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Technical descriptions of English windmills



Mill Green

Tower mill, gone


The bottle-shaped tower was octagonal to the first floor and then circular until the curb(1). The Fenland-type boat-shaped cap, with straight roof ridge and sloping front and rear gables, had vertical boarding over horizontal at the sides. It was winded by a tailpole, this being braced by iron bars to the outriggers projecting from the cap.

 The sails were anti-clockwise, and all the machinery was of wood including the auxiliary drives(2). The top bearing of the upright shaft was of stone(3); Wailes describes the shaft as having “a plain pintle and thrust pot bearing”. The great spur wheel was a double clasp-arm; the top and bottom arms were not parallel with one another and looked as if they came from elsewhere or had been added. Three pairs of stones, one peak and two burr, were overdriven. The peak and one of the burrs had a wooden nut, the second burr an iron one. The quants had wooden bearings(4). According to Hawksley the burr stones shared a single governor on the stone floor, which was presumably driven from the upright shaft. It was on a long spindle which terminated in the floor. Wailes states “the governor drive was by countershaft introduced between the stone spindle and the governors.” The stones were raised for dressing by a crane and bail(5). Mr Hawksley seems to suggest that one set of tentering gear (for a burr stone) was of iron, and the other two wooden. The shoes were of the type more commonly found in the north of the country, in which the shoe itself is fixed and a slide within it is agitated(6). The sack hoist was driven from the crowntree, a face gear, and the slack belt tensioned by jockey pulley.

The dust floor was set fairly low.


(1) RW 19/4/1950

(2) HRH in HESS

(3) Ibid

(4) Ibid

(5) RW 19/4/1950

(6) HRH in HESS

(7) RW 19/4/1950 


Post mill, gone


This open-trestle post mill was possibly built in 1778, which date was inscribed within preceded by the initials “TB”(1) . The body was built of oak. The main post was rounded and 18” in diameter; it is said to have been cut from a tree in Old Weston Grove.(2) It had a round collar below the spout floor(3). The sails were single-sided. At some point a wooden windshaft was replaced with an iron one, and this had a separate pintle inserted into it at the tail. There were three two-piece iron reinforcing bands riveted on the shaft behind the square for the tailwheel. An iron cog ring in segments was fitted to the wooden brakewheel, which had been converted from compass arm to clasp arm, and was mounted on the windshaft by a separate iron box.(4) Two pairs of stones were overdriven, one in the head and one in the tail. The sack hoist was driven by friction from the rear face of the brakewheel rim, as also was the dresser via a layshaft and chain belt.(5)

(1) TJM October 1941, in HESS

(2) TJM in HESS

(3) RW 19/4/1950

(4) Ibid

(5) TJM October 1941, in HESS



Smock mill, standing today (structure only, and converted to a house, although windshaft and other items of machinery were lying on the ground in the 1970s)

There was an auxiliary sack hoist, and a vertical winch for raising the runner stones, operated by a worm and worm wheel on the drum(1).

(1) RW 19/4/50


Smock (corn) mill, standing today


This mill is believed to have been built in 1813, 1816 at the latest, by the Soham millwright Robert Hunt. It is too early to be the work of Fysons, the other local firm.(1) It ceased work in 1938 and after standing derelict for a number of years was purchased by a preservation society, the Wicken Windmill Partnership, who have since restored it to full working order. It periodically produces flour (requiring I am told a 15 mph wind to start it up and a 20 mph one to work smoothly). 

 It is one of only two surviving twelve-sided smock mills in the country, the other being at Ibstone in Buckinghamshire. The oak-framed tower is clad in vertically laid weatherboarding and stands on a circular two-storey brick base, the whole being tarred. There are four floors: combined bin and dust floor, stone floor, spout floor (partly within the smock and partly the base) and ground floor. No stage is provided. The inner wall of the base is stepped to form a ledge for the sills to rest on. The uprights and diagonals of the stone floor framing rest on wooden footings nailed to the upper faces of the sills, as do the cant posts. A  metal reinforcing strap braces every third post to the wall of the base. During the mill’s working life there was a low upstand of mortar around the outer faces of the sills to prevent general damp and draught ingress; it was decided to remove this in the restoration as it would cause premature rotting of the sill plates.(2)

 Originally the mill had white-painted horizontal weatherboarding and a white base. It is currently the only vertically-boarded smock mill in the country. At first it possessed common sails and a stage and was hand-winded; the patent sails and fan were fitted by Hunts, the Soham millwrights, in 1838. A separate steam mill working one pair of stones and a bolter was in existence by 1864; it was abandoned in 1899 when a third pair of stones was installed in the windmill and fitted up with an engine drive.(3)


Each panel is divided into two by a transom at two-thirds height. Above the transom is a single upright with two diagonals one on either side; below, a single upright (sometimes two) broken by a diagonal going either northwest-southeast or southwest-northeast. In the panel with the window the construction is the same for the upper half; in the lower the window is framed between a complete upright and one broken by a diagonal going to the foot of the other.


Four panels only were examined (examining all the panels on a twelve-sided smock mill is as you can imagine a bit of a chore!). Their construction is the same as the ones on the dust floor. The windows are framed between the uprights above the diagonal. In the second panel going clockwise from north a timber with no apparent purpose is bolted across the faces of the two uprights.

 The short section of framing that is within the spout floor consists mainly of two diagonals in each panel.

