame were removed and a low pitch conical roof similar to the one in situ today was erected. 

 The curb ring, still in situ, is of cast-iron and has a depth pf only two and three-quarter inches, and an overall width of 6”, the width of the top face on which the curb rested being only 2”. The curb has a rack on the outside onto which the pinion, mounted on a horizontal shaft, drove. The curb rests on an octagonal timber frame nine and a half inches deep which in turn is mounted on top of the brickwork and held down by four tie-rods. The sections of the frame are half-jointed and the ends of the timber protrude outside the curb, being shaped to fit inside the cap.

 The wallower is of cast iron with 37 teeth and has the usual timber ring bolted to its underside to drive the sack hoist, a timber barrel around which was wrapped a single chain. The timber upright shaft is 12” square, with nicely chamfered corners. The shaft is made up of two parts, being joined by a cast-iron bearing immediately above the great spur wheel. The great spur is of cast iron with eight spokes and 72 teeth. A timber pulley is bolted to the top side of the spur wheel and is connected by a belt to a vertical iron shaft which passes down to the ground floor, driving the governors and auxiliary machinery referred to below.

 There are three pairs of stones, two French, mounted above the two main floor beams, east and west, and one pair of peak stones to the north. The French stones are driven by wooden stone nuts twelve and a quarter inches in diameter with 17 teeth. The peak stones by comparison have a cast iron stone nut 13” in diameter with 18 teeth. Peak stones usually turned at around 80 rpm compared with 100/120 rpm for the French stones. Thus the different sizes of the French and peak stone nuts would enable both these stones to be run at the same time. The peak stone has worn down and been given a longer life by fitting a steel collar round the outside and topping up with concrete. The French stones are by Hughes and Son of London, and the runner stones are suspended on a gimbal, a more sophisticated arrangement than at Skidby where the runner is suspended on a simple bridge.  I cannot say whether the gimbal mounting was widely used in the East Riding but this appears to be the only surviving example. All the stones are 4ft in diameter.     

 Two other cogs mesh with the great spur wheel, the first a cog of the same size as the peak stone nut fitted to a shaft which passes down to the ground floor, where it is connected via bevel gears to the external belt pulley. The top portion of this shaft is octagonal in section, three and three-eighths of an inch between faces, the lower portion being two and three-quarter inches square in section. The two lengths are joined by a dog clutch which allows a slight movement. The clutch is held together by horseshoe-shaped collars bolted together. The bevel gears at ground level have a ratio of 2:1 and at both points in the auxiliary drive, i.e. the ground floor bevel gears and the spur wheel cog, the driving cogs have wooden teeth. Thus in both cases wood drives onto iron.

 The final gear which meshes with the great spur wheel takes power upwards to the corn screen. This cog is cast iron, eleven and a half inches in diameter with 15 teeth, and has a foot bearing mounted in a sliding block, controlled by a handled screw by which it can be moved in and out of mesh.

 The floor above the stone floor was referred to by the miller as the screen floor and the reason is not hard to see. Whereas the room contains two large bins, one feeding the French stones and one feeding the peak stones, the room is dominated by an enormous screening machine. Grain was fed into this machine from a hopper on the floor above. It passed first into a reciprocating box fitted with two sieves. The upper coarse sieve, which was inclined laterally, removed large items, e.g. straw and stones, and deposited the debris via a short chute onto the floor. Underneath was a fine sieve which retained the grain but allowed dust to pass similarly to the floor. This part of the machine, i.e. the reciprocating box, was designed by the last miller and made for him by the local blacksmith. The grain then passed into a rotary screen which removed the remaining dust, the cleaned grain passing via a chute to the ground floor where it was bagged and raised to the bin floor using the sack hoist. The dust was sucked up a rectangular timber trunk by a simple paddle fan and ejected into the outside air via a hole in the wall of the tower. The timber trunking between the screen and the fan contains a small square aperture on its upper side, inside which is a plate slightly larger than the aperture. This is suspended on a balance arm, like a small see-saw, the pivot of which is fixed to the trunking, on the other end of which hangs an adjustable weight. This device would prevent a vacuum developing inside the trunking and was probably needed to prevent the grain from being sucked up with the dust in the event of such a condition arising.

