Orwell's Windmill

"In an excellent situation for wind."

By David Miller

“In an excellent situation for wind,” as the Sale Particulars of 1847 declared.

It was, too. Up on top of Toot Hill behind the Church, there was little to obstruct the wind, whichever direction it came from.  Not such a good location, however, for the poor farm workers who had to cart the grain all the way up the slippery track beside the Clunch Pit, although the way down again with the flour would have been a lot easier.

Photo:1847 Sale Particulars

1847 Sale Particulars


The Mill had probably been there for more than two hundred years. The Chicheley Map which was prepared around 1686 shows an “Old Mill Field” beside “the Quarrie Hill,” and there is a thumbnail sketch of it on the Open Fields Map of 1836.

Photo:The 1686 Chicheley Map

The 1686 Chicheley Map

Photo:1837 Enclosure Map

1837 Enclosure Map

The track to the Mill extended right over the hill towards Eversden, so it is possible that it served that village as well. The design of the Mill was an early type, known as a post mill.  Unlike later mills, on which only the cap and the sails turned to face into the wind, the complete post mill had to be turned by hand by means of a long lever which projected from the rear of the mill. The lever, which reached down to the ground, also served to resist the force of the wind which would otherwise have tried to blow the mill over backwards. There would also have been a flight of steps to give access to the mill. Photographs of a similar local mills are shown. 

The 1847 Sale Particulars says the mill had one pair of grinding stones, so it was quite small compared with later designs, which often had two or even more pairs of stones.  There are similar post mills surviving at Bourn, Chishill and Gransden.  Orwell’s mill was shown on the Enclosure Map of 1836, but its ultimate fate is not known. It was probably decommissioned around 1865. There is a tale in the village of the mill stone being rolled down the hill, and crashing into the thatched wall, but the only remnant which might still exist is a mill stone which forms the front door step at the Old White Hart. There is no record of this stone being from the Orwell Mill, but it would be a long way to bring it from anywhere else. See Maurice Pearce's Grandfather's recollections.

Charles Holder's family is recorded in the Census returns from 1841 to 1861 as being millers, living in Lotfield or the High Street. His sons, Walter and James were listed in 1851 as living with him.  James Holder was probably the last Orwell miller as, after he died in 1867, no miller is listed in the local Kelly’s village directories.         


Photo:Post Mill at Bourn
Photo:Croydon Mill at Great Chishill. Orwell's mill probably did not have a fantail, or it would have been mentioned in the Sale Particulars.
This gallery was added by David Miller on 28/04/2015.

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