Yesterday, Owlsworth millwrights started dismantling the provender mill, which sits on the first floor of Brixton Windmill. This cast-iron structure dating from 1902 was originally powered by steam and then by gas, and is a mill in its own right.
It was introduced because the original millstones on the floor above are made of Derbyshire grit (a type of sandstone) and produced quite a coarse flour. As white bread became more fashionable, the miller needed millstones that could grind finer flour. The solution was French quartz (which incidentally cost 10 times as much as the Derbyshire stone!).
Unlike the Derbyshire stone, which was cut as one large monolith, the French quartz came in smaller blocks, which were cemented together with plaster of Paris (see photo, left).
After restoration, the provender mill will be powered by electricity and will be used in grinding demonstrations for the public and school groups.
When it was removed, it was clear that the hopper of the provender mill was rather blocked (see photo left), including the remains of a dead bird.
Further discussions are being held on how best to remove the provender mill, as the jib for lifting them millstones is currently wedged tightly to the beams of the floor above.