 The tentering gear on the floor below the stone floor comprises a cast-iron bridgetree and timber brayers. The stone spindle foot bearing is located laterally by two screws but longitudinally by iron wedges. The timberwork, both the brayers and the main frames, as well as the main timber upright shaft are finished to a high standard.

 All the main timbers are chamfered and the ends of the brayers nicely moulded, being painted white and lined in black.  There is a single pair of governors of the usual East Riding pattern, linked to each pair of stones, and the governor shaft also provides a belt drive to a dresser on the floor below the stone floor. This floor also contains a Garden City Brush Scalper No.1 {the only such device known in an English windmill}, on top of which has been fitted a Porteous Cleaner driven by a belt from the horizontal shaft on the floor below. The ground floor contains a large screen driven by a belt from the lower end of the governor shaft.

 By 1910 a steam engine had been added to the mill, situated in a newly-built engine house and connected to the mill by the usual external pulley. This was later replaced by a hot bulb oil engine, which worked well until electricity was introduced into the village around 1932 when the engine was replaced by an electric motor, mounted inside the tower and connected to the horizontal shaft by a fast and loose pulley. The pulley was controlled by a lever on the first floor. In this form the mill continued in daily use until 1940 and still survives today. 

 In addition to the fixed machinery the mill also contains the hand tools used by the miller in connection with his business. Thus there are the bills, picks, thrifts, wedges, stone supports, truing staff and the block and tackle, everything the miller needs to dress his stones. The ground floor still contains the scales used to weigh meal and even some of the miller’s original posters are displayed.”


Tower mill, standing today


Gregory: The deeds show that there was a mill on this site at least as far back as 1712 but it is not clear exactly when the present structure was erected. According to the deeds a new mill was built on the site in 1776, but I would not have thought that on the evidence of other mills in the area a mill of the size of the present one would have been built at that date. There is a slight change in the batter of the tower which could indicate that at some time it was raised, suggesting that the lower part was built in 1778 and the mill developed and modernised sometime in the nineteenth century. Further deeds of 1790 and 1810 refer to the mill as “lately erected and built” and in subsequent deeds the word “lately” is omitted.

 It is difficult to gain access to the mill; I have not therefore had the opportunity to measure it, and these notes are based on two very short visits made some years ago. The windshaft is cast iron with the typical East Riding cross; the timber brakewheel has been burnt away, The wallower survives and the upright shaft passes to the great spur wheel on the third floor. The spur wheel drives two pairs of stones at this level and a third cog which takes power upwards to a grain cleaner on the third floor. A belt drive from a pulley mounted on top of the spur wheel drives a vertical shaft on which the governors are mounted on the floor below. These governors control the tentering to the main stone floor. 

 A fourth cog meshes with the spur wheel to take power via a vertical shaft down to the ground floor, driving various items of equipment on the way. It is also connected by bevel gears to the external drive pulley. On the second floor this down shaft drives a third pair of stones, connected by a belt, which stones are controlled by their own governors. On the first floor it provides power for a dresser and on the ground floor a fourth pair of stones, again connected by a belt drive.

 By 1873 steam power had been added to the mill {which has two sets of stones, one wind- and the other steam-driven}. The tall brick-built chimney still remains on site as does the now rather corroded boiler. Alongside the mill, most of the ironwork which has fallen off lies in a rapidly corroding heap.


Tower mill, standing today


Gregory: The present tower mill was built in 1821 by Robert Garton, millwright of Beverley. When first built the tower was much shorter than at present, to the height of the “waist” in the present tower, about 40ft to the curb. In 1833 the premises were described in a lease as a wind corn mill, dwelling house, stable and cart shed, indicating a smaller complex than exists today. Thos indication is supported by the 1855 OS map which clearly shows a free-standing tower, with two small rectangular buildings to the west and south, and the original miller’s house on the north side of the access road. Two further points indicate that the tower was originally lower and free-standing. Firstly, the fact that at ground level there are two doors into the tower directly opposite each other. This is a necessary feature of a small tower where the sails pass close to the ground. Secondly, if the white paint is removed from those parts of the wall of the tower which is now within the warehouses, it will be found that underneath the paint is a layer of tar over the brickwork.