 The cap is of the Cambridgeshire “pepperpot” type, a quite steeply tapered dome which is vertically boarded, the boards extending down to protect the curb, and has a short finial. At the rear is a cowling, which would originally have housed the hand winding gear, like that on Haddenham mill, forming a short tunnel with a door in the rear gable giving access onto the fanstage for maintenance. There is also a storm hatch above the neck of the windshaft. Winding is by an eight-bladed fan whose vertical supports are stayed to the apex of the dome roof of the cap. In the restoration a ladder is nailed to one of the supports to make access to the fan easier.

 The fan gearing is thought mostly to have come from Upwood mill, Huntingdonshire, in the early 1900s(4). The bevel nut on the fan spindle meshes with a toothed iron gear on the vertical shaft, and the drive is then transferred via a further bevel nut and toothed gears, the latter on a horizontal shaft at a right-angle to the worm shaft, on which is a final, wooden bevel gear with which the inner of them engages. The wooden bevel gear unlike the rest of the mechanism may be a relic from the days when the mill was winded by hand(5).

 The cap frame consists of breast beam, with two short longitudinal timbers connecting the latter to the cap circle, sheers, sprattle beam, tailbeam, and a slotted longitudinal member abutting the upper face of the latter, which is rebated to take it, and connecting it to a curved timber at the rear with slots in which are mounted three of the truck wheels. The longitudinal member serves as mounting for the rocking lever, which passes through it; the striking rod emerges from the tailbeam to terminate beneath the longitudinal member in a metal plate to which the lever is also attached. There are two further truck wheels one at the forward end of each sheer, in wedge-shaped blocks fixed to the undersides of the timbers. On each side two short radial projecting timbers connect with further curved ones, resting on their upper faces.

 The curb is of iron on a wooden ring. The cap turns on fifty rollers 3 inches in diameter, which are within a cage mounted on the underside of the cap circle and fitting over the lip of the curb.

 The four double-shuttered sails are 9ft wide with a 63ft span. They turn clockwise, with a sharp twist, as is the local tradition (6). The iron windshaft has especially deep canisters, allowing longer stocks to be fitted(7). It is square in front of and at the brakewheel, with an arrangement of rods bracing it to the mounting for the latter, then octagonal with a taper towards the tail journal. Cast integrally with it are two square plates two inches thick, on which the brakewheel should be keyed only they are located too far forward with the wheel thus having to be further back on the shaft than it ought to. David Pearce of the Wicken Windmill Partnership believes this to have been an error made by Hunts when they fitted the shaft in 1850, as entered in their records, rather than that it came from a post mill. In the current restoration lengths of angle iron form a cradle on which the wheel sits. It is a large wooden clasp-arm carrying an iron cog ring and operated on by a wooden brake. It and the wallower both date from the current restoration; the latter has aluminium teeth(8).


There is one window, on the east side in the fourth panel of the smock frame going clockwise from north. There were originally four on this floor, but three were removed when the vertical boarding was fitted by Hunts (it was a trademark of theirs) in the 1890s, at which time the mill seems to have undergone major alterations. The sack hoist is on the north side, and the bins on the west and east. On the northeast, within the second panel of the framing, again going clockwise from north, are the stairwell and a raised sack trap.

 The wallower is of wood with doubled clasp arms. It is fitted with a friction ring to drive the sack hoist, which is likewise all-wooden, via a solid disc on the bollard of the hoist. The latter is built up with sheathing where the chain passes around it. The mechanism is mounted in the usual supporting frame with a lever provided for putting it in and out of gear.

 The upright shaft is wooden and sixteen-sided throughout its length, apart from a square section, with chamfered corners, beneath the wallower on the dust floor. It is in two sections, with a dog coupling, above which the shaft is bound with three iron hoops, just above the level of the floor.

 On the northeast side a layshaft is mounted between one of the vertical posts of the sack hoist support frame and a block of wood

bolted between the upright in the third (going clockwise from north) smock frame panel and the right-hand diagonal of that panel. To near the top of the cant post to the left of it is an iron carrying the pulley the sack hoist chain goes to before descending to the floors below.


This floor is plastered and whitewashed internally. There are windows at the compass points in the first, fourth, seventh and tenth panels going clockwise from north (hereafter all such orientations taken from this point).

 The underdriven stones, whose casings and furniture are new, are on the east and west sides, not quite in line with one another. On the south side a circle of boarding indicates the former position of the third, smaller (4ft) and engine-driven pair of stones which were installed around 1890 but later removed; its nut and spindle are now used to drive the jog scry on the ground floor. The western stones came from Gamlingay mill when that was demolished in the 1970s(9). The eastern stones were installed at the same time that the engine-driven pair were put in. The damsels are mounted on extensions of the stone spindles.

 The inscription “FN JB HC” is pencilled on the transom of one of the panels.


The smock accounts for about a third of the floor’s height. The beams of the H-frame supporting the upright shaft rest on top of the base; they run east-west. There are windows on the east and west sides and a loading door in the base on the south side. The stairwell and the ladder to the stone floor are to the southwest.

 The bridge beam is wooden. Like the wallower the great spur wheel has doubled clasp arms which are very substantial. Two iron cog rings are bolted to the rim, one on the side for the drive to the stones and from the engine and the other on the top for the machine drive. On the underside are boltholes were a smaller diameter cog ring was once fitted for the machine drive alone.

