Cromer windmill, Hertfordshire

Cromer has Hertfordshire's sole-surviving post mill (though remains of other types of windmill can still be found within the county).

More details can be found on the Cromer windmill page.

Cromer Cromer

Hertfordshire Building Preservation Trust

The structure of the mill

The large wooden body of the mill is balanced on a huge main post over 18ft high, around which it turns to allow the four shuttered sails to face into the wind. The main post is supported by a collection of timbers known as the trestle, protected from the weather by an octagonal brick roundhouse. The trestle comprise two horizontal crosstrees and four sloping quarter bars which together convey the weight of the mill onto four brick piers.

The body or buck of the mill contains all the corn-grinding machinery. It is reached by a ladder at the rear, above which is mounted the eight-bladed fantail which is geared to automatically turn the buck so that the sails face into the wind. The fantail turns two truck wheels at the bottom of the ladder which run on a track encircling the mill.

A tour of the mill

Bin floor (top)

Here the iron windshaft carrying the sails on its outer end, enters the mill. All the shutter in the sails are connected to the striking rod which passes through the hollow windshaft. By pulling on a chain at the rear of the windshaft, the miller can open or close the shutters according to the strength of the wind, thus controlling the speed of the sails. On the windshaft is mounted the wooden brake wheel, so called because of the wooden brake band around its rim which acts to stop the sails and windshaft turning. The sack hoist is driven off the front of the brake wheel. This lifted sacks of grain from the roundhouse through a series of trap doors to the top floor. Here the grain was tipped into the large grain bins and was fed from these into the millstones below.

Stone floor (2nd)

On the stone floor the wooden cogs of the brake wheel mesh with the teeth of the iron wallower which is mounted at the top of the upright shaft. The two pairs of millstones are located on either side of the upright shaft in the front or breast of the mill. Their driving gear can be seen from the floor below.

Meal floor (1st)

The iron great spur wheel is mounted on the lower end of the upright shaft. Its wooden cogs drive two iron stone nuts which each drive a millstone on the floor above.

How the grain was ground

The millstones are fed from above by the grain bins on the bin floor. Grain trickles into the eye in the centre of the millstones and is ground between the upper revolving runner stone and the lower stationary bed stone. A centrifugal governor is provided to control the gap between the millstones and thus, the fineness of the flour produced. The governor regulates the gap automatically according to the speed of the sails. Manual adjustments are made with the tentering screw by the miller. The ground meal is dischared down the floor chute into a waiting sack on the meal floor. The sacks of flour were then slid down the sack slide on the tail ladder into a waiting cart.

History of the mill

Cromer mill stands on an artificial mound where windmills have stood for over six hundred years. The present mill was built shortly before 1720, possibly as early as 1681. It was blown completely over around 1860 and subsequently rebuilt. Milling by wind became uneconomic in the 1920s and the mill fell into disrepair. It worked for a short time with no fantail before finally ceasing work. One sail was blown off in 1929 and the remaining sails were removed for safety. Apart from some repairs to the body carried out in 1938, nothing more was done to the mill, and it was left to deteriorate. An appeal by concerned local people in 1967 saved the life of Hertfordshire's sole-surviving post mill. On completion of the first phase of restoration work the mill was presented to the Hertfordshire Building Preservation Trust, the present owners. The first regular open days were held in the summer of 1991 after thorough repairs had been completed. The mill was brought into full working order in 1998 after receiving grants from the Heritage Lottery Fund and English Heritage. Money from visitors will help to maintain the mill in its present condition for future generations to enjoy.

Facts and figures

A comprehensive guide to the mill, Cromer Windmill - History and Guide can be obtained at the mill, or via post from The Hertfordshire Building Preservation Trust, The Castle, Hertford, SG14 1HR.

[Windmills] [Watermills] [Bookshop] [News] [Site map] :

Last updated 03/03/2017 Text and images © Mark Berry, 1997-2017 -
Portions © Luke Bonwick, 1998