 In 1878 the mill was occupied by Joseph Thompson and it appears that at this date he decided to build the extensive range of outbuildings which in turn necessitated the raising of the tower. It is possible that he reused some of the materials from the Low Mill at Cottingham, demolished at this time, and which he also owned, in connection with the improvement works at Skidby in which case the claim that Skidby was Low Mill moved is partly true. There is some evidence to support the claim, as the main beams supporting the new floors in the mill tower are clearly the main timbers from old windmill sails, and some of the timbers in other parts of the new buildings also appear to be reused. Evidence to support the date of the improvement works can also be found in the miller’s accounts, where it is recorded that in 1879 a quantity of sand, lime, bricks and pantiles was purchased. The accounts also record payments to George Reed, millwright of Howden. 

 The present tower stands some 57 feet from ground level to the curb and the cap extends a further 17ft to the ball. The internal diameter at ground level is a little over 21 feet and narrows to 13ft 6” at the waist (approximately 37ft above ground level). The sail backs are 36ft long (originally 6” longer) and comprise eight bays. The angle of weather at the heel is 24 degrees but, on the driving side only, it changes to 22 degrees at sail bar 7, 20 degrees at sail bar 8 and 15 degrees at sail bar 9. The shades are made of canvas on a wire frame and measure 48” by 12” on the driving side and 40” by 12” on the leading side. The overall width of the sails is 9ft 5”. Each sail is fixed to the cast iron cross by a single king bolt and four clamps.

 The windshaft is cast iron with a compass-arm brakewheel, the eight arms being of cast iron and the rim timber, with twelve cast iron segments, each having 9 teeth. The diameter of the brakewheel is 7ft 4”. The wallower is cast iron, with 48 teeth. A timber ring fixed to the underside of the wallower originally powered the sack hoist, which comprised an endless chain passing over a grooved timber pulley with metal inserts to grip the chain. The neck bearing is brass.

 The cap is winded by an eight-bladed fan which can be disconnected to turn the cap by hand. The cap frame rests on cast iron pegs let into the underside of the frame. The gearing of the fan is such that it requires 1000 revolutions to turn the cap through 360 degrees. The internal diameter of the curb is 10ft 6” and the curb is made up of eight segments. Each segment has 18 teeth making 144 teeth in total to the rack around the curb. The cap is fitted with ten centring wheels which fit under a lip on the inside of the curb. Two centring wheels fixed side by side directly opposite the neck bearing, i.e. where the thrust is greatest, are each 19” in diameter, whereas the remaining eight wheels which are spread equidistant around the curb are thirteen and a half inches in diameter. The wheels are of cast iron, some with wrought iron ties.

 The octagonal section cast-iron upright shaft passes down to the spur wheel on the third floor where the stones are overdriven. The spur wheel is entirely of cast iron, being 6ft in diameter and having 102 teeth. The stone nuts are cast iron, being 14” in diameter with 22 wooden teeth. The mill has three pairs of  stones, a pair of French burrs 4ft 6” in diameter with the lettering “J Stapleton and Co., Makers, Hull 1851” around the eye; a pair of peak stones 4ft 6” diameter and a pair of composition stones 4ft in diameter each marked “A Helier Patent”; the runner stone is numbered 40474 and the bedstone 40475. These stones replaced a pair of French stones sometime after 1942. A small wooden wheel is fixed to the foot of the vertical downshaft which drives by leather belt a shaft on which the governors are mounted on the floor below. The spur wheel is protected by a rudimentary timber guard. The stone furniture is of simple construction, a particular feature being the base of the shoe under the grain hopper which is made of gauze and sifts out fine rubbish which it deposits on the mill floor at the side of the vat. The shoes have hardwood inserts where they come into contact with the quant.

