UK Windmills on the World Wide Web

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Note: This article appeared in print in the April 1998 newsletter of the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings, Wind and Watermill Section. The links it includes were current then, but (as is the nature of the Web) many things have changed, and some links are now broken. However I have deliberately not updated them to new locations - they are left as a historical record... (However I have marked known broken links with [BROKEN LINK] Links were last checked on 13th November 1999).

In addition, just to prove that the real world also moves on, the "Wind and Watermill Section" has changed its name to the "Mills Section", and the newsletter is now known as "Mill News".

Mark Berry & Mildred Cookson

In "Mills on the Internet Part 2" in the last newsletter, Mildred promised a review of Mark Berry's site. Instead Mildred and Mark review together some aspects of UK windmills that can be found with the aid of a computer and a modem. This article is based largely on the article written by Mark that can be found at the above address.

As previous Newsletter articles have noted, the Internet, and more specifically its flashy graphical face known as the World Wide Web, (or simply the Web) holds a wealth of information (40,000 pages or "web sites") on wind and watermills.

The pages of most interest to SPAB [BROKEN LINK] Newsletter readers cover traditional windmills in the UK. Non-Internet connected readers will be glad to see that this is not a list of favourite sites' addresses - instead it is a general introduction to what type of information is available. If you want to access the sites mentioned (and hundreds of others), then the best way is to use the online version of the original of this article that is available at Mark's web site.

As Mark's passion for windmills was awoken as a result of a school project, it seems appropriate to start by noting that there are a number of quality sites produced by school children - with those of Outwood and Mitcham Common deserving special mention. Since Mark encourages feedback on the web site, he gets quite a few requests of the form "I need to write an essay about windmills for my homework - do you have an essay I can use"!

The Web is beginning to make its mark as an advertising medium. In this vein there are a number of pages covering hotels that are converted windmills, and there are a number of estate agents that have mills on offer. In a wider advertising sense, the tourist potential of mills gives rise to a number of tourist organisation and county council sites covering the mills in a region, for example one covers the South East [BROKEN LINK], and others cover Suffolk [BROKEN LINK], and Surrey [BROKEN LINK].

There are of course a lot of mills which are regularly open to the public, and web sites for quite a few of these exist, ranging from simple pages just listing opening times, to much fuller illustrated sites giving full histories etc. of the mill.

A number of mills are offering special events as part of National Mills Day, and Mark is gathering all the information into a page devoted to this. The national information from the SPAB will be used to supplement this site and Nick Ashton's [BROKEN LINK] (see last Newsletter). As journalists are one of the main groups using the Internet, this additional publicity should be very helpful.

Two organisations that manage a number of mills are the National Trust, and English Heritage [BROKEN LINK]. The former's site is little more than a copy of the printed members' handbook, with few properties illustrated. On the other hand, although English Heritage's main site seems to fail to cover any of its mills, they do have a number of other impressively illustrated pages, which are specifically aimed at pushing their mills at Sibsey [BROKEN LINK], Berney Arms [BROKEN LINK] and Saxtead Green [BROKEN LINK] as locations for film and TV work. Talking of TV, Shipley Mill's appearance in the BBC series Jonathan Creek (see the article by Jim Woodward-Nutt elsewhere in this Newsletter) is detailed in a number of press release pages from West Sussex County Council.

Given its graphical nature, the Web has a large number of pages which simply celebrate the photogenic aspect of windmills, often with unfortunately little textual accompaniment. These range from fine photos of mills such as Chesterton and Upminster, to pages including snapshot quality images that don't even bother to identify the subject mill. No discussion of mill photos available on the Web is complete without including the Muggeridge collection in the Templeman Library at the University of Kent. These impressive black and white glass plate photos are catalogued online, illustrated with a good selection of images.

The historical angle is also covered in a variety of pages with differing levels of detail. Topics from quern stones [BROKEN LINK] to modern wind turbines can be found. Also worthy of mention are the enthusiasts' pages, generally containing a varied collection of information about a number of mills. Examples of this group include Nick Ashton's pages already reviewed, and the Oakton Community College.

Finally, as well as all the photos and textual information, there are other types of material to be found. This includes some sound clips of creaking windmills at work, and also a video clip of Turville windmill, courtesy of its starring appearance in the film Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

Although there are great riches to be uncovered, the Internet novice would be wise to start from one of the established sites such as Mark's or Nick's. In time we will also have a site for the SPAB (as SPOOM does in the USA). If you feel energetic then a simple search device is easily available to look for mentions of words such as windmill. Such a simple search would find all such mentions. For example, a search for the word "windmill" turns up almost 40,000 pages that match - a raw figure that surely outnumbers the pages of information contained on most readers' bookshelves.

However, this raw figure is a vast over estimate of the amount of relevant material available, including as it does such irrelevant matches as every article where something is likened to "tilting at windmills" (700 pages); every mention of Sidney Sheldon's book "Windmills of the Gods" (60 pages); and every business advert where the address just happens to be in Windmill Road or Windmill Lane (1500 pages). Heinemann also has a well-publicised "New Windmill" [BROKEN LINK] project that involves teachers and children but not windmills!

There is also a wealth of marginally interesting material available - covering such areas as windmill models built from Lego; windmill images appearing on everything from beer mats to stamps to tea sets; and all manner of garden ornaments bearing a greater (or lesser) resemblance to a windmill.

More usefully, the word windmill can be applied to a whole range of machines, and we are left with pages covering three main branches of the subject - the traditional English and Dutch designs for grinding corn, or pumping water; the "American" type multi-vaned metal windpumps; and modern turbines for generating electricity.

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Last updated 03/03/2017 Text and images © Mark Berry, 1997-2017 -