Shiremark windmill, Surrey

Shiremark [burnt down 1972] - c1966

Editor's Notes:

The following notes were compiled by the late T.C. Vickers, (1903-1973), as a result of his researches and interviews with former mill-workers and their descendants. The transcription is essentially as written, with little attempt to correct style, phrasing, or opinions.

These notes are believed to have been written in 1965 or later in the late 1960's. The site of the Mill can be found at O.S. Grid Ref: TQ 172.374. It stood within less than 100 yards to the west and in sight of the A24, standing within 20 yards of and to the north of the Surrey/Sussex border, as defined by a hedgerow, in the Parish of Capel, Surrey. The site is still marked on some editions of O.S. "Land Ranger" Maps.

There was an apocryphal story regarding the annual erection of an late 17C/ early 18C portable windmill, on Clark's Green, just south of Capel, on the brow of what is locally known as "Wolve's Hill", opposite the site of Greenhurst House. Apparently this involved as many as 20 wagons, each drawn by as many as 16 horses. So far no written evidence has been found in local records, by the Editor.

[Comments by the editor, W.G.S, in the text below are shown as this in square brackets.]

Shiremark Mill

An old Mill, appurtenant to "The Manor of Dorking", stood on the hill where regular contours lie, nearly a mile south of Capel Church. It is drawn crudely as a four-sailed open-trestle post mill on a copy of a map of the Manor of Dorking, in 1649; the copy dates from 1783, a few years after the Mill had been demolished. No approach to the Mill is shown on the land marked as "Henry Stone's Freehold".

The name Stone is associated with Capel windmills for the greater part of three centuries; the last miller at Shiremark during the First World War was a Stone. In 1700 the windmill and the miller's house, then in the occupation of John Lucocks, were leased by John Stone to James Budgen. Thomas Budgen took out a mortgage of this and other property in 1741, by which year one "Garton" had succeeded Lucocks.

The mill is faithfully marked on the maps of Seller, 1733, Bowen, 1749, Rosque, 1762, Andrews and Drury, 1777, also Lindley and Crosley, 1789. The last mentioned map-makers were amusingly deceived, ignorant of the fact that in 1774 Shiremark smock mill was built partly out of materials from the demolished mill at Clark's Green. They indicated both mills on their map fifteen years later. All the principle maps to follow correctly recorded Shiremark as the only one existing in Capel.

In 1777, David Southow offered for sale his "new-built Wind-Mill with all her gears and other utensils fit for Business. After passing rapidly through the hands of five proprietors between 1780 and 1809 it entered the possession of the Stone family, in 1802. From John the mill passed to Thomas Stone, who held it for many years together with Bennett's, [Ed: "Bonnets"], Farm and O'Brooks, [Ed: "Holbrooks"], Farm. Kelly's Directories name G. Stone and Mrs. Eliza Stone as later occupants of the mill and Bennett's Farm. John Chantler worked the mill for the Stones in about 1875 and was followed by William Rapley, said to have been the first to work Shipley Mill in Sussex.

During Rapley's tenure , in 1886, the mill was tail-winded in a gale and the cap and sweep were blown off completely. Messrs. Grisk and Steele of Horsham replaced them in the same year. George Stone worked the mill regularly until about 1914 and finally abandoned it just after the war. [Ed: 1919]. Of Surrey windmills only the postmill, [Ed:"The Hen"], at Outwood has worked since. [Ed: At the time of this transcription, (June, 2000), Outwood postmill is still working, and open to the public on a limited number of Sundays in the summer. Presently up for sale.]

The mill remained locked and unvisited for a considerable period, and on the occasion of Mr. Rex Waile's inspection in 1933, Mr. George Stone, who accompanied him, needed to clear a path with a sickle through the brambles that barred the entrance. It was estimated at that time that an expenditure of £100 would suffice to put the mill in good repair, and subsequently the defective cap boarding was made good by the owner.

After this the mill deteriorated, at first slowly, then rapidly, so that by 1950 the Capel Parish Council had, with concern, approached the owner and "The Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings" to find out what could be done to save it.

