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Creative Commons Licence [Some Rights Reserved]   Text © Copyright November 2009, Oast House Archive; licensed for re-use under a Creative Commons Licence.
Images also under a similar Creative Commons Licence.

A brief description of different types and list of remaining windmills in Britain and Ireland.


Post Mill

A small wooden mill based on a central pivot, turned manually by a tiller.
TQ3245 : Outwood Windmill by Oast House Archive TR2654 : Chillenden post mill by Paul

The remains of this mill show the central post that the whole structure would pivot on.
TQ7308 : Remains of The Downs Windmill, Windmill Park, Sidley, East Sussex by Oast House Archive

Smock Mill

Varying in size, a timber weatherboarded structure on a brick base. The top section with sails pivots automatically with the wind with a tail sail.

SU7691 : The windmill, Turville by Andrew Smith SP8100 : Smock Mill, Lacey Green by Andrew Smith

Cranbrook windmill is the tallest smock mill, with eight storeys.
TQ7735 : Cranbrook Union Windmill, Russells Yard, Cranbrook, Kent by Oast House Archive

Tower Mill

A substantial larger structure, typically built of brick. A timber built roof cap (sometimes called an 'onion cap') with attached sails allows it to pivot independently from the main tower to face the wind, this is controlled by a fan tail sail.

TF7632 : Great Bircham tower mill by Evelyn Simak

The tallest tower mill is at Moulton.
TF3024 : Moulton Windmill 1 by Colin Mitchell

Wind engine

SU4256 : Crux Easton Wind Engine by ANDY FISH


Windmill coverage map for England, Scotland & Wales Copyright 2008 HunterExternal link


Like all vernacular buildings, windmills were typically constructed from the materials local to them, using local timbers, brick, stone, tile, or slate. There were other determining factors for construction materials, such as the brick tax from 1794 to 1850.


SH3485 : Melin Llynnon from the visitor's car park by Eric Jones TQ8028 : Ringle Crouch Green Mill, Sandhurst, Kent by Oast House Archive TF3450 : Trader windmill, Sibsey by Jim Woodward-Nutt TF1443 : Pocklington's Mill, Heckington by Chris Coleman

Typically mills have four sails though larger numbers were used particularly in Lincolnshire. Five sails was seen as more efficient but unlike mills with even numbers of sails could not operate if a pair of sails was removed for repair.

Preservation & Conversion

Around 800 windmills are listed buildings.

As windmills are not used commercially any longer, further uses need to be found, if they are not to be preserved as a museum. Typically this means conversion to a dwelling. Often converted windmills use just the remaining base of the mill, in the case of smock mills, as the timber structure was often removed, leaving a sound brick base.
TA0222 : Hewson's Tower Mill, Barton Upon Humber by David Wright


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