Google Glass is a wearable computer that gives you a heads up display. They've just released a new app for it that tells you about places of interest as you travel around. The video to accompany the app has the participants end up at the Bale Grist Mill in California.
I feel there's a definate need to test such a gadget at a variety of mill sites - I wonder if Google would send me a test device?
The SPAB Mills section organises National Mills Weekend each year, and a good number of windmills and watermills (some of which are not normally open to the public) can be viewed over the course of the weekend. If you missed your chance on this weekend, then some mills are open at other times throughout the year, so check out the windmill and watermill lists on the Mills Open site.
There is however another category of windmill which can be visited - those windmills remains which have been converted to other users, but in their new guise are open to the public. Windmills remains that fall into this category include:
I'm sure there are other examples, where windmills have been converted to shops or restaurants which are thus publically accessible, and I'll update this list if I uncover those. For the moment I've deliberatly excluded those windmills that have been converted to residential use - but which may have some public access since they are run as hotels or B&Bs. (Some of those can be found on my Places to Stay page).
In recent years Jordans have carved a substantial niche on our supermarkets shelves supplying breakfast cereals and cereal bars, but the firm has its roots as flour millers since 1855 at Holme Mills near Biggleswade. The historic Holme Mills was last used for active production in the early 2000s, but has since been reborn as a visitor attraction under the branding of "Jordans Mill".
The mill site is believed to be a Domesday one, but the current mill is a rare example of a mill which was thoroughly modernized at the turn of the 20th century. A couple of fires at that time gave the Jordan family of millers the opportunity to upgrade their overshot waterwheel driven millstones with turbine driven roller mills. That milling equipment is supplied by a fascinating array of automated grain elevators and worm drives, and the grain and resultant flour were also processed by a variety of surviving cleaning and sieving equipment.
The mill is no longer part of the main Jordans company, but is administered by the separate Jordans Trust. The transformation from working mill to visitor attraction has taken many years, and the surprising fact that the mill was not a listed building allowed the architects to make some substantial alterations to the building. Key amongst these is the immense 4 storey high cutout that was made to the end wall of the milling halls, that now provides a window on to the whole top to bottom process that goes on in the mill. This cutout is double glazed, and effectively keeps the noise of the machinery from the rest of the building.
The Gilbert and Gilkes turbine that powers everything is of course out of view in the watercourse, but it is still functioning, though it has to be said that these days it merely idles along - the roller milling plants are not in use, (which does mean their covers can be open so that the rollers can be seen), but some of the other ancilliary machinery which can run "dry" is turning, so that you can see its operation without the dust that would have been ever present in its working days. The mill is refreshingly free of obscuring safety cages, electing instead to keep visitors behind a simple fence, but this has been achieved at some cost to the layout, with the main line shaft having been moved sideways to allow the visitor walkway to be placed where the shaft once turned. Similarly another line shaft has been cut through to give headroom above another walkway.
The turbine drives the horizontal spur wheel, and from there power is passed via belts and those line shafts to the rest of the building. There's also a belt driven dynamo in place, whose output contributes to the power needs of the building. One floor up from the power floor is the roller mill equipment, where the 4 roller mills by Turner of Ipswich are still in place, split as 2 break rolls, followed by 2 reduction rolls. Off to one side there's also an example of the earlier Henry Simon's Carter roller mill which was in use from 1894 till the second fire of 1899 when the Turner equipment was installed. The second floor houses the purifier and centrifugal sifter machines which cleaned and separated the flour, and from there it's possible to glimpse the huge and impressive plansifter on the otherwise inaccessible roof floor above.
The machinery is explained in a short video which you view as part of a guided tour of the mill, and outside the main mill building is a secondary educational room which has further poster based information, on both the mill and the Jordan family - one of the owners in particular had a great passion for racing cars and stunt flying. Also adjacent to the main mill building there's an auxillary engine that has yet to be restored. The site is reached through a very impressive newly built oak framed building, which houses the restaurant, ticket office, shop (Jordans cereals much in evidence!), and some meeting rooms and offices. This building opens on to decking over the River Ivel, and in the spring sunshine of the first open weekend this was already proving a very popular place to sit, eat and drink. Plans for later this year include opening up more land alongside the river, in the form of a market garden (to include examples of various cereal crops), and a wildflower meadow.
A further selection of photos can be found on my specific page about Jordans Mill.
It's been a while since I updated to add a new country to these archives, and there are fewer and fewer uncharted windmill regions left. However, I'm pleased to say that the previously overlooked Yemen now has its own page. There is a surprisingly dense grouping of tower mills still extant, all in the salt fields around Aden, and whilst this is not a tourist destination, the enforced tourism that the nearby army base caused means that there's a fair photographic record of the mills online. The mills were used for pumping salt water into the salt pans, and bear a close resemblance to the mills of Trapani in Sicily, since the Italians from that region were the ones who created the salt industry in the Yemen.
