Having one of only six windmills with sails to be found in London on your doorstep you’d have thought that I would be a regular visitor.
Unfortunately, complacency set in and I haven’t visited Upminster windmill for over 35 years.
Now closed for a £1.4 million restoration this Grade II* listed industrial building is a rare survivor from a time when London had hundreds of working machines grinding flour for the populace.
Built in the smock style (the name refers to the sloping sides of the structure that give the building the appearance of a countryman’s smock) with an octagonal tower and brick base it has 5 floors and it primarily use was for milling wheat.
Built by local farmer James Nokes in 1803 it remained in use as a family business until 1934. The working estate built up around the mill including granaries for storing large quantities of corn, a bakery, stables, outbuildings, a miller’s residence and two workers’ cottages.
The capacity of the mill was regularly increased by the addition of extra pairs of millstones. By the mid-1850s there were six pairs of millstones, some driven by wind power, the rest driven by a steam engine
When the mill changed hands in 1849, the mill estate was described as being:
“eligibility situated on a pleasing eminence on the High Road at Upminster, comprising a most substantial modern built Corn Mill, capable of dealing with very extensive business”.
Locally the mill was known as Abraham’s Mill after Thomas Abraham, who was originally the foreman to the Nokes family and subsequently one of the mill’s owners.
In 1889 the mill was struck by lighting and in 1900 during a violent storm, the wind shaft snapped causing the sails to crash to the ground.
The restoration will include a new visitor’s centre and when finished next year along with its neighbour a Tithe Barn will be open at weekends during summer.
The other five windmills with sails in Greater London are Barnet Gate Mill in Barnet; Keston Windmill in Bromley; Shirley Windmill, Croydon; Wimbledon Common Windmill; and Ashby’s Mill in Lambeth.
Image: Upminster Windmill Richard Dunn (CC BY-SA 2.0)