Facts About Britain's Windmills

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History of British windmills. Britain's oldest windmill. Windmill facts. Heron of Alexandria.

Windmills have been in existance since at least the first century.

The first windmill ever recorded was attributed to Greek engineer and mathematician Heron of Alexandria, inventor of the world's first steam engine known as the aeolipile.

Hero, as Heron was known, called his first windmill the wind wheel.

Windmills were designed to convert the energy of wind to rotational motion by way of vanes or sails and were generally used to grind substances to a pulp or grain.

Over the years this engineering feat has been used in saw mills, paper mills and as a way of draining low lying areas.

Subsequently, windmills can be found all over the world, having been put to use for all manner of industrial uses and built in many varied designs in order to take advantage of mother natures free energy source. 


         HERON OF ALEXANDRIA. A.D 20 - 62. 





The windmills of Great Britain were generally of three types, the Post Mill, so called becouse they were mounted on a single vertical post, the Smock Mill, so called becouse of their resemblence to a farmers smock and the Tower Mill, named because of their height.

The wind would turn the sails, which in turn would rotate large, grinding stones, which would in turn grind or pulverise any substance placed between them.

Most mills of Great Britain were used for this purpose, mainly for grinding locally grown corn and wheat into flour for use in breadmaking. 




So many mills were there in the towns and villages of Great Britain, that some miller terminology of the time has remained in popular speech today.

The terms ' to grind to a halt ' and a ' millstone round ones neck ' come from miller parlance as well as the saying ' rule of thumb', coming from the action of a miller feeling the ground corn or wheat between his thumb and forefinger in order to grade his flour.

Centuries ago most communities would house a local mill, but many have fallen into disrepair, fallen down completely or have been demolished.

Many mills built since the 1800's have been renovated and turned into private dwellings or used as a unique form of holiday home.


Below are some pictures of Great Britains earliest windmills that have stood the test of time, with a little help from interested parties who have offered their time and money in order to retain these fine and ancient examples of an age old industrial technology.  



 Image courtesy of Richard Thomas, wikimedia commons) 


Great Grandsden windmill situated in the village of the same name in Cambridgeshire is reputed to be Britain's oldest Post Mill, built as a flour mill, circa 1612. 




( Image courtesy of Andrew Smith, wikimedia commons)

Lacey Green windmill, situated outside Princes Riseborough in Buckinghamshire is reputed to be Britain's oldest Smock Mill, built around 1650. 




 image courtesy of Colin Mitchell, wikimedia commons)

Britain's tallest Tower Mill, situated in Moulton, Lincolnshire is a 9 storey, stone built mill dating from 1822. 

Built by Robert King, this former wheat and animal feed mill stands 80 foot ( 24.4 m) tall.  

Today it is a grade one listed building.  




( Image courtesy of Warofdreams, wikimedia commons)

This seven storey, 80 ft high, five sail windmill, situated besides the Maud Foster Drain, near Boston, Lincolnshire is Britains largest fully functioning windmill.

Originally built as a corn mill by millwrights Norman and Smithson in 1819, today the mill not only still grinds grain but is also a local tourist attraction with interior viewing platforms, external balcony and tearooms. 


                  OUTWOOD MILL, SURREY. 


( Image courtesy of Jim Woodward - Nutt, wikimedia commons)

Built in 1665, by miller Thomas Budgen, the Post Mill in Outwood, Surrey is Britain's oldest working mill.

Originally built as a corn mill and one of a pair, the building today is a grade one listed attraction.  









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