 The large stone nuts are of iron mortice type. On the northeast  side the spur wheel engages with a large iron bevel nut on a layshaft going to near the wall and carrying at that end a large solid wood disc from which a belt goes down to the ground floor to drive auxiliary machinery. At mid-point on the shaft a belt travels from a flanged wood disc to a new machine on the north side of the floor. The neck of the shaft rests on a bearing on a timber hinged between two vertical posts, which is used for taking it in/out of gear. Originally the shaft passed diagonally across the mill, and it can be seen where the northern main H-frame timber is rebated to facilitate its passage. 

 The engine drive was via a doubled “horse and jockey” pulley with eight curved spokes, still to be seen on the exterior of the mill on the northwest side. The layshaft enters the floor through the smock section, its other end terminating in a bearing on a horizontal timber fixed between two of the cant posts. A bevelled all-iron nut engages with downturned, six-armed bevelled iron mortice gear on a spindle at whose upper end, close to the eastern stone nut, is a further all-iron nut, with four arms, meshing with the great spur wheel. The lower bearing of the spindle rests in a cheek piece bolted to the side face of the support timber for the stone spindle.

 Small pulleys (riggers) mounted in the ceiling are used in lifting the nuts out of gear.

 The bridgetree for the eastern stones is of wood and mounted longitudinally on hangers between the main timbers of the H-frame. The arrangement for the western stones is the same except that the “bridgetree” is fixed, being essentially to support the stone spindle, the extension to which terminates beneath the timber in an iron tentering bar. On the south side two longitudinal timbers off the southern main beam of the H-frame run to the wall and between them is mounted, as with the western wind stones, a fixed timber supporting the spindle of the engine stones with an iron tentering bar below.

 Three governors are provided, one for each pair of stones and driven by belt from the stone spindles. That for the western stones is on the north side of the mill, that for the eastern the northeast side on a timber running north-south between the wall and the southern main H-frame beam, and that for the engine stones on the north-west on a timber running diagonally off the northern main H-frame beam. The steelyard from governor(1) runs south to the link on the timber supporting the western stone spindle, from which there is a connection to the tentering bar, a threaded rod and screw being provided at that point for hand adjustment. From governor(2) the steelyard goes to a link on the governor’s support timber, the mechanism then on the bridgetree via a timber pivoted between one of the vertical posts of the machine drive support frame and a hanger; the timber runs northeast-southwest to near where the bridgetree joins the northern main H-frame beam, at which point there is a link to the south-west end of the bridgetree, with a hand screw again provided. Governor(3)’s steelyard goes northwest to the link on the support timber for the spindle of the engine-driven stones, with the same arrangement as for the other sets of tentering gear. 

 There are spouts from the stone floor in the ceiling on the west and south sides.


The single entrance door is on the west side, the windows on the north and south, and the ladder to the spout floor on the north. The belt from the machine drive layshaft on the spout floor goes to one of three pulleys on a north-south layshaft; from the third pulley is driven, again by belt, a large flour machine. The bearings for the layshaft are on lateral timbers fixed between hangers from the ceiling. There is also a jog scry on this floor driven from the nut of the former southern stones.

Based on survey carried out by G Blythman on 5th July 2014. Thanks to David Pearce and Alan Wallis.

(1)   Dave Pearce 28/7/2016

(2)   Ibid

(3)   Guide pamphlet for SPAB day tour of Cambridgeshire mills,           2009

(4-9) Ibid


Tower mill, standing today (converted to house with cap and windshaft but no other machinery)


A short, dumpy tower mill built of brick plastered and tarred. The cap was domed and there were four double-shuttered patent sails with wooden shutters(1). The fantail drive was unusual, with a worm on the main spindle and then a single bevel reduction. The wallower appears to have been of iron, with six tapered T-arms, and the remainder of the machinery wooden, with iron cog rings on the brakewheel and great spur wheel. There were 120 teeth on the brakewheel. The upright shaft was in two sections, the upper of pine and the lower, which may have come from another mill, of oak.(2) Two pairs of stones were underdriven(3), and Wailes states that there was “a jog scry or lifting machine”. The governor was of lag type(4). 

(1) HESS

(2) RW 19/4/1950

(3) HESS

(4) RW 19/4/1950

WILLINGHAM, Station Road (Ingle’s Mill)

Smock mill, base remains


The mill had a three-piece iron windshaft with a flange coupling in front of the brakewheel. There were four pairs of stones, one of which could be worked by engine with its own independent drive.(1) The sack hoist mechanism was unusual. A vertical shaft from the great spur wheel drove down to a pair of bevels and a countershaft in the ceiling of the ground floor. The drive was then taken upwards by slack belt.(2)

(1) RW 19/4/1950

(2) RW 19/4/1950, 10/1/1973

WILLINGHAM, Cattell’s Mill

Smock mill, standing today


Believed to have been the work of Clarke of Houghton, Hunts, according to local millers(1), the splendid Cattell’s Mill at Willingham is undoubtedly one of the finest smock mills in the country. One of that handful of windmills which remained in use into the second half of the twentieth century, in this case stopping c1962, it has survived in a mechanically complete condition although nonetheless requiring extensive repairs during the 1980s and 1990s. It is maintained in good order by the present owner but is not grinding at the moment as the shutters have had to be removed from the sails.

 A large mill, with a considerable floor area and comfortably spacious despite the amount of machinery which is packed into it (it is the largest smock mill in the country in terms of internal area(2)), it is octagonal and tarred black apart from the white-painted cap, sails and fantail. It stands on a high single-storey brick base, with doors above ground level and reached by stone steps. The upper walls of the base are strengthened externally with four iron bars which form an octagon around that of the base itself, unfortunately passing in front of and slightly marring the effect of the rather nice datestone bearing the inscription “W HUCKLE 1828”. The latter commemorates William Huckle, for whom the mill was built, and the date at which it was constructed. There is no stage. For lighting the smock has both normal windows and a number of small apertures without glass and closed by hinged door-like covers. There is a loading door on the stone floor on the west side directly above one of the entrances to the base.


