The Doric Columns
Aberdeen's Lost Windmills
The design of most Windmills is what is known as a Post-mill.
This means the whole superstructure of the mill rests on 1 main post.
This post arises from ground level through brick and a foundation chamber; the post then acts as a pivot for the timber built structure above with the sails.
Consequently, the upper section of the mill and sails could be turned towards the direction of the wind.
The mill machinery in the upper rotating section was reached by a internal steps. As there is little history or records of Aberdeen's Windmills so we must look elsewhere for examples of their ilk.
In Holland they are in general use for meal-making, and low-lying meadows are drained by Windmills with arms of enormous length, which pump water from one ditch to a higher, step by step, till it can be discharged into a river. In Argentina maize meal is made for domestic use by pounding the grain in a hollow in the stump of a tree stuck in the ground, the worker using a big wooden pestle requiring both her hands to wield it effectively. But there are in that country many 1000's of windmills constantly at work pumping water from large and deep wells into ponds or reservoirs for watering cattle.
The millwright of former days was to a great extent the sole representative of mechanical art, and was looked upon as the authority in all the applications of wind and water, under whatever conditions they were to be used, as a motive power for the purposes of manufacture. He was the Engineer of the district in which he lived, a kind of jack-of-all-trades, who could with equal facility work at the lathe, the anvil or the carpenter’s bench … the millwright of the last century was an itinerant Engineer and Mechanic of high reputation. He could handle the axe, the hammer, and the plane with equal skill and precision; he could turn, bore, or forge with the ease and despatch of one brought up to these trades, and he could set out and cut in the furrows of a millstone with an accuracy equal or superior to that of the miller himself. Generally, he was a fair estimator, knew something of geometry, levelling, and mensuration, and in some cases possessed a very competent knowledge of practical mathematics. He could perform a variety of work now done by Civil Engineers.
The craft of milling by wind has always been dependent upon the skill and judgment of the millwright, for it was only he who could erect a structure not only of sufficient strength to withstand years of strong winds and rain on the high ground usually chosen for it, but of so fine a precision that it could turn or be turned to the wind without hesitation; and with sails or sweeps so finely constructed that they caught and rotated with every available breeze.
To harness the power of flowing water in order to generate a useful source of power was an equally challenging task. Building an efficient watermill required many similar skills to those of building a windmill, as well as a number of different ones. The millwright was expert architect, carpenter, and also engineer; for not only did he construct the mill itself but all the machinery within, — every part of which played an essential part in the intricate milling process. Although minor, and in some cases major, technical or structural repairs were occasionally undertaken by the miller himself, these were usually the responsibility of the millwright who was required to return the mill to working order with all due speed, for on this the miller's livelihood was dependent.
As milling by wind- and water power gradually decreased towards the end of the 19th century and more dramatically so during the early part of the 20th, only a few more mills were built, few urgent repairs so essential for the continuity of the milling process were required, and the millwright's work became less, resulting in the inevitable dissolution of the various firms.
There may have
once been as many as 10,000 windmills in Britain.
The others are: Pitstone Mill, Buckinghamshire; Madingley Mill, Cambridgeshire; Cromer Mill, Herts; Drinkstone Mill, Suffolk and Nutley Mill, Sussex.
There is evidence of there having been 3 Windmills for making meal in or near Aberdeen. One is shown in Taylors Map (1746) of the town on the west side of the Denburn and the north side of the Windmill Brae
Reference to Old Dovecau or 'catt' near the Windmill just below Langstane or Long Road - is this one and the same - a dovecot was often combined with a Windmill tower yet this would be called a Doocot in Doric. The Old Windmill near the Port Hill or Seamount Place is also marked. A Tower Windmill was erected in the Crown Street area in 1678 see Milnes Map 1789 which indicates this stood in the location of Windmill Lane leading towards Crown Terrace from half way up Windmill Brae from Bath Street . It also shows a Dove Cot where perhaps an old windmill location was in the area of Union Terrace.
As with Tide Mills, the operating power of Windmills varies greatly in force and still more in direction; but nevertheless windmills can be worked profitably.