There was a strong desire, both within and without the parish to preserve this picturesque and historic survival, and we must stress the fact that the mill machinery, which now moulders away in obscurity has no less a claim to preservation. It exhibits, to an unusual degree, the work of the millwright in its most primitive aspects and at its most unconventional - be it the curb, the winding mechanism, the stone mounting or the gearing, some variant is present to excite curiosity, while the whole [assembly] is a unique combination.

Detailed measured drawings of the mill were prepared in 1952, and an architect reported on its condition. The state of the body work was found to be progressively worse downward, from the curb; the sills and lower parts of the cant posts were rotten and there were gaps in the lower weather-boarding; a pattern of dereliction, which unhappily records the last days of the Trumpets Hill windmill at Reigate and of the Outwood smock mill, [Ed: "The Chicken"]. Inside the mill much of the timber was found to be rotting. After many difficulties had been overcome in finding a millwright to undertake repair, Messrs Thompson & Son, of Alford, Lincolnshire quoted £2,500 as an estimated cost. [Ed: "TCV" may have confused the difference between Quotations and Estimates.]

The Surrey County Council has listed the building as an antiquity, and the owners, unchanged since 1933, expressed a willingness to save the structure. However, beyond the supporting of the main beams of the first floor, by five brick piers, it appears that no action has been taken - except by the weather, which is now playing a decisive part in the matter. One by one the sails have fallen, the last early in 1956 and [now] in July 1965 they lie rotting beneath nettles and bracken. The whole of the cap covering and spars, and large areas of the boarding are now missing. The dust floor, with its beams has fallen, so that the sack tackle frame shorn of support hang precariously on the machine drive gear, itself on the point of collapse. Due to displacement of a vertical support post the winding-worm, with gearing and "Y-wheel", in wild disarray hangs from the rear of the cap. Lower down some sills have rotted and disappeared and the cant post, bearing directly brickwork, are creeping towards the final crash of doom.

It is refreshing to note, on the credit side, the work of Mr. Denis Sanders, who for many years has been making a model of the mill. As the Shiremark mill decays its miniature counterpart moves towards completion, and it is doubtful whether any man other than the original builder has possessed such an intimate knowledge of the mill's construction as Mr. Sanders. It is to him that we are indebted for the detailed record of this exceptional windmill, given below, of which the interest far transcends the county boundaries."

[Ed: The following are "TCV"s copy of Mr. Sander's Notes.]

"The mill is octagonal and mounted on a red brick base. The large size of this base is not obvious from the outside, as a mound of earth extending to within five feet of the top was thrown up to make a platform from which the original cloth sails could be set and reefed.

On the east side is the main door flanked by retaining walls for the mound. These formerly carried boards on top to complete the walk-way round the base. The height of brickwork above the gr... [Oops, some text is missing here] ...sed into the sill joints and secured, in each case, with two oak pins. These posts are of oak, 9" square, 21 ft. long sloping inwards to give a taper to the tower. The tops of the posts are mortised into a built-up wooden curb of 9 inch square section and 14 ft. diameter, which is in eight segments with scarf joints, having vertical meeting faces, between the posts. Two sets of eight horizontal members, called ledges or transoms are fixed between the posts at suitable heights to carry floor beams and joists as required; the transoms are of oak, 6 ins. square.

This constitutes the main framework of the tower. In each of the twenty-four resulting spaces is fixed intermediate framing consisting of a central vertical member, 5 ins. square and two diagonal struts, 5 ins x 3 1/2 ins. On the north and south sides of the first floor, however, pairs of verticals form doorways; doors on opposite sides were provided to ensure safe access whatever the position of the sweeps. A portable ladder was used to reach these doors.

The upper surface of the curb is shod with iron, forming a trackway on which the cap rests, and is free to turn. Two timbers, the sheers, 12 ins square, 16 ft. long and set about 10 ft. apart form the main members of the cap frame, running fore and aft, and carrying three heavy cross members; "the breast beam" in front, "spindle beam" at centre and "tail beam" towards the rear. These extend beyond the "sheers" to carry the side sills, from which spring nine pairs of coupled rafters, forming the roof. The rafters are connected by double wooden collars and pegged together at the top; there is no ridge piece. Pairs of vertical timbers fixed at the front and rear of the cap complete the framing. The cap is 17 ft. long, 14 ft. wide and 10 ft. high, above the curb. The height from ground floor to roof ridge is 40 ft.