In each panel there is an upright with two diagonals on each side of it. The inner diagonals socket into the upright, the outer into a short centrally-placed timber on the underside of the curb, into which the upright fits. The timber does not run the whole width of the panel.


With the exception of the northern each panel has a stout central upright flanked by two slenderer ones which are broken by two diagonals going to near the top of the upright, above which point there is a transom, and forming the usual inverted V. On the northern panel the transom is halfway down and there are three uprights, the central one reinforced by diagonals going to about mid-height of it. 


Alternate panels have transoms a third of the way down. Above the transoms are three uprights with diagonals between the cant posts and the first and third uprights, going from the bottom left to top right hand corner of the space formed. Below the transom there are again three uprights, not staggered relative to those above, with diagonals going from halfway down the central upright to the bottom left and bottom right hand corners of the panel, breaking the other two uprights. The other panels have a transom at the top and three uprights with diagonals from halfway down the central upright to the bottom left and bottom right hand corners of the panel, again breaking the other two uprights. The panel containing the loading door has a transom at the top and five uprights, the third terminating at the lintel of the door, whose frame is formed by the lintel and the second and fourth uprights. The windows, where they are provided, are framed up between one of the cant posts and the upright member of each panel.

The elegant finialled cap is canvas-covered and provided with an attractive gallery the original version of which, one suspects, was intended purely to make the mill look nicer as there was no actual surface for anyone carrying out maintenance to walk on, merely a number of short projecting timbers from which sprang the vertical posts of the railing. In the current restoration a simple walkway is provided.  

 The mill is equipped with four double-shuttered patent sails, struck by rocking lever (a pin being used to hold the latter with the shutters open rather than the usual swinging safety catch(3)), and a lofty six-bladed fantail. The diagonal members of the fan supporting structure were fitted with prominent handrails for safety purposes; these have been omitted in the present restoration.

 The breast beam is connected to the lateral beam in front of the brakewheel by two short longitudinal timbers, one from near each end of it, rather than the sheers which are not continuous, beginning at the first lateral beam and terminating at the tailbeam from which another pair of short members, this time angled inwards, go to the final lateral beam. The curb is live, turning on ten rollers: two (larger than the others) under the breast beam inside the short longitudinal members, one each at the ends of the first transverse beam, one on each of two short timbers projecting at the sides just aft of the sprattle beam, one further back on each sheer, and one each on the ends of the final lateral beam. All the rollers are of the same type.

 Six truck wheels are provided, all large and of iron with six spokes. Working from front to back, the first two are on blocks bolted at angles to the sheers jus aft of where they tenon into the first transverse beam. Then there are one each on the short side timbers and on the ends of the final lateral beam.

  The windshaft is of iron and hexagonal or octagonal (I could not see which) in front of the very large brakewheel, to allow which to turn sections are cut out of the sheers. The 9ft 3in diameter (4) wheel is an all-wood clasp-arm and is hung on a square boss on the shaft. The brake is also wooden.


There is a window on the southwest panel of the framing just to the right of the cant post and another, very small one in the centre of the panel. The stairwell is on the southwest side. A second stairwell has been provided on the east side as part of modifications during restoration.

 The bevelled all-iron wallower is painted white, along with the upright shaft, also iron, which has a large dog coupling just above floor level. As is the usual practice, the top bearing of the shaft turns in a casting bolted to the rearside face of the sprattle beam. On the south side is the top of a housing for a grain elevator, with an iron pulley and layshaft at the side for its drive. On the northeast side above the sack trap a small flanged four-armed iron pulley, receiving the chain from the sack hoist on the floor below, is mounted on the wooden part of the curb.


This is very low. There are windows on the northeast, northwest, southeast and southwest sides; these are not centrally placed as usual but located just to the right or left of a cant post. The southeast and northwest ones are opposite each other, the northeast and northwest ones not (looking north, the southeast and southwest windows are to the right of the cant post, the northwest one just to its left, the southwest to the right again). The stairwell and the ladder to the dust floor are on the southwest side.

 On the west side are the trunking for the “up” and “down” stages of the grain elevator, the electric motor which drove it, and the sack hoist. The latter, positioned just above floor level, is in the form of an iron-straked wood bollard, nicely worn through use on which is a large flanged wooden pulley with four short compass arms. The rim of the pulley is in four segments and four straight lands, as on a gearwheel of this type, form a square opening at the centre within which the arms are located. A belt travels to the floor below through openings in the boards. The bollard turns at the wall end in a horizontal timber fixed between a cant post and the central upright of the western panel of the smock framing; at the other end, in a bearing on a vertical post which terminates at the ceiling where it is bolted to the side face of a joist.

 The bins themselves are missing, which serves to further emphasise the roominess of the mill.

STONE FLOOR (Bottom floor of smock) Here there are windows on the southeast and northwest sides, to the right and left respectively of the cant post. The stairwell is on the southwest side, extending into the southern. On the south side are a Booth’s patent Victor oat clipper and the ladder to the bin floor. As noted above there is a loading door on the west side.

