Public Subscription Windmill, Lewes, Sussex

The Public Subscription Windmill and The Round House at Lewes Annie Crowther lives in a windmill, or rather a house built incorporating the base of a windmill. In her book, The Public Subscription Windmill and The Round House at Lewes, she tells us of the history of the house, but more than that, she tells us of the story of the house - a far richer vein than simply its history.

Of course the history is not neglected - the book charts the history of the site, then recounts the decision to build a windmill by public subscription to help alleviate the food crisis during the Napoleonic Wars. Sixty five subscribers financed the mill, a smock mill with 2 pairs of stones, which was built in 1801. The mill began operating the following year, and a "Grand Concert and Ball" was held to celebrate.

Financial problems beset the mill in the early years, and it was sold on a couple of times, passing into the ownership of the Smart family. In 1819, the wooden superstructure of the mill was moved to a new location. Even this new location had problems, and the same smock was later placed on a taller base, working on as "Shelly's Mill" until around 1899.

Meanwhile, the book continues with the story of the original brick and flint mill base, which gained a thatched roof and became known as the Round House. The Smart family and the Shelly family, linked by marriage, continued to own and operate the property and the milling and bakery business.

In 1919 the Round House was bought for £300, on the spur-of-the-moment by Virginia Woolf, of the Bloomsbury Group. The property was not really suitable for Virginia and her husband Leonard's needs, and on finding a more suitable property nearby, the house was sold on. The book recalls the purchase factually, using extracts from the Woolf's own accounts, but also, as befits the literary connection, indulges in a fictionalized account of the event.

The final chapters of the book trace the ownership of the house through the 20th century, to Annie herself.

For more details on the house and the book, see the author's site.

The book is available for purchase from the author, or via The Wind and Watermill Bookshop.

More info on the Round House can be found at:

Remains of other windmills in Lewes

As mentioned above, the Lewes smock mill was moved during its life.

There is also another smock mill base, also house converted - [Photo at]

In addition to the smock mill bases, Lewes has the remains of 2 post mills

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Last updated 03/03/2017 Text and images © Mark Berry, 1997-2017 -