The susceptibility of post mills to being blown over led to the emergence of a different type of mill called the Tower Windmill. Tower Windmills were much sturdier, as their name suggests, having towers that were built out of stone and later bricks. The cap on top of the windmill was still timber and could be turned by using a tailpole attached to the cap that extended to ground level. This allowed the sails to be moved into the wind easily. As the early windmills had no brakes the sails could only be stopped again by moving them out of the wind.
By the end of the 13th century the masonry Tower Mill, on which only the cap is rotated rather than the whole body of the mill, had been introduced. The spread of tower mills came with a growing economy that called for larger and more stable sources of power though they were more expensive to build. In contrast to the post mill, only the cap of the tower mill needs to be turned into the wind, so the main structure can be made much taller, allowing the sails to be made longer, which enables them to provide useful work even in low winds. The cap can be turned into the wind either by winches or gearing inside the cap or from a winch on the tail pole outside the mill. A method of keeping the cap and sails into the wind automatically is by using a Fantail, a small windmill mounted at right angles to the sails, at the rear of the windmill. These are also fitted to tail poles of post mills and are common in Great Britain and English-speaking countries of the former British Empire, Denmark and Germany but rare in other places.
Aberdeen's 3rd Windmill - The Tower Mill
- Windmill Lane, Windmill Brae.
This Windmill of the same era is one of Warwickshire's most famous landmarks, standing on a hilltop overlooking the village of Chesterton for nearly 350 years, near the Roman Fosse Way and about five miles (8 km) south-east of Warwick. It was built in 1632-1633, probably by Sir Edward Peyto, who was Lord of the Chesterton Manor House. At this time John Stone, a pupil of Inigo Jones, was in Chesterton, designing the new Manor House, and he probably helped with the Windmill as well. Sir Edward was a mathematician and astrologer and probably his own architect to the windmill, but although claims have been made that the tower was originally built as an observatory, the estate accounts now at Warwick Record Office show that it has always been a windmill, making it the earliest tower mill in England to retain any of its working parts.
It is built of hard local limestone, with sandstone detailing, on a shallow platform of 71ft 9in (21.87m) in diameter. The mill tower with a cap height of 36 feet (11 m), unique worldwide in structure and mechanics, is supported on six semicircular arches, on piers, the outer faces of which are arcs of circles radiating from a common centre. A sandstone string course surmounts the six arches and runs round the tower, below the windows. There are four windows in the tower, two small and two much larger with stone mullioned windows. A three-light window set in the roof on the opposite side to the sails, has a small plaque above it with the letters "E. P. 1632".
Beside the open ground floor within the arches there are two more floors to the mill, the first, lower, or stone floor 15-ft (4.6m) above ground level, housing millstones, great spur wheel, hurst frame, sack hoist rope passing through the floor trap, and the upper, second, or hoist floor with brake wheel, main gearing (wallover), sack hoist pulley, and parts of the winding winch. The windshaft and the main parts of the winding system including the wind direction indicator is installed within the cap. The space inside the arches, until 1930, used to have a wooden structure to store the grain, and an open timber staircase to reach the milling floors. This structure was removed to prevent vandalism. The cap of the mill is a shallow dome which used to be covered with lead sheet, but also because of vandalism is now covered with aluminium. Between the cap and the top of the wall is a system of rollers running in a track plate allowing the cap to be rotated easily. There is a wind direction indicator on the roof which is continued into the interior, and a small repeat indicator at its lower end, so that the miller could set the mill without leaving his work. The lattice-type-sails are 60 feet (18m) span counter clock-wise rotation (seen from outside the mill; most of all windmills worldwide rotate clockwise seen from inside the mill - from "under the wind") and with 450 sq ft (42 m2) of canvas. The arched tower covers a very small diameter of 22 ft 9 ins (6.93 m) and it has an unusual "in cap" winding gear for an English windmill, the cap being wound by a hand operated winch having spur and worm gears.