 There are three pairs of overdriven stones on the northwest, southwest and southeast sides, in octagonal tuns on raised octagonal segmented wooden plinths. The horses etc. are wooden. The northwest stones have had new furniture fitted and I understand it is intended to work them. The southwest ones have had their casing removed. The southeast pair retain what is clearly their original furniture. According to Rex Wailes the runner stones (of all pairs presumably) were at one time raised using a vertical winch with a worm gear on its drum(5).

 The longitudinal timbers of the H-frame carrying the upright shaft run northwest-southeast. A vertical post supports the eastern timber at about mid-point. The 8-armed iron mortice great spur wheel, 9ft 9in in diameter(6), has a secondary cog ring, also iron mortice, bolted to the underside of the arms. The large all-iron four-armed stone nuts are mounted on long two-section quants with couplings. The top bearing of the northwest quant is mounted in a casting on the side face of a lateral timber bridging the main H-frame beams, at mid-length of whom is the bridge beam. Two lateral members one on each side of the H-frame and tenoned into the timbers on a line with the bridge beam serve as the mountings for the southwest and southeast quants. On the southeast side a further lateral timber between the main H-frame beams supports the neck of the square iron auxiliary drive layshaft, which carries a bevel nut meshing with the secondary cog ring. Although I did not inspect it closely the timber must be adjustable to take the nut out of gear. The shaft carries at approximately mid-length an iron belt drum and a flanged wooden pulley. What these drove is not clear but the mill at one time had a flour machine and an oat crusher(7). The shaft terminates at the wall where it carries a solid wood flanged drum from which a leather belt, still in situ, goes up to the bin floor to drive the sack hoist. It passes under a fourth lateral timber which towards its eastern end carries the bearing for a vertical iron shaft which goes down through a hole in the flooring to the spout floor and is driven via a fourth nut off the great spur wheel on the northeast side. Between the third and fourth lateral timbers are the twin wooden trunks of the grain elevator, the auxiliary drive layshaft passing between them.

 Preserved on this floor as relics are a 6-armed all-iron gearwheel, a short square iron layshaft and what appears to be a wooden windshaft or main post with an iron pintle and gudgeon. I believe these parts come from the now vanished post mill at Fenstanton.


This floor is within the base. There are doors on the west and east sides and windows on the north and south sides. The ladder to the stone floor is on the northeast side. There is a small square aperture in the brickwork near ground level. On the southeast side is a spare stone casing which it is intended to use as a meal bin.

This floor is a jungle of equipment, with three sets of pulleys and layshafts plus tentering gear for the three sets of stones. The pulleys must have driven ancillary plant but it is not clear what this was or where it was located.

 There is one governor for each pair of stones. From the northeast governor the steelyard goes west-east to the link, then south-north to a further link from which its final stage runs west-east to the quant extension. The latter is mounted on an iron bridgetree at the point where it bifurcates to form a V-shape. A leather belt goes from a flanged wooden belt drum on the governor spindle to a corresponding drum on the quant extension. The other bridgetrees are also iron, and on V-shaped iron hangers.

 The northwest governor is mounted on the crossbar of an H-shaped wooden frame spanning the corner of the northeast and west sides of the mill. A leather belt goes west-east from a wooden flanged belt drum on the governor spindle to a flanged iron belt drum with four short arms on the quant extension, the bridgetree running south-north with a tentering screw at the southern end. The steelyard runs northwest from the governor to a link, then at an angle northward to the quant extension.

 The governor for the southwest stones is mounted on a beam running east-west in the centre of the floor between two hangers. The belt goes from another flanged wooden drum to the quant extension. There is provision for driving these stones by engine; the twelve-spoked pulley may be seen on the outside wall of the base near ground level (the floor is sunken). At the wall the bearing for the cylindrical iron layshaft is on a casting mounted in a square recess in the brickwork. On the shaft, going from left to right, are a large iron double pulley with two sets of six curved and twelve straight spokes respectively, and then a 6-armed iron bevel gear meshing with a horizontal 4-armed bevelled iron gearwheel on the quant extension, the latter supported by, again, an iron bridgetree on curved iron hangers bolted to the stone bearers. About halfway along the shaft between the double pulley and the bevel gears is an additional bearing on an iron hanger bolted to a timber which in turn is bolted to another timber fixed off-centre to a stone bearer.

 On the southeast side is another system of pulleys which appears to be for an engine drive, operating on the great spur wheel, whose use was at some point discontinued. In the corner between this and the south side an iron layshaft carries, from left to right, a four-armed iron pulley and a very large iron pulley with 14 arms. At the opposite end of the shaft to the wall the shaft turns in a casting supported by an iron hanger bolted at an angle to the eastern of the two main ceiling beams. In the east/southeast corner a square iron layshaft turns in a casting mounted on a wooden frame depending from the ceiling joists near the wall. The shaft carries, from left to right: (a) a solid wood segmented pulley with 4 ribbed iron arms; (b) an 8-spoked wood pulley; (c) a bevelled 4-armed iron pulley meshing with a horizontal bevelled 4-armed iron mortice pulley on the secondary upright shaft from the stone floor. The foot of the shaft turns in a bearing on a wooden timber on hangers from the ceiling. A belt goes from the four-armed iron pulley on the first layshaft to the eight-spoked one on the second. 

 In all this is very modern, by traditional windmill standards, and powerful mill, with much use of ironwork in the machinery, and gearwheels made large to fit its dimensions. Among other refinements it had a speaking tube enabling those working in it to communicate with one another more easily, although I did not see this on the occasion of my visit.