Although the cap is of ungainly appearance from most angles, owing to the large overhang at the rear, the head-on view is surprisingly clean and neat. The wooden studs throughout the cap and tower, comprising about 160 members of various sizes are not structural but serve to support and stiffen the lapped weather-boarding. The common joists on all floors are 4ins. square.

Curbs are known as 'live' or 'dead' according to whether the cap turns on rollers or sliding blocks; at Shiremark is a curious combination of the two. There are three iron rollers, 8 ins. in diameter, by 4 ins. wide, set on 14 ins. centres, all carried in a single iron bracket bolted to the underside of the "breast" beam, below the "wind-shaft", but the rest of the curb has only sliding contacts, four of them bearing under the points where the "sheers" cross the curb, two more under the tail beam at the rear, and a further pair fitted singly at either end of the spindle-beam.; all these points being iron shod to take the wear.

Rotation of the cap was effected by means of an endless chain hanging at the rear. This chain passes over a "Y" wheel - the name derived from the wheel having a series of "Y" shaped forks around its edge, forming a crude "vee-pulley" - this is 3 ft. 8 ins in diameter, iron spoked and wood rimmed, inside the cap on a sloping cross-shaft and drives through reduction gearing an iron worm meshing with ninety-one wooden cogs of 6 ins. pitch, mortised into the outer edge of the curb. The four forward truck wheels are 14 ins. in diameter, of wood, iron bound, and carried in large wooden brackets, and the other six are of iron, 11 ins. in diameter.

Interior arrangements in the mill do not follow normal windmill practice, for the first floor is at two levels with a 4 ft. difference and a short connecting ladder. Two timbers 12 ins. square, 23 ft. long and 6 ft. 6 ins. apart stand across the sills, north to south and carry the joists of the first floor at lower level on the east side. These beams also form the base of the "hurst" frame - the heart of the mill- containing two pairs of underdriven millstones, gearing to drive them and a system of levers to adjust the height of the upper millstone in relation to the lower one ; this operation being known as "tentering". The floor joists at the higher level, on the west side are framed off the upper parts of the "hurst", while the top or "dust floor" joists are supported by a pair of 11 ins by 12 ins. beams standing across the upper set of transoms, also north to south. All floor beams and "hurst" posts are of pine.

The last set of sweeps fitted were double shuttered "patents", which turned anti-clockwise. They spanned 60 ft. and were 6 ft. 10 ins. wide, with seven bays of four shutters each and one inner bay of three only. All shutters, of wooden feather-edge boards were 8 1/2 ins. wide; those on the driving side 3ft. 10 ins. long , the leading ones, 22 ins. long; the inner three bays on the leading side had no shutters, but a fixed leading board, in the "Sussex" manner. The "middlings" were 39 ft. long, 12 ins. x 14 ins. at the centre , tapering to 6 ins square at either end and strengthened in the middle by pairs of timber clamps , 8 ins. x 5 ins. and 10 ft. long. The sweeps, doors windows and portable ladders were painted white; the cap and tower tarred black.

The windshaft, with canister to carry the middlings, is a single iron casting about 16 ft. long overall, 12 ins. in diameter at the neck journal and 8 1/2 ins. square at the brake wheel; it tapers to 6 ins. diameter at the rear, with the tail journal about 4 ins. in diameter. The shaft is inclined at approximately 10 deg and is carried at the rear by a bearing at the tail, and at the neck by a large block of oak supported at the breast beam.

To stop the block 'creeping' forward, two iron rods with turnbuckles, to tighten them are fixed to the top of it, and are anchored back to a tie beam standing across the sheers. To protect them from the weather, the bearing block and neck journal of the shaft are enclosed in a wooden box supported in front of the cap framework. Near the centre of the shaft is the brake-wheel, a face gear of all-wooden "clasp-arm" type, 9 ft. in diameter, with two sets of arms 5 ins. x 4 ins., and eight sets of cants in two sets of four, one behind the other, arranged to break joint.

