LOOKING BACK: Windmills on your mind

Parsonage Mill, Eastbourne
Parsonage Mill, Eastbourne

Spotting a windmill during a drive through the country can be the cause of much excitement.

They are such a beautiful and rare reminder of life as it used to be that it’s little wonder so many societies have sprung up over the years determined to preserve and protect them.

More than 200 stories of windmills have now been brought together by Derek Nicholas in his new book, Windmills of Sussex, which was published in August.

Mr Nicholas, who is a member of the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings, said he had a life-long interest in windmills and had researched the book over a number of years.

His research included accessing the first large scale map of Sussex, which was produced by Richard Budgen (1695-1731) and appeared in 1723 showing approximately 77 windmills.

Another map, produced by Gardner, Yeakell & Gream in 1795 – considered to be one of the finest early maps of Sussex – also showed around 77 windmills, though not all were consistent with those from the earlier survey.

The number had doubled by the 19th century when the Ordinance Survery maps published between 1810 and 1819 recorded 153 windmills.

Among the windmills covered in Mr Nicholas’ book are Portfield Mill, at Chichester; Parsonage Mill, at Eastbourne; Star Mill, at Horsham; the remains of Hammond’s Mill, at Billingshurst, Barcombe Mill, Barnham Mill, the Navarino Mills, at Worthing; and the famous Jack and Jill - the post mill and tower mill, at Clayton, near Hassocks.

Mr Nicholas’ research revealed there were as many windmills as water mills in Sussex, though clusters of the windmills were found along the coast with fewer to the north of the county.

Many of the windmills featured in the book are now nothing more than a memory. One such was Barcombe Mill, in East Sussex, which was destroyed by fire in 1907.

Another was the Down Mill, at Bexhill, which was first recorded as being owned by Arthur Fuller in 1820. It was bought by James Hoad in 1887 and collapsed in 1965, when it was owned by James’ grandson Clifford Hoad.

Another windmill which collapsed was Glyndebourne Mill, at Ringmer. It lost two of its sails in 1919 - which cost a whopping £120 to replace - and was in such poor condition, all milling had stopped by 1921. On Monday June 6 1925, the mill collapsed.

Portfield Mill, in Chichester, was the site of an unusual - and unfortunate - accident. In 1849, the Brighton Gazette reported: “A curious accident happened last week in the neighbourhood of Chichester. In order to avoid a picket, a private of the Coldstream Guards, lying in our barracks, took refuge in the Portfield Windmill, and on leaving by the opposite door, he was struck by one of the sweeps and carried a considerable distance into the field. He was conveyed to the infirmary in a state of insensibility.”

• Windmills of Sussex is published by Stenlake Publishing and costs £20. ISBN: 978 184 033 7044. Order directly from Stenlake Publishing, phone 01290 551122 or email sales@stenlake.co.uk . Also available from selected bookshops, local windmills, and online at Amazon and Waterstone’s.

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