November 2010: Ockley and Lowfield Heath Windmills

Elmer’s windmill at Ockley was a smock mill built in 1803 and run by successive generations of the Coldman family for over a century until it ceased working about 1912. It then fell into disrepair and finally collapsed in 1944.

Peter James gave us an absorbing account of his project to rebuild the mill to look as it did in its heyday, whilst creating a modern home within its walls. The brick base was all that remained in 2003. Fortunately a detailed description of the original mill still existed and this, together with some fine photographs, gave Peter the starting point for his project.

Peter then took us through the project with superb photographs showing each stage of the reconstruction. We not only saw how the mill was put together but also gained an appreciation of the skills and ingenuity of the builders and millwrights of the past. The main structure of the mill is now almost complete; it will now be fitted out internally and the final stage will be to fit the sails.

Peter then showed us the restoration of Lowfield Heath mill with he had also been involved. This post mill had ceased working about 1880 and then steadily deteriorated until a rescue started in 1987 when it was dismantled (just before the great storm!) and moved to its present site. Its subsequent restoration by dedicated volunteers and professionals showed just what can be done, given the will, to save our industrial past.