Windmills of Leicestershire and Rutland
John Dann has spent the last 64 years photographing wonderful details of English life on a vintage Leicaflex camera. Here he shares one of his favourite corners of his collection; the windmills of Leicestershire and Rutland…
This stone windmill is very fine and in impressive condition; in fact, it is one of England’s only fully operational 19th century windmills. It was bought by Nigel Moon in 1995 who restored it to good working order after more than 70 years of disuse, and it now produces a range of organic flours which can be purchased at the mill. The six-storey structure contains four pairs of stones for crushing grain, a smutter for cleaning it, a Wegmann roller mill, two reels and a wire machine. It is wonderful to see this and so many other old mills being returned to their former glory.
Whissendine Windmill is situated just off the A606, 6 miles south east of Melton-Mowbray. It is open Monday to Friday.
KIBWORTH HARCOURT POST MILL
This lovely old building is a Post Mill, the earliest type of European windmill, meaning it sits on a single low base upon which the rest of it pivots. Kibworth Harcourt was built in the 18th century and is the last surviving Post Mill in Leicestershire. Today it is owned by the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings and admission is free. It stands at the end of a long drive on the outskirts of Kibworth village, with a pretty thatch cottage next door.
Hough is a restored brick Tower Mill - only the ‘cap’ at the top of the mill rotates, with the small sails of the fantail used to move it into the wind. The day I visited they were about to start fitting the newly made cap and fantail, hence the construction works you can see lurking in the background! Inside the mill the woodwork and ironwork are all in very good condition. I was feeling a bit weary on the day I went to photograph it, but the owner was very helpful and obliging; I believe people deserve far more recognition for their hard work preserving mills for future generations. Hough windmill opened to the public in 2000 and is now open every Sunday from April to September between 2pm and 5pm. At the summit of the rough track up to the Mill from the main road is a good parking area, and it is the ideal place for a picnic or a walk.
Another brick Tower Mill, which was built in 1800 after local people raised money for a mill to provide flour for the village’s poor. It operated for nearly 100 years but, like so many mills, closed on the cusp of the 20th century. Ullesthorpe windmill is tall and grand, a great original example of milling technology at a time when iron had yet to make any real impact. The operating machinery is unusual as it has never been updated and is in a good state of preservation. It sits in a small compound containing the old miller’s house, granary, bake-house and pigsty, and visitors are able to climb all the way to the cap. Well worth a visit.
On Butt Lane, six miles east of Melton-Mowbray, lies this partially restored Tower Mill, one of only four six-sailed mills in the country. Built circa 1814, it is now a popular visitor attraction. Set back from the road in a lovely old village, there is also a tearoom, children’s play area, and shops selling local crafts and locally milled organic flour. It is open Easter to October, Tuesday-Friday, 10:30-4:30pm. Admission/parking are free.
This is a tower mill that has been truncated; in other words, cut down to about half its original size. A local resident tells me that this happened around 1920, with the removed bricks and cap used to make a pigsty over the road. Its new owners did a fantastic job of restoring it many years later, and it is now a lovely family home which fits in to the village nicely.
I have known this old mill for years. It stands in a field just outside the village of Morcott and is in wonderful condition, complete with its sails and fantail, which are a good example of how a tower mill works. The wooden tiles on the tower body are striking and splendid. It graces that corner of the area beautifully, and is a good landmark for travellers. Today it is available to rent as a four-person holiday home: see here for more details.
FENNY SPRING MILL
This beautiful mill was built around 1840. It is a Tower Mill that has been completely restored and attached to the adjoining property with such care that it is hard to believe that it hasn’t always been like that. Fenny Spring mill is in such a beautiful, open setting; it made my day when I took pictures of it.
Like Barkstone, this small Tower Mill has also been truncated. Built in the early 19th century, it has now been partially restored and turned into living accommodation. It is situated along Mill Lane, on the outskirts of Gilmorton village. The nearby Mill Farm is an excellent fishing spot, where anglers can catch tench, bream, roach, chub, and various types of carp.