 A fourth cog can be moved into mesh with the spur wheel, attached to a vertical shaft which passes downwards to the meal floor, where a bevel gear at one time drove a horizontal shaft which took power into the adjacent warehouse, then at floor level on the meal floor it carries a large belt pulley which may well have powered a dresser at some time, and finally passes down to the ground floor where it is connected by bevel gears (ratio 2:1) to a horizontal shaft which passes through the wall to a 30” diameter 6” face belt pulley outside the tower. This pulley was intended to be used as a drive for an external power source e.g. a traction engine, but it would not be possible to drive the millstones by this method as there is no clutch or similar arrangement to disconnect the sails.(It would be possible to remove one of the segments of the brakewheel but this would be a slow process). It also appears that at some time a drive has been carried upwards from the spur wheel to the bin floor, almost certainly to drive a corn screen. 

 The meal floor contains a single pair of governors which control all three stones. The stone spindles rest on brass footstep bearings, mounted on cast iron bridgetrees which in turn rest on timber brayers. The brayers are adjusted by large wing nuts and the gate to the grain shoe by thumb screws. There are a number of cast iron weights with hooks which can be hung on the steelyards connecting the governors to the tentering screws, which can be used to dampen the movement of the governors.

 As has been noted, in 1954 the use of wind power was discontinued and the mill tower set up for use as a grain silo. An elevator was installed, fed from a hopper let into the ground floor. At the top of the elevator the grain is deposited into a divided trunking system, controlled by metal gates, which enables the grain to be delivered on to the upper or lower bin floor. Further trunking enables the miller to collect grain from either of these two bin floors and deliver it to the ground floor, either back into the original hopper or into sacks. It will be noted that this elevator and trunking system completely bypasses the stone floor, although since milling has been restarted for demonstration purposes an additional chute has been added which delivers grain from a small bin on the lower bin floor into the hopper over the French stones.

In 1954 the west warehouse was fitted out as a provender mill, when the following machinery was installed:

(1) A Briddon and Fowler roller mill no.432. This was used at Skidby as an oat roller, one pair of rollers having been removed, but was originally installed in Thompsons’ Grosvenor Street Mill when that was remodelled by Briddon and Fowler in 1907.

(2) A Porteous No.1 “B” Type Scourer, Oat Crusher and Polisher.

(3) A Porteous No.1 1450 Type Cereal Cutter and Grain cleaner.

 These machines were powered by individual electric motors and were fed by an elevator which raised grain from the ground floor and discharged it into overhead horizontal U-section sheet iron trunking. An Archimedean screw turns in the trunking to convey the grain to whichever of the three machines the miller wishes to use, or alternatively a large storage bin. The treated meal and rubbish descended via wooden spouts to the floor below where it was bagged up.

 An inventory of 1942 indicated that there were a number of other pieces of machinery in various parts of the premises. The lower warehouse contained a conical mixer and a Richmond and Chandler oat roller. I understand a hammer mill also stood on the ground floor until 1966.

 The mill is now owned by Beverley Borough Council who have preserved it in full working order. The mill tower and provender mill have been retained exactly as they were at the end of their working lives, but the adjoining range of warehousing, stables, piggeries etc. has been set out as a museum relating to milling and grain production.


Tower mill


Tollerton mill is a four-storey brick tower mill which during its working life was whitewashed, both the brickwork and the ogee cap which was clad in galvanised iron sheeting and in fact is implied by Simmons to have been entirely of iron. There were four roller-reefing sails, the stocks measuring seven and three-quarter by eight and a half inches. Winding was by the usual fantail.(1)

