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|