West Blatchington Windmill
The last meeting of the 2013/14 winter season was a trip to West Blatchington smock mill at Hove. We had held our winter meetings at the mill before moving to a more central location at Faygate but most of us had never got to see round the mill. A group of about 10 club members assembled at the mill to be taken on a guided tour by our host Peter Hill who gave us a fascinating insight into the history of the mill and milling in general. The Mill, built in 1820 as a private mill serving the farm, was built on an existing square flint and brick tower of somewhat uncertain origin but thought to date from
the 1700’s. The A frame supporting the mill main shaft is therefore uniquely designed to fit the existing tower and had been fashioned from ancient ships timbers no doubt from a wreck being broken up on the south coast. Peter had not been able to find any casting marks on the ironwork so the origin and date of this is unknown. Abutting the tower were two barns, only one of which now survives after children managed to set the other alight many years ago. Fortunately the wind was directing the flames away from the windmill which is now Grade 11* listed.
The mill had been the subject of a John Constable watercolour painted in 1825 and during WW2, was the base for the air-raid wardens who could keep watch over a large area from the top of the mill. As we moved on up through the mill Peter gave us a fascinating talk on the exhibits and machinery on each floor. As the floors became progressively higher they also became smaller and it was lucky there were not more members present as on the final floor , after some very steep steps, it was standing room only. Right at the very top, we could see the mechanism for allowing the top cap to revolve into the wind, crude but effective. After our tour of the mill we adjourned for refreshments and a natter to finish off what was a most interesting visit. Our thanks go to Peter and his band of helpers who gave us the tour and served up the refreshments.
If you missed this visit and want to see the mill, it is open to visitors Sunday and Bank Holiday afternoons from May to September but please check before travelling.