 The iron windshaft, tapering to its tail, carried an 8ft wooden clasp-arm brakewheel with iron teeth in segments of seven. The brake was also of wood. The curb was iron mounted on wood with the rack inside. There were six centring wheels, two each side and two at the tail. The 4ft iron wallower had a wood friction ring bearing on a 22” wooden drum on the sack hoist bollard. The wooden upright shaft was 14” square(2). The great spur wheel was a wood clasp arm like the brakewheel; it was originally 7ft in diameter but this was increased to 7ft 4” by the addition of small wooden blocks packed closely together, to which a segmented iron cog ring was bolted. Beneath it on the upright shaft was a drum from which a belt went to the governor drive shaft; below this point the upright shaft was neatly scalloped and then round. There were two governors, the drive being at some point split; both were located in the ceiling of the ground floor. One was of the heavy compass pattern and the other of the similar, but rare cowhorn type. Three pairs of stones were installed on the second floor down: two 4ft 4” French burrs and one of 4ft 6” greys put in new towards the end of the mill’s working life. The stone nuts were 19” in diameter, two having octagonal quants and one round. A fourth nut on a vertical shaft drove a dresser in the ground floor ceiling via an inclined layshaft and bevel nut and a 2ft 6” wheel on the shaft of the machine. Also on the ground floor was a fireplace as at Yapham mill and probably others in the region, with flue.(3) There were an oat crusher and wire machine on the third floor where, hanging on the wall, could be seen various wooden millwrights’ patterns for teeth, stone nuts etc.

 The mill was built in 1815 and in continuous use up until 1936. In 1937 or 8 repairs were carried out at a cost of £110, of which £10 was contributed by the owner, Mr Mitchell. However a gale the following winter again damaged the mill and weakened the sails, and as the cost of repairing this was considered too much work ceased. However by December 1940 Thompsons, the millwrights of Alford in Lincolnshire, had fitted a new rode baulk and carried out some repairs to the cap at the instigation of the Wind and Watermill Section of the SPAB.(4) In the summer of 1941 a sail blew off(5). Regrettably, despite the SPAB’s efforts to preserve it the mill was eventually converted into a house and the machinery scrapped. The tower has been slightly reduced in height.

(1) HESS

(2) Ibid

(3) RW 1956 in HESS

(4) HESS

(5) Donald W Muggeridge August 1942, in HESS


Tower mill, standing today


Gregory: Yapham mill was built in 1805 by William Daniel, millwright of nearby Pocklington. The height of the tower has clearly been raised since that date as evidenced by the shape of the tower and the fact that originally there were two doors at ground level directly opposite each other.

 The cap and sails have long disappeared but the curb is still in place and some form of flat roof has been added. The ground floor (which is the meal floor) and the first floor (the stone floor) still contain some of the original machinery. The timber which remains indicates that William Daniel took pride in his work, as the timberwork is very nicely finished although naturally subject to some deterioration over the years.

 The stone floor originally contained three pairs of stones, two pairs of 4ft diameter French burrs and one pair of 4ft 2” peaks. There is no maker’s name on the ring around the eye of one of the French stones and the stone has disappeared from the other pair. However a piece of a broken casting possibly from the missing runner stone indicates that they were from one of the Hull firms of French stone makers. The upright shaft is timber and the overdrive great spur wheel cast iron, 6ft diameter and with 84 teeth. A number of brackets have been bolted onto the top of the spur wheel from which it would appear some sort of bevel gear or belt was driven off it at one time. Only one quant remains, driving the peak stones, with a wooden stone nut 18” in diameter and having 23 teeth. The glut boxes for the quants to the French stones are cut into the main timbers, whereas the glut box for the peak stones is cast iron, let into the overhead beam. The stone furniture has disappeared.

 On the meal floor the tentering gear for the French stones remains, comprising a timber bridgetree and a brayer with three-handled nut on the tentering screw. It is not clear whether any governors were ever installed. The mill at one time contained a screen cylinder and its location can be seen. The ground floor also contains a fireplace with a chimney discharging through the side of the tower at second-floor level.

 It is possible that when first built the mill had only two pairs of stones. The two main beams supporting the stone floor which are set 38” apart carry the two pairs of French stones and a cross timber which holds the main shaft footstep bearing. The whole of the tentering gear is very nicely suspended from these two beams, thus giving the appearance of a well thought-out arrangement. The peak stones however are not an integral part of this arrangement.