The forward cants are 22 ins. deep x 2 ins. thick, the rear, 20 ins deep x 4 ins. thick. Faced onto the latter is the 8 ins. x 2 ins. rim in four unequal sections, 25 wood cogs of 4 1/4 ins. pitch and 3 1/4 ins face are mortised through the rims and cants and secured by nails through the shanks on the forward side. This wheel has been converted from a "compass-arm" type having two arms mortised through a wooden windshaft to form a four spoked wheel; the outer ends of these remain in place. The mounting of the brake-wheel on the wind shaft presented a problem when the original wooden shaft was replaced by the existing much thinner iron one. Two iron plates 19 1/2 ins square were keyed on to the shaft 14 ins. apart, and with four pieces of angle iron across the corners, formed a box on which the wheel could be wedged. Folding wedges were used, eight pairs being necessary. These were adjusted until the wheel ran true.

The wooden brake lever, 10 ft. long, is pivoted from a vertical stub timber mortised into the right sheer about 14 ins. ahead of the brake wheel. It controls a wooden brake consisting of six unequal segments 7 1/2 ins x 2 1/2 ins. in section, joined with pairs of butt-straps and bolts. A strong iron hook and chain connects the lower - "dead-end" to the right sheer and the upper "live" part is joined to the lever by an iron strap. Operation was from the ground by a rope which passed up over a pulley set above the lever, down to a second pulley on the lever itself then up again to be finally secured to a beam.

The upright shaft was driven from the brake wheel by the "Wallower", an iron wheel of 3 ft. diameter, with 26 teeth; it is cast in halves for bolting together to facilitate installation. It no doubt replaced a wooden wheel which had given many years of service. Fixed on the underside of the "wallower" is a built-up wooden friction ring 3 ft. 4 ins. in diameter, which drove the sack hoist described below. The "wallower" is maintained in position at the top of the upright shaft by means of four wooden brackets, spiked on beneath it, and is set to run true by wooden packing and wedges between wheel and shaft. The shaft is made from a single piece of elm, 21 ft. long, and is 16-sided through most of it length, being 14 ins. across near the top, increasing to 16 ins. below and having a section 19 ins. square at the lower end on which is mounted the "great spur-gear". This is of all-wooden clasp-arm type, 6 ft. 6 ins. in diameter, with a single set of arms 8 1/2 ins. x 3 1/2 ins. on the underside, four cants 20 ins deep x 4 ins. thick, rim 7 1/2 ins x 3 ins. in four sections, and seventy wood cogs of 3 1/4 ins pitch and 3 1/2 ins. face. Wooden wedges and packing are used to secure the wheel to the upright shaft.

The two pinions driven from the great spur-gear - the "stone nuts" - are of solid wood, 20 ins. in diameter and 8 ins. thick, with wooden cogs mortised in and secured by iron pins driven through from the top into the shanks. They are bound iron above and below the cogs, to prevent splitting, and wedged with wood on to the vertical iron spindles on top of which the upper runner millstones are balanced. The nut for the "burr stones" has twenty cogs, and that for the "peak stones", 18. Thus the runner turned ten times and the peak runner turned almost eleven and a quarter times for each revolution of the sails. Each nut could be disengaged from the great spur as required by removing three special cogs and turning the spindle so that the gap was towards the main gear; an iron hook attached to a beam was then dropped into a staple on the rim of the stone "nut" to lock it in this safe position. The gearing is contained in the "hurst frame" below the stones, which accordingly were underdriven. The foot of each stone's spindle is in a bearing carried near the centre of a wooden bridge tree , a horizontal beam 11 ins. by 12 ins. deep and 6 ft. long, pivoted at one end. The other end of the bridge tree is carried by a lighter beam at right angles, known as "the bray"; itself pivoted with the free end connected to the "steel-yard", an iron rod directly controlled by a centrifugal ball governor. The purpose of this was to counteract irregularity of grinding caused by varying wind conditions.

