Millwright update

Despite the weather, restoration goes on. Here’s the latest update from millwright Paul Sellwood, of Owlsworth IJP.

The sails are being repaired, with the rotten sailbars being replaced. Interestingly, Paul has found no evidence that the patent sails ever had shutters. On single patent sails, the shutters are on the trailing edge, so the leading edge of the sail, which hits the wind first, is normally narrower than the trailing edge (you can see this in the photo of Shipley Windmill in West Sussex).

Stormy sky

The trailing edge and leading edge of Brixton Windmill's sails are of equal width (photo by Owen Llewellyn)

However, on the two patent sails from Brixton Windmill, the trailing edge and leading edge are both the same width. So Paul is proposing to push the sailbars from the leading edge to the trailing edge through the central bar, or whip, by around seven inches. This means that the overall area of the sails will remain the same, but allows room for the shutters to be attached to the trailing edge. He has drawn up some plans for this for the architects Dannatt Johnson to submit to English Heritage if necessary.

Mill parts
All the parts of the provender mill from the meal floor have been stripped down, cleaned up and painted. The tentering gear, which adjusts the gap between the millstones, now works, and the stones have been dressed (carved with small furrows, or grooves, which allow air to cool the flour while it is being ground) – this took one and a half days.

Paul is also working on the parts of the main mill from the stone floor above the meal floor. The main millstones there will have to be dressed on site, as they are too big to remove, but Paul wonders whether they were ever used for milling. “The floor looks relatively new, and there is no cut-out for the flour to spill out down to the meal floor below,” he explains. “And the spout doesn’t line up with anything.”

Mill horse and runner stone

The horse is in terrible condition and will be replaced (photo by Owen Llewellyn)

The wooden casing for the stones, which has been damaged by a wire brush during previous restorations, needs repairing, but the shoe, which feeds the grain from the hopper into the eye of the runner stone, is made of “beautiful elm”, and Paul wants to retain as much of it as possible. The existing hopper is to be repaired. The horse (the timber frame that holds the hopper in position) is in terrible shape and will therefore be replaced. The grain bin that feeds the provender mill will be lined with zinc sheet to conform with current food safety standards, as will the hopper and the metal casing of the stones.

With the timber cladding stripped off the cap, Paul has managed to inspect the timbers beneath. First signs are good – he even managed to turn the cap about two inches in each direction (the scaffolding prevented further movement). The timber is in good shape, but there is some minor decay on the weather beam, which supports the weight of the sails. He will be adding metal strapping to help hold the beam together. To inspect the skid plates, Paul will lift the cap up with hydraulic wedges.

All in all, the cap seems to be in very good order: “It needs minimal intervention,” says Paul.

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One Response to Millwright update

  1. pennysteele says:

    Paul’s comments about the sails whether the main millstones had ever been used for milling leads me to think that a certain amount of the 1960s restoration must have been done just for show, rather than how a working mill would actually be.

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