Tuesday, 8 July 2014

We are sailing at Upminster Windmill

Just spent a very enjoyable Sunday afternoon at Upminster Windmill. Built in 1803 the windmill is one of the best-preserved in the country and is a striking relic of 19th Century Essex. The Friends of Upminster Windmill conducted a free and very illuminating tour up and down the windmill's narrow stairs. 

We learned how hard the miller had to work climbing the stairs around 30 times a day and also what an advanced piece of technology it was. The interlocking giant cogs that turn the quern stones that grind the flour are fascinating, as are the beams, pulleys, wooden hoppers and massive sails. The best white flour had to ground seven times, though the coarser and cheaper wholemeal flour was actually healthier, we now know.

We started off in the cap, that still rotates. From the small windows you can see the City skyline and the more modern wind turbines of Dagenham. The mill was run by the Abraham family and one of the fascinating human aspects is the Victorian graffitti left by their 16 year old daughter on the mill's machinery.

The windmill ceased production in 1934 and then became derelict, with the council demolishing the outbuildings in 1960. It was only the dedication of the Friends of Upminster Windmill that saved it and allowed the windmill to be restored and opened to the public in 1967. 

Several buildings once stood by the mill and the Friends of Upminster Windmill have undertaken some fascinating excavations. We were guided round the cellars of the miller's house, demolished in the 1960s. An ornate blue china floral lavatory basin is one of the star finds.The foundations of the workers' house, and the stables have also been rediscovered, giving an impression of just what a thriving industry this once was. All very Time Team.

All this was followed by tea and cake in the Victorian chapel opposite in St Mary's Lane, which is also worth visiting. If you want to step back to a time when Upminster was an agricultural village then this is a great afternbon out. Click on the link for open day dates and membership details.
The basement of the miller's house


  1. 1803 - surely late Georgian/early Regency? Definitely not Victorian, as she did not ascend to the throne until 1837.....
    I would also visit the tidemill in Thorrington - they will sometimes mill wheat on open days as well.

  2. Good point! Most of the talk was about Victorian times, but I'll change to 19th century to be accurate. Thanks for tip about Thorrington.

  3. How dare you write about Upminster in your Essex blog!
    As you well know, Upminster, & its windmill is in London, not Essex. So keep your mits off! Essex is bigger than London so you should be able to keep your blogs about that county in that county.