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Posted by Kim Winter, Saturday 30th August, 2014

Wimbledon volunteers visit Brixton Windmill

Wimbledon volunteers outside Brixton Windmill

Wimbledon volunteers outside Brixton Windmill

Image: Stephen Lawlor

On Friday 29 August we welcomed a group from Wimbledon Windmill. They were all volunteers at the Wimbledon Windmill Museum on Wimbledon Common, the nearest standing windmill to Brixton Windmill.

After some lively chat over tea, coffee and cakes we took our new friends on a tour of our windmill. Clearly there are differences between the two buildings. Brixton is a brick tower mill, while Wimbledon is a rather unusual hollow post mill built only a year after Brixton in 1817.

Our visitors explained that Wimbledon’s ground floor was originally built of brick, providing a single-storey base to the mill. A wooden second storey housed all the mill machinery, including two pairs of stones.

Above that, a conical tower held the post that supported the cap that carried the main sails and the fantail that turned the vertical-shaped cap into the wind. A metal drive shaft ran down inside the hollow wooden post to drive the stones.

Like Brixton, Wimbledon mill only worked by wind power for a relatively short period of time from 1817 to 1864. However, the reason for the end of wind-powered flour grinding was different. The local lord of the manor at Wimbledon wanted to enclose the common and build a new house on the spot where the windmill stood, so he stopped flour grinding. He met fierce local opposition, and after a legal battle lasting six years the Wimbledon and Putney Commons Act of 1871 handed the common to the local people.

During that time the second storey of the windmill was converted to brick, and the lower part of the building was divided into living accommodation for six families. This is the area that now houses the museum and contains lots of models showing different kinds of mills.

One room has been left as it was in the second half of the 19th century to show visitors what the living accommodation for a poor Victorian family was like.

Further restorations have altered the original structure of the building, but the sails and cap can still turn in the wind.

Later this year we hope to take a group of our Brixton tour guides and volunteers to see this remarkable building and meet up again with our new Wimbledon friends.

Wimbledon Windmill Museum is open for visitors until the end of October.