Description based on survey carried out by Guy Blythman 9th May 2010

(1) HESS

(2) P Filby 5/11/2008

(3) RW 19/4/1950

(4) Ibid

(5) Ibid

(6) 19/4/1950

(7) HRH in HESS


Leach’s Mill

Tower mill, standing today (tower only, reduced in height)


A very tall mill, with nine (originally seven) floors, which had twice been heightened. If the mound on which it stood is included it was c90ft to the curb. There was an iron stage at second floor level. A 6-foot diameter iron ring, apparently for mounting part of the striking gear, was fitted in front of the cross carrying the eight sails. The mill had common sails before being raised. The large iron windshaft tapered from 18” at the neck journal to 15” at the tail end. The brakewheel was also iron, while the great spur wheel was a wooden clasp-arm with an iron mortice rim bolted on. Four pairs of stones, located on the third floor, were driven.(1)

(1) RW 19/4/50


Smock mill, standing today


From Millnotes, published by TIMS 1974:

Denis Sanders: A Cambridgeshire smock mill: West Wratting

West Wratting, Cambs, is an extremely interesting mill, small, cramped and ugly, with a number of curious features.  Indications of change and adaptation can be seen, the significance of which may best be appreciated after prolonged study. However the following incomplete notes are the result of a single visit on 30 April 1960, in company with K G Farries, who took an excellent series of interior and exterior photographs, while I examined the fabric, then retaining the working sails and most of the milling gear.

  {The mill is} a small three-floored octagonal smock on a round brick base, with pepperpot cap and four sails, clockwise viewed from the front; one pair is of patents, one of cloth. {The cap is} hand-winded, with a heavy wooden tailpole and side braces to a wide-span turning beam in the cap. The sheers extend at the rear and carry a vertical wooden slotted guide for the striking lever, with pulley over top; also a chain tie to the tailpole.

 The smock is horizontally boarded on eight sides, but overlaid with vertical boards and cover strips on the four southern (or weather) sides. An engine drive pulley is mounted low over the east door.

  There are eleven bays to the double-shuttered patent sails, and the bars are tenoned into the hemlaths, with a wood pin through the tenon tail, like a cog shank fixing.  Hemlaths present their broad edges to direction of rotation, and bars have barefaced tenons.  The common sails, on the forward stock, do not have this unusual feature.  Pairs of deep timber clamps used on both stocks.

Red brick base, circular and tarred, with slight batter.  About 7 feet (2.13m) high, measured outside, doors on west (now bricked in) and east sides. Former windows on north and south sides, both bricked in.  Internal diameter about 16 feet (4.88m), thickness of brickwork 18 inches (457mm).

  Two pairs of underdriven stones on first floor, on 8 foot 9 inch (2.67mm) centres; both bedstones burrs, with peak runner on west  side, burr on east.  Short wooden bridge trees between pair of main beams set across door lintels.  These beams give 6 foot 3 inch (1.91m) headroom over concrete floor, are 11 and a half inches (292mm) square, on 4 foot (1.22m) centres, and carry between them at mid-point the wooden sprattle of same section.  1 inch (25mm) iron rods on either side of sprattle tie the beams together, and a 6 foot (152mm) square wooden post gives direct central support from ground.  The west governor is between the main beams close to wall, the east one (damaged) in north-east corner. 

  Fixed ends of bridge trees are twin tenoned and carried by short vertical timbers bolted up to inside faces of the 11 and a half inch (292mm) square beams.  Each has an associated bray, of wood, carried parallel and close to the inside faces of the beams, with the neat arrangement of being in the opposite sense.  Thus the west bridge tree is pivoted at north end and its bray fixed on the south beam, while the east is pivoted at south end, with bray on north beam.

  Both brays are pivoted towards mill centre, and the tentering controls, of downturned cowhorn type, are just inside the doors and very dangerous, particularly the east which has a longer bray – 3 ft 9 inch (1.14m) overall, compared to three foot (0.91m) of west – and gives only 5 foot 4 inch (1.63m) headroom.

Both bridge trees have bridging boxes, and both stone nuts are raised out of gear, east by twin rods and ring, west by an all-wood rigger carried by two wood brackets like roller towel fittings.  When in use the control cord was belayed to a large wooden marine-type cleat.

  Stone floor beams are 9 feet (229mm) square, on 6 foot (1.83m) centres, and run east-west, same as the larger ones below, with about 24 inch (610mm) clear vertically between the two pairs.  These beams are most unusually made from two full-section pieces.  Each one has an angled splice joint centred about 18 inches (457mm) east of mill centre, with the splice 21 inches (533mm) long.  On each side of each splice is an iron tie 3 feet (914mm) long, dogged at its ends, and the splices are double-bolted vertically.  This scheme was probably used in order to assemble the beams in position, without disturbance to the structure and boarding, during the reconstruction.

  The beams are mounted between opposing cant posts and carried by a special adaption. The eight smock sills, 7 feet by 5 feet (178mm by 127mm), have been supplemented by eight extra sections 12 inches by 4 and a half inches (305mm X 114mm), fixed flat over them across the corners, butting inside faces of cant posts, and forming footings for eight vertical timbers spiked to these faces.  On the east and west quarters they are about 14 inches high, and 6 and a half inches by 4 inches (165mm X 102mm) thick, and form four short legs across which the stone floor beams stand.  On the north and south quarters the four timbers are about six feet (1.83m) high, 7 feet (178mm) wide and tapering upwards from 4 feet (102mm) to 1 foot (25mm) thick, as strengthening spurs for the posts.