This system of levers forms the assembly referred to as "the hurst". There were formerly two governors, each belt driven from the spindle of the pair of stones which it controlled. However these have been missing for some years. They were of "twin-ball" type, tall and slender.

Both pairs of stones are on the hurst, (upper level of the first floor), on the opposite sides of the upright shaft. They are both 4 ft. in diameter, but of different kind. Those on the north side are Derbyshire peaks, grey in colour, hewn solid, and used for grinding oats and barley. The south stones are French burrs, having a yellowish colour, hewn in pieces, cemented together and bound with iron straps, and used for grinding wheat. Two pairs of strong horizontal timbers are fixed between the upper cross beams of the hurst; on these the bedstones are laid and set level at the required height by wooden packing. Each bedstone has a hole in the centre in which is fixed a bush forming the upper bearing for the stone spindle. To ensure that the spindle ran truly upright, the lower bearing set on the bridge tree, was arranged to be adjustable sideways in any direction.

At Shiremark a very old method of doing this was used until the end. [Ed. of its working life?]. The pot in which the spindle turned is formed on top of a rectangular block of metal, which sits loosely in a cutaway portion or housing on the upper surface of the bridge tree and has two flanges which extend downwards on either side also. Wooden wedges driven between the sides of the housing and the block give control along the length of the bridge tree, and other wedges between the flanges and the sides of the bridge tree allow adjustment at right angles . The device is a typical example of the older style of millwrighting. The base of the wooden upright shaft was centred in the same way where it is supported on a large beam bolted up at right angles beneath the main beams of the first floor.

The flour dresser is situated on what would normally be the second floor. At Shiremark the latter comprises only a small wooden shaft supporting a wooden cylindrical frame on which was secured a stocking of woollen bolting cloth. The rotor, 5 ft. 6ins. long and 2ft. in diameter, enclosed in a wooden casing, was driven by a belt from a pulley on a short horizontal wooden shaft 4 ins. square, supported by the dust floor beams. This shaft carried an iron spur pinion, to mesh with an upturned wooden face gear on the upright shaft . The pinion could be raised out of gear as required by a wooden lever. The face gear is of simple construction, consisting of a disc, 3ft. 8 ins. in diameter, and 4 ins thick, made in two halves, across the diameter. Two loose tongues fit into mortises in both halves, with wooden pegs to secure them, and an iron, dovetailed, built up strap is let in flush with the rim edge on either side and spike in position. Fifty nine wooden cogs are mortised directly into the top face. Four large wooden tapering brackets fixed on the shaft support this wheel, with wood packing to centre and secure it.

The sack hoist, supported by a wooden frame standing across the main dust floor beams, was driven by friction from the wooden ring on the underside of the wallower. A 20 ins. diam. by 8 ins. thick solid wooden wheel mounted on the chain drum was raised into contact with the ring by a long wooden lever, controlled by a cord extending down to ground floor level. This cord operated through a multiplying gear slung from the curb. The chain was wound up on the drum and led over a pulley fixed above the series of double trapdoors in the floors, through which the sacks of grain passed on their upward journey. The hoist drum was on the north side, and the trapdoors in the north east quarter of the mill.

"Hurst-mounting" of millstones in tower windmills is unusual, (although common in watermills), but it is found in two or three much further north, including the notable Chesterton Mill, in Warwickshire. Shiremark seems to be the only example recorded south of the Thames, and in point of design, below dust floor level, can almost be considered as a wind driven watermill!

The hurst is placed somewhat off centre on the west side, giving a greater floor area on the east side for working space, bagging, loading and so on. Both pairs of stones were in octagonal wooden cases and the meal emerged through holes cut at an angle in the main last supporting beam. A large tapering wooden bin suspended from the dust floor ceiling in the south side fed the burr stone with a long shoe. The mill was patched up latterly to run the peak stones only; these were fed by a sacking chute direct from the dust floor. The "wooden blacksmith" provided a new twin mortised bearing block for the fixed end of the bridge tree, and gave some attention to its controlling bray, which was getting into a bad state. She then carried on for a few years more.