The first windmill in California was buit at the Russian settlement of Fort Ross on the Northern Californian coast in around 1814. Almost 200 hundred years later, this location once again sports a fully functional windmill, in the form of a replica mill constructed in Russia, and shipped out for reassembly in California. The mill was formally ready for inclusion in the Fort Ross Harvest Festival celebration weekend 2012, though has been many years in the planning. It was donated to Fort Ross by Victor Vekselberg's Link of Times foundation, a Russian-based cultural and historical charity.
There are news reports at
For many years the only remains of the windmill at Ockley were the brick base, which had done duty as a poultry house. However, over the past few years a new windmill has arisen from that base, to grace the landscape of the village. The villagers and anyone else got a chance to view the new build as part of Heritage Open Days this past weekend.
Whilst definately built as a house, the construction is true to the ideals of the original windmill - the owner Peter James (who gained much of his practical windmill experience at Lowfield Heath windmill) has extensively researched the historic mill to come up with an accurate design. He was fortunate that Bob Morse produced some accurate drawings of the remains of the mill in the 1940's, and has employed millwrights to construct the smock frame. Vincent Pargeter was able to provide an original windshaft from South Ockenden, and has designed the new cap with the attention to detail only an experienced working millwright would have come up with.
Peter has been documenting his build over the years, and that site's been recently updated to include the ongoing interior works.
The Wilton Windmill Society, in conjunction with the Wiltshire Agricultural Preservation Group, will be holding their Heritage Open Day on Sunday 9th September from 12.30pm to 5pm.
In the spirit of the national Heritage Open Days scheme entry will be free and there will be free guided tours of the only working windmill in Wessex.
A massive display of historic tractors, agricultural equipment and traditional rural craft will stand alongside our 1821 windmill - taking us back through the history of Wiltshire agriculture over the last 200 years.
Entertainment throughout the afternoon includes:
And lots more! http://www.wiltonwindmill.co.uk
- Ferret racing
- Bouncy Castle
- Punch and Judy shows
- Wiltshire memories from local worthies
- Horseshoe Pitching
- Sack Races
- Giant BBQ
- Pizza Ovens
- Tea, cakes & ice cream
- Bread baked from Wilton Windmill wholemeal flour.
Great Whelnetham Tower Mill and Engine Mill, Nr Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk
Small tower windmill, 28' to 11' diameter curb, with stones and machinery. Ideal for working order restoration.
Small engine mill with complete machinery.
Fine setting, 1/2 - 2 acres land available.
Price around £80,000
Please contact Chris Hullcoop, 01394 671462.
Billions of viewers watched the London Olympics opening ceremony, and one of the few constant pieces on display throughout the night was a large, rather fanciful waterwheel, which sort of linked with both the countryside theme of the opening scenes, and also the later industrial theme with "those dark satanic mill" (where yes, waterpower paid a big part in the Industrial Revolution).
That got me thinking about other "mills" associated with the Olympics venues, where I came up with the following list:
"Kent Windmills & Watermills" is a newly published book by Tom Burnham (who supplied the watercolor illustrations) and Gregory Holyoake (responsible for the text). It's a fairly slim hardback "art" book of 38 pages, published through The Dovecote Press in an edition of 750 copies, and as the title suggests, it covers 16 mills in Kent. These each get a full A4 sized watercolour illustration, with detailed line work on the mills themselves, and a page of commentary puctuated with a smaller monochrome line drawing of some detail of machinery or the like. The aim of the book is to give a flavour of the county's mills - the illustrations are the key, and the text is deliberately somewhat secondary - it gives a general introduction to the mill, but is often short on technical detail (prefering to relate various anecdotes about the mill, its associated people, or merely the village it which it is situated). In common with that theme, there's no maps of the mills' locations, or indeed practical information such as directions or opening times.
The mills included are: post mills at Chillenden, Rolvenden, Wittersham; smock mills at Sandwich, Margate, Sarre, Willesburgh, Woodchurch, Sandhurst, Cranbrook, Meopham; tower mills at Canterbury; water mills at Crabble, Westwell, Chilham; gunpowder mills at Chart.
The reduced scale post mill at Enham had its official opening on Sunday 8th July 2012. Whilst understandably looking a little cramped in its temporary construction position on the driveway of the mill builder's house, the mill was in full sail, and dressed with bunting. The opening ceremony included the local vicar, who christened the mill with a bottle of cider, and was attended in (all too rare) sunshine by the local villagers, to whom the mill has become a definate landmark and talking point over the years of its construction.
(Photos by Jane Hayward).
The new website Britain from Above presents the Aerofilms collection of aerial photographs from 1919-1953.
There's a small number of views I've found with a milling connection:
Dr Ronald COOKSON. Founder, Mills Archive Trust. For services to Heritage. (Berkshire)Congratulations! Update:[16/6/12]
There's coverage of this at the BBC which in a nice inversion of regular priorities leads with Ron's award, and relegates Kate Winslet and Kenneth Branagh to also rans.