  The bedstones are carried by pairs of bearers between floor beams; runners still in place, exposed because cases, horses and hoppers all gone.  The great spur gear has double clasp arms and wooden rim, with iron segment teeth replacing wooden cogs.  Spur is about 7 feet 6 inches (2.29m) diameter, mounted close over sprattle, and has a slightly bevelled iron gear ring on underside of rim for machine drives. 

  Dresser drive was curious, due to cramped conditions.  An iron wood-cogged nut about 14 feet (356mm) diameter, on an iron shaft, takes the drive off the downturned ring below great spur, on west side.  Inner end of the shaft is carried by a beam pivoted to raise and lower nut in or out of gear.  This beam is between the main pair, inside the west bridge tree, and the nut (with a close-set wood pulley) is right alongside latter, the shaft passing over (or through) bridge tree in a special chase cut to clear it. 

  The shaft carries a second wooden pulley, 18 inches (457mm) diameter, at its outer end, which drove up to a countershaft having two more wooden pulleys, the driven one 14 inches (356mm), the other 24 inches (610mm) higher up, thus giving clearance for the large one to drive right across to the dresser hard against the south side of ground floor. 

  The eight pine cant posts are (out of) 6 and a half (165mm) square, and 17 feet (5.18m) long with two sets of transoms centred about 7 feet (2.13m) and 14 feet over the sills.  Crossed and halved bracing is used in the sixteen main panels, with three lines of vertical studs in each quarter.  The eight small upper panels have a central vertical, and two braces forming a “V”.  The transoms (which play no part in carrying the floors) and crossed braces are pine, 5 and a half inches X 3 inches (140mm X 76mm), all with long sides flat to frame, and all tenoned into cant posts with single pin fixings.  Rent lathing is nailed to exposed inside faces of weatherboarding, as key for plastering in all panels, between the timbers.

  Ex-post mill ladder strings seem to have been used for making the bin floor beams; they are pine, 9 and a half deep by 4 and a half wide (241mm X 114mm), on five feet 2 inch (1.57m) centres, and run   east-west, similar to the lower two pairs.  They are housed into the inside faces of the cant posts, have the tread housings (from their former use) blocked with wood, and the north beam has two heavy iron hooks bolted up on its south face, for use in conjunction with the vertical wooden millstone-raising winch on north side of stone floor.

  The winch consists of a long wooden drum, footed on a braced frame, and carried at the top by a wooden bearing block bolted to a ceiling joist.  Operation was by a detachable hand crank, with iron worm gearing at lower end of drum. A thick rope was used, and the self-locking action of the worm, automatically sustaining the load, must have made this a most useful piece of equipment.

  Since stone and bin floors (first and second) are not based on transoms, the outer ends of their joists (away from the beams) are carried by whatever part of the frame (stud, brace or cant post) comes conveniently on pitch; spiked fillets are also used. 

  Elm segments in two concentric rings, superposed and breaking joint, form the curb, which is about 9 feet (229mm) square, 11 feet (3.35m) diameter overall, and shod with iron on top and inside faces, for cap accommodation.  Iron dogs tie curb down to cant posts inside, and intermediately to centre of each flat, outside.

  The cap frame is of “split-sheers” pattern, where the lateral full-width spindle beam becomes a major structural component, rigidly uniting front and rear sections: as opposed to the type having full length wide-set sheers, with a non-structural spindle beam between them.  Here, the “sheers” consist of three parallel pairs, at varying distances apart, as required; all run fore and aft, one pair behind, and two in front of, the large central spindle beam.  They are disposed as follows:

  Those behind (tail sheers), on about 4 foot 9 inch (1.45m) centres, extend back beyond the cap; they carry the short tail beam, about 18 inches (457mm) forward of the curb.  Ahead of spindle beam, a short wide-set pair, one on either side of the brakewheel, connect with a heavy timber across curb just forward of wheel.  This timber carries the third (close set) pair, which extend forward again to the short weather beam, forming the base of windshaft carriage at head.

  This form of framing (with lack of inherent fore-and-aft stiffness) demands great rigidity of jointing.  Sheer pieces are usually tenoned into cross members, and brought tight with various iron clamps, dogs and tie-rods. “Handrail bolts” are often used to good effect, also; but these details were not checked at West Wratting.

  Ten curved equi-spaced elm spars, sawn out of the solid, rise from a rather light cap circle; all are tenoned and pinned at top into a two-piece horizontal wood disc about 2 feet (609mm) diameter, but the wooden acorn finial formerly footed here is missing.  The cap is covered by upright boarding, banded at base with hoop iron, finally weathered by a deep petticoat of vertical boards with cover strips, lipped behind at junction.  Internally the cap is lathed and plastered.

  To centre the cap, six iron truck wheels are mounted in oak blocks bolted beneath spindle beam and sheers, two at front, two at back, one each side. For turning to wind the dead system is used, with iron skids or slippers secured beneath beams and rollers, to bear direct on iron-faced curb.  However two rollers, below the short weather beam, at front, give some relief at this point of heavy pressure. The main cross winding beam, extending on either side to receive the long tailpole braces, is bolted on forward face of spindle beam.

  The neck bearing for windshaft is on a short thick timber set between a pair of uprights on weather beam, and blocked below also, for extra support. The neck journal is about three feet (0.91m) over curb level, giving very sharp inclination to shaft, about 15 degrees, but distortion of the cap frame may have altered this.  The shaft is iron, circular, 12 feet (305mm) diameter at neck journal, and about 8 feet (203 mm) just behind, tapering to 5 and a half inches (140mm) at tail; two 18 inch (457mm) square flanges about 18 inches (457mm) apart are cast on for wheel mounting, and shaft is 9 feet (2.74m) long behind canister to tail journal. 