In 1956, Mr. George Stone was still living at Bonets Farm, a fine timber framed house, about one quarter of a mile west of the mill. He was then seventy six and spoke of the old mill with affection and enthusiasm, confirming some speculations and confounding others. He said that she drove well and was reliable and the hurst lay-out was convenient for working, but that the increasing difficulty of winding was very trying. Asked about east wind working, he agreed that this gave the steadiest running, a view expressed by millers in Sussex, Kent, Essex and Suffolk, and also by Mr. Jupp of Outwood Mill. [Ed. "The Hen" still up for sale in 2000, after 2 years on the market.] The old adage about "man and beast" finds an exception here. Incidentally Mr. Stone pronounced the mills name as "Sher - mark", with the first syllable very short.

The early method of wedge adjustment of footstep bearings here has been described. Curiously at the top of the upright shaft, the later method was in use. An inverted bridging box with adjusting screws is bolted to the spindle beam. An unusual but convenient arrangement, this was used also at Trumpets Hill Mill, and at Jolesfield, Sussex, probably fitted by the same millwright.

The winding gear, in its final form, as described is a modification of an earlier scheme, using an 8 ft. diam. wheel set flat just inside the rear gable. At that time the gearing and the worm were of wood. The present iron worm - "a fish out of water" - has a tremendous back-lash and may have allowed the cap to kick badly in some conditions. The change of gear was made necessary by the fitting of patent sails, the striking mechanism for these extending to the rear gable and thus fouling the large wheel. It seems likely that the convenience of the new sails was partly paid for by a set of winding gear less sweet than the old. It was extremely hard work towards the end [of the mill's life] to turn the cap, and due to curb trouble that the mill finally stopped work; as happened in so many other cases. A wind vane, mounted over the rear gable could be seen by the operator as a guide when winding the mill; it was necessary to haul about a quarter of a mile of chain, [400 metres], to turn her through 180 degrees, and the chain was grasped with sacking.

Inside the main door, facing the Horsham - Dorking Road, [A24], three brick steps on the left led to a heavy wooden ladder, at the top of which was the lower level of the stone floor. Here were the spouts; meal from the stones being delivered direct into sacks hung on the hurst, and the output from the dresses above discharged into various chutes as required. At some time there had been another dresser situated on the north side of the stone floor, driven from the face gear on the upright shaft. There was also a hand operated malt mill to supply a few customers. Warning bells, for drawing attention to empty hoppers, were worked from the base of the upright shaft, which had four wooden blocks nailed on to form a primitive cam. Wooden rockers, connected by cords to weighted levers, came into contact with these when the grain ran low and rang the bills.

In the south-west corner of the stone floor at higher level, by the window, was an office, with a fine view across Sussex Wealden ridges to Chanctonbury Ring on the South Downs. The lower halves of the two cant posts on the south-west quarter have plated on their inside faces with pieces of pine, 9 ins. by 3 ins. and pencilled on one of these is "P. HEWITT. DEC 20. 1885". The small two storey brick cottage on the south east side - out of the main wind line - had barely six feet of headroom up and down [stairs]. It was occupied until 1955, but shortly afterwards became a ruin. [Ed. The cottage site was to become the basis of a sympathetic rebuild and substantial extension. It may now be described as a "Des. Res." for a stockbroker or retired estate agent. Sadly, for me, the charm is spoilt by the inevitable leylandi tree screen long grown out of hand, so favoured by refugees from the Metropolis.]

The last two Surrey smock mills, Outwood and Shiremark, were in vivid contrast. Outwood, extremely tall, essentially a pine structure with a small base, overdriven stones and fantail gear; Shiremark, squat, essentially oak, with a large base, underdriven stones and fantail, and hand winded. A chance acquaintance, at Shiremark, once said, "She stands four-square". Her English oak frame - "Sussex weed" - was beautifully built and one may be glad that no restorer's hand has sullied her simple dignity."

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Last updated 03/03/2017 Text and images © Mark Berry, 1997-2017 -
Portions © T.C.Vickers and William Stratton 2000