windowthroughtime

A wry view of life for the world-weary

On My Doorstep – Part Fifteen

frimleygreenwindmill

Frimley Green Windmill

I was driving out of Frimley Green down the Guildford Road a few weeks ago and my attention was drawn to a road sign on the left-hand side indicating Windmill Lane. I made a mental note to myself that I needed to look it up when I got home and to see whether it was just the fanciful end-product of a town planner’s imagination or whether there really was a windmill in the vicinity.

Well, there was a windmill and what is more, it still exists, albeit in a modified state. These days we rather associate windmills with Holland but they were a common feature of the English landscape well into the 19th century. It is thought that they were introduced into the country after the Crusades in the 12th century. Within a couple of centuries of their introduction there were some 4,000 or so dotted around the countryside. Their popularity was due to the fact that they were cheaper to construct and more convenient than water mills which required to be situated by running water. The windmill was used to generate the power to grind grain into flour which was then deployed to make the staff of life, bread. As bread production became industrialised and centralised, windmills fell into disuse.

The windmill at Frimley Green was a rather late development. The first record of the mill dates to 1784 when it was said to have been owned by a Mr Terry. Ownership passed to Thomas Lilley in 1792, although the donkey work was done by George Marshall who is named as the miller for that period. In 1801 there was another change of ownership with William Collins taking up the mantle and John Banks doing the milling. There was a further change of ownership in 1803 when the mill passed into the hands of the Royal Military College at Sandhurst, presumably to provide the officers and trainees with the wherewithal for their daily bread. It remained under army control until at least 1832 but probably they owned it for longer. By 1870, however, it was disused and gradually fell into a state of dereliction.

Structurally, it consisted of a round, brick built tower consisting of four storeys which tapered to the point where the sails would have been affixed. The photograph of it dating to 1906 shows the remains of two sails although I suspect that it had a more conventional arrangement of four or five. To the naked eye, they seem to be Spring or Patent sails. As these were not invented until 1807 they are obviously not the original sails which were probably open lattice sails covered with cloth.

frimleygreenwindmill1

A staple of Channel 4’s TV output are shows featuring naïve couples who buy a derelict building and convert it into modern living accommodation on unfeasibly tight budgets. It is not a modern phenomenon. In 1914 the remains of the Frimley Green windmill were incorporated into a residential property by Frank Abbot. It is a rather splendid L-shaped building with brown and red bricks and a conical roof atop the tower.

At least the tower, which is now Grade II listed, was spared from the ravages of time and neglect.

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