  The brakewheel is about 7 feet (2.13m) diameter, of clasp-arm type, with single arms splay-locked at joints to resist wedging thrust; iron segment teeth, arranged as face gear, are of about three and a half inch (89mm) pitch, with 4 foot (102mm) face.  It was formerly a compass-arm wheel, with two intersecting arms (four spokes): this dictated the simple robust pattern of four deep cants giving a large (basically square) opening.  However, a curious decorative feature was added.  In each of the four angles, a corner block was fitted, and then the three members (two cants and a block in each case), were circled out internally, and a delicate moulding formed on rear face. These patterns are not concentric with the wheel but struck from a point nearer the circumference. They terminate at the position of the former compass-arms. The “new” clasp-arm ends cut rudely into the fine work – one wonders whether any regret was felt when making the conversion!  There is a carved date 1726, also I.W., on the wheel.

The elm brake is in segments, 7 and a half inches (191mm) face by 5 inches (127mm) thick, with iron butt-straps.  On left side the wooden lever, tenoned to a stub, is 5 inches by 7 inches (127mm by 178mm) deep (constant throughout), with a natural curve towards centre at rear; an iron catch in a slotted timber is hung from roof. 

  Although of clasp-arm pattern the wallower, about 5 feet (1.52m) diameter, is a hybrid, with only two arms whole; the other two complete the square internally to clasp the shaft, but do not continue out to join rim.  All arms are 12 inches deep; the short ones are set in splayed housings on inside faces of long ones, for wedge thrust, and doubled iron tie rods, right through long pair on each side of the square, bring all tight.  It may be a conversion, and is certainly strong; (the type occurs elsewhere).  Here, the heavy wood rim carries wood cogs, held by wood pins through shanks, driven down from top face.  Flat wood segments are secured below wallower, for a right angle (not bevelled) drive for sack hoist.  The iron-bound wood friction wheel, with bollard, is carried in a wood frame, with cord and lever control. 

  The upright shaft is in two parts; the lower of iron, the upper of wood. There is a dog-clutch coupling at bin floor level, with an intermediate bearing just below. The bearing is mounted on a beam 7 and a half inches square, offset 9 inches east of mill centre, to clear shaft.  This full-width beam runs north-south, is bolted to soffits of bin floor beams, and is carried at its ends by the smock framing.  The iron section of the shaft is 7 inches in diameter, footed in a bridging box on sprattle below.  The wooden upper part was either weak or damaged, it seems, so has been cased on four sides with pine plates about 1 and a half inches thick, though-bolted in both directions. The corners are chamfered to give an octagonal shape overall. The wallower is stayed to this shaft, from below, by four iron members which rise up at about 30 degrees.  The great spur is positioned very low on the iron section of upright shaft, within the box frame formed by the two pairs of parallel beams in the ceiling of ground floor.  This wheel, with the stone and machine drives, is described above.  Both stone nuts are of iron with wooden cogs. 

  The “split sheers” cap frame occurs at a number of mills in this area; large and small versions can be seen at two Soham mills, Downfield tower and Shade smock, where the caps have about 15 feet and 10 feet diameters respectively.  The type is occasionally found further afield; in mid-Essex, at Terling smock mill for example.  As hinted above troubles may develop, and this was so at West Wratting.

  At some time, with the heavy imposed load of sails and windshaft at the front, and downward strain on the overhung sheers at the rear, the cap frame became like a hogged ship, down at the ends and high in the middle.  To remedy this a system of twin central pylons, with iron tie-rods to cap extremities, was installed.  The rear sheers have been doubled, with full length timbers over their tops, possibly at the same time. The two pylons are of pine, about 7 inches by 5 inches, set on the central spindle beam, in line with the rear sheers.  They rise up about seven feet, are tied together with a pine beam near their tops, for stability, and have iron anchor plates at their heads, with provision for connection of ties, fore and aft. 

  For these plates, two stout hooked iron tie-rods, each in two parts, descend steeply forwards over brake and brakewheel, connecting with the weather beam.  Two similar ties, longer and shallower, are secured to eye bolts on the tail sheers well outside cap at rear, balancing the pull. The complete assembly, with cap frame, forms a double triangulated truss, giving an overtop hold on the affected parts.  Similar remedial schemes have been adopted at many mills; they make an interesting study.

  Knowing of his former connection with the mill, I showed my notes to Frank Farrow, of Great Wratting in Suffolk, and asked him some questions. He gave the following information:

“Father took the mill over in October 1911. She belonged to West Wratting Hall Estate, and was given a general overhaul at this time. The Derby peak runner stone was then new, and weighed 24 cwt (1219 kg). 

  The wedged joints to hemlaths on the patent sails, which you mention, are also found on Six-Mile Bottom post mill, and on one pair at Swaffham Prior tower mill.  Father said that Mr Noble told him that at one time West Wratting and Six Mile Bottom mills had all common sails.  Mr Noble then owned both mills.  He bought four patent sails coming off a mill being demolished (I believe a Soham mill), and put two on Six Mile and two on West Wratting.

  Hunt of Soham measured our common sails for new cloths, and I believe the length was 22 feet 6 inches by 4 feet 6 inches. We used the patent sails to the full, and spread enough cloth for working conditions. The only difficulty with cloths, in the Winter they would get frozen when wet or coated with snow. Also, if wet and not frozen, when spreading cloth water would run down your arms – most unpleasant.