Restoration of Wicken Mill: millwrighting, milling, and history

    Full details

    Authors & editors

    Pearce, D L [Author]

    Publisher The Mills Archive Trust
    Year of publication 2022

    Medium Book
    SeriesMills Archive Research Publications
    No. in series15

    Wind & watermills > England > Cambridgeshire & Huntingdonshire
    Arts, culture and heritage > Traditional millwrighting


    Reading list

    Scope & contentAuthor's introduction:
    Wicken Windmill was bought by millwrights and fellow enthusiasts in 1987, with the intention of returning it to full working order. The mill was extremely derelict, and long without its sails. The restoration work has been carried out as a labour of love, by the owners the Wicken Windmill Partnership, and their many supporters. Great things have been achieved, and this important and unusual windmill is now in full working order. In 2001 it ground its first wholemeal flour by wind power for many years. Since then flour dressing machinery has been brought into use, and the mill offers wholemeal and white flours to the public: the mill is one of a very small number still reliant on the sales of flour for much of its income.

    This book sets out to tell the story of how Wicken Windmill was saved. The craft of millwrighting is discussed, together with the sister craft of milling stone-ground flour. NB The Heritage Crafts Association has placed millwrighting on its Red List of critically endangered crafts in the UK.The author would be happy for the book to treated as something of an advisory text full of information and hints on repairing and sustaining smock mills.

    It is often said that a windmill is both a building and a machine: both the mill structure and its workings are prominent in the story.
    The safety of our volunteers and visitors has always been paramount. The restoration was carried out on a tight budget with little money for new equipment. Much ingenuity was employed to ensure the early major projects were carried out safely, despite the sometimes ‘homespun’ appearance of the old photographs. Much of the restoration was carried out thirty or more years ago. By the time the sails were erected in 1996 we were fully equipped with the traditional millwrighting gear for such a major task. Nowadays safety issues are more formally treated of course, and we make every effort to follow best modern practice.

    The author led the restoration of the windmill. He continues to guide the on-going maintenance of the mill, as well as being one of the volunteer millers. He hopes that the reader will come to understand and share the enthusiasm of the restoration team and the millers. I hope that some readers will find themselves taking up the interest, and will help support Wicken Windmill for another generation.

    The engineering drawings are taken from ‘Wicken Windmill Millwright’s Data Book’. The reader is referred to the Data Book for more accessible detail of the drawings, and for technical explanations.

    Copies held

    Accession no. 231803

    • Shelf location: C103.02-PEA

    Accession no. 232318

    • Shelf location: A045-15
    • Notes: second printing with minor typographical changes

    Accession no. 232366

    • Shelf location: A086-PEA

    Divisions within this publication

    • 1: List of Illustrations
    • 2: Introduction: Millers and Millwrights
    • 3: Hunts the Millwrights
    • 4: Beginning of the Wicken Restoration
    • 5: The Smock Tower
    • 6: Cap Repairs
    • 7: Fantail and Winding Gear
    • 8: Lifting the Cap
    • 9: Casting
    • 10: Main Gears and Shafts
    • 11: Sail Making
    • 12: Erecting the Sails, 1996
    • 13: Completing the Restoration - Flour Machinery
    • 14: Repairs and Maintenance
    • 15: Putting The Mill To Work: Machinery, Weather, Flour
    • 16: Epilogue – Twilight
    • 17: Appendix 1 Acknowledgements
    • 18: Appendix 2 Bill of Sale 1823
    • 19: Appendix 3 Excerpts from Hunt’s Day Books for Wicken Windmill
    • 20: Appendix 4 SPAB Certificate
    • 21: Appendix 5 The Wicken Windmill Song