A Tower Mill is a type of Windmill which consists of a Brick or Stone Tower, on top of which sits a roof or cap which can be turned to bring the sails into the wind. The rotary abilities gave it great convenience over the earlier Post Mills that allowed for a more efficient and stable source of power. Windmills in general had been known to civilization for centuries, the tower mill represented an improvement on the western-style windmills. The tower mill was an important source of power for Europe for nearly 600 years from 1300–1900, It represented a modification or a demonstration of improving and adapting technology that had been known by humans for ages. Although these types of mills were effective, some would argue that they were mainly built by more wealthy communities at first because of their complexity
The advantage of the Tower Mill over the earlier post mill that it is not necessary to turn the whole mill ("body", "buck") with all its machinery into the wind; this allows more space for the machinery as well as for storage. However, select tower mills found around Holland were constructed on a wooden frame so as to rotate the entire foundation of the mill along with the cap. These towers were often constructed out of wood rather than masonry as well. A movable head which could pivot to react to the changing wind patterns was the most important aspect of the tower mill. This ability gave the advantage of a larger and more stable frame that could deal with harsh weather. Also, only moving a cap was much easier than moving an entire structure.
In the earliest tower mills the cap was turned into the wind with a long tail-pole which stretched down to the ground at the back of the mill. Later an endless chain was used which drove the cap through gearing. In 1745 an English Engineering Blacksmith, Edmund Lee invented the Windmill Fantail – a ring of five to eight vanes mounted behind the main sails at right angles to them. These were connected by gears to wheels running on a track around the cap of the mill. As the wind changed direction, it struck the sides of the fantail vanes, realigning them and thereby turning the main sails again squarely into the wind.
A Fantail is a small windmill mounted at right-angles to the sails, at the rear of the Windmill, and which turns the cap automatically to bring it into the wind. The fantail was patented in 1745 by Edmund Lee, a blacksmith working at Brockmill Forge near Wigan, England, and perfected on mills around Leeds and Hull towards the end of the 18th century. Fantails are found on all types of traditional windmills. They are more common in England, Denmark and Germany than in other parts of Europe, and are little-known on windmills elsewhere except where English millwrighting traditions were in evidence. The rotating fantail turns the cap of windmill via a system of gearing to a toothed rack around the top of the mill tower, or to wheels running on the ground in the case of a Post Mill. It does so until the fantail sails are oriented parallel to the wind, as in this case the wind can no longer move them. When the fantail is oriented parallel to the wind, the main sails are in the optimal perpendicular orientation and therefore produce maximum power regardless of any slight or continuous windshift.
Stock – the arm that protrudes from
the top of windmill holding the frame of the sail in place, this is the main
support of the sail and is usually made of wood.
MAUD FOSTER TOWER MILL - Boston, Lincs
This fine example of an English tower mill was built in 1819 for the brothers Thomas and Isaac Reckitt by the Hull millwrights Norman and Smithson, for the sum of £1,826 – 10s – 6d. By the time the present owners, the Waterfield family, arrived on the scene in June 1987, the condition of the mill had deteriorated considerably, but the aim was to put Maud Foster Tower Mill back into working order and to use it. Extensive repairs were undertaken, including the re-laying of all the floors and the installation of new trapdoors, grain bins, millstone cases, balcony doors and windows where needed. Three new sails had to be made, extensive repairs were required to the cap frame and roof, a new fantail was fitted and all the machinery overhauled. The work was completed in July 1988 and it was fitting that Mr Basil Reckitt was able to come along on 22nd July to perform the official re-opening ceremony. In 1998, two new sails were fitted to replace the two oldest, dating from the 1970s.
Wheatley Tower MIll, Oxon - Exquisite little Octagonal Tower Mill beautifully restored to full working order with excellent record photographs and details of the full re-build - would that Aberdeen had retained some semblance of records of its working heritage in the many Meal Mills erected within and without the City Environs.
West Winch Twermill was a tarred red brick 5 storey mill with an iron stage on the 2nd floor. It was built c.1821 by Francis Plumpton who had bought the land and a house in 1818 from Thomas Begleyon the east side of the road to the north of the village. By 1861 a bake office was being run on the site. The mill tower was 42 feet to the curb where the diameter was 14 feet. The ogee cap had a gallery and held a 6 bladed fantail. The cap was vertically boarded and thereby formed the petticoat, which drained into a gutter
with questions or comments about the design
of this web site.