Peter King, vice chairman of the Mills Archive Trust also comments on it, quoting Ron as "regard[ing] the award as national recognition of the hard work and dedication shown by all of the Mills Archive's friends, volunteers and trustees, and he is delighted to accept it on that basis."
Just a quick reminder that it is National Mills Weekend this coming weekend, 12th and 13th May. The best resource for finding which mills are open in the UK as a whole is the National Mills Weekend website, and the Welsh mills organization is making a big effort at welshmillsnews. If you prefer to get your updates via social media outlets, then check out twitter and Facebook.
Via the Google Research Blog I learnt of an archive of Victorian sheet music at the Bodleian library in Oxford. One characteristic of this music is the often very attractive lithographs on the front of the publication. The reason for the post by Google was the fact that music is not catalogued yet, so searching it is not very easy.
By systematically looking through all the pages of covers, I found the following ones showing windmills. In general these appear to be artist's representations of mills, rather than illustrations of specific mills - though I did also find an illustration of the Laxey waterwheel in the Isle of Man.
Just for interest, other attractive covers I spotted whilst looking through included:
Much to my surprise yesterday as I was biking along the beach I saw (for the first time in my life) both of Golden Gate Park's windmills turning. The Murphy mill has been wonderfully restored (at much cost and effort) by a Dutch company that has been doing mill work for over 100 years. The Dutch mill was turning but needs much work done to it. The Murphy mill has not been hooked up yet to pump water but that is the plan.
More coverage of the opening can be found at: Ocean Beach Bulletin.
I last reported on Turnell's watermill in Wellingborough in Nov 2004, at which point although it was clear that some machinery remained at the site, everything that was there was very overgrown. Since then Trevor Stainwright with occasional helpers has fenced and cleared much of the site, and provided the following details along with captioned photographs.
The mill remains are within a private fishing ground, but the owners have allowed Trevor access to the site, which now comprises a spacious compound accessible by a footbridge. The site is protected by a newly erected gated security fence, and has various work platforms spanning the pits and by-pass channel allowing access to the waterwheel and the sluice mechanism. There remains additional old machinery buried there (verified by pieces of metal sticking up through the ground), and a French millstone was recently uncovered. It is believed that the sluice machinery can be got working again.
Turnell's mill, Wellingborough, 1968. Built 1874 on former mill site which has been in existence since 1086 Domesday Survey.
First floor showing pulleys and crushers replacing traditional machinery.
Opposite side of building. Pulled down in 1975.
State of the site between 2007-2009. As well as clearing foliage I had to cut down a number of small trees.
Much of the remains were hidden from view.
To access the site I had to cross a brook by tip-toeing across a step ladder spanning the 14ft gap.
Aug 2010. The lengthy job of clearing the site. In the foreground are fence panels awaiting erection.
The Wheel, April 2012. Note the work platform bridging the by-pass channel, and the wooden safety rail to the left of the picture.
Summer 2011. Son Jonathon giving scale to the 15ft x 10ft waterwheel.
From the pit-wheel side. The bite-size damage to the outer rim of the wheel was caused during its working life and not during the demolition of the mill building in 1975.
Sluice gear. Hopefully soon to be repaired. Note green security fence in background. April 2012.
Rack and pinion of the sluice gear. Only the crank handle is missing. April 2012.
I was recently asked what was the last (flour) windmill built in the UK, for which the answer rather depends on exactly how you define your terms. Rather than give a definitive answer, I think it's worth giving a selection of the "youngest" windmills (some since demolished), from which you can choose the one that best fits your own personal definition!
I've been somewhat selective especially with 20th century windmills, where there are a number of other reduced scale mills I could have included. Also some full scale rebuilds from often fragmentary remains are in effect completely new mills - though there is a recent trend to design such rebuilds for residential rather milling use - with perhaps a token inclusion of the possibility of generating some electricity from the resultant structure.
For comparison, the last (commercially) new built flourmills in Holland were Vragender and Afferden, both built in 1957/1958. The United States has quite a number of 20th century windmills - including the replica post mill at Colonial Williamsburg, plus its various "clones", and a number of other Dutch designed and built working flour mills.
My thanks to the Windmill Hoppers group on Facebook, to whom the same question was posed, for coming up with a more comprehensive list than I did on my own.
In very early April 2003, I published an initial selection of improved windmill and watermill designs. The main point these improved mill designs address is that standard mills can only operate when water is flowing, or the wind is blowing, but at other times the mills must remain at rest. If only you could generate your own wind, or return the water to above the mechanism once again, then mills could operate without being limited by mother nature. With the increased awareness of renewable energy these days, it seems an opportune time to revisit that subject, and to see what new research has come to light.
Thus, the page on improved mill designs has been extensively updated.
|Last updated 23/01/2014||Text and images © Mark Berry, 1997-2014 -|