Quainton Windmill Society - enthusiastically preserving our heritage for future generations to enjoy

 
 
 











































HISTORY OF QUAINTON WINDMILL

The building of the windmill, the tallest in Buckinghamshire, started in 1830 to the order of Mr James Anstiss. The bricks for the 65 ft tower were burnt in a kiln set up near the mill, the clay being dug from a depression about 100 yards to the northeast. Two of the bricks are inscribed "JA Hunt 1830" and "G & B 1830".

There was a delay in building during the winter of 1830 while Mr Anstiss visited America. A family member believes he did this to earn money to fund the completion of the mill. While he was away, the half-completed tower was thatched to protect the building during adverse weather. William Cooper, millwrights of Aylesbury, installed the machinery during the following twelve months incorporating the latest ideas in millwrighting. The mill was completed in 1832. William Cooper was declared bankrupt shortly afterwards.

James Anstiss, who had the mill built, was the only son of another miller and was baptised in the Quainton parish church on 28th January 1805. He was trained as a land surveyor and worked on the maps for the locality at the time of the Parliamentary enclosures of the open fields in 1841. He combined this work with his roles as farmer and miller. By 1881, aged 76, he had retired as an active miller and had handed over to his son Thomas Anstiss. During the mill's life other millers working here were Joseph Rose, Charles Burton, and William Smith who moved his family here from Towersey near Thame.

Early in the mill's life the first floor was raised and reor­ganized to allow a 20hp Vertical Steam Engine to be installed on the massive bed-stone on the ground floor, with its boiler in the open outside the north door. The drive from the engine was taken up the mill to engage the great spur wheel. This was a common practice at the time. The engine enabled the mill to work regardless of the wind particularly important for this mill since it was shielded by nearby hills from winds from the north west round to the north east.

Coal for the engine had to be carted ten miles from the nearest railhead at Winslow.

Although machinery for three pairs of stones was installed, historical records indicate that only two damsels were ever supplied. A damsel is a spindle that helps feed grain into the milling stones. When the mill was put up for sale in 1912 two pairs of stones were listed. It is believed that these two pairs were the only ones serviceable at the time, the third pair having disintegrated and are now on the ground floor. It is recorded that one pair of stones was sold in 1914. It is thought that this was one of the serviceable pairs, leaving the mill, as it is now, with one pair of working stones and one pair in need of restoration.

It is not known precisely when the mill stopped operating. It was well built and there is no indication that it ever suffered a mechanical breakdown, but in the 1891 census both James and Thomas Anstiss were described as "retired millers". Stanley Freese, an authority on mills, wrote in 1939 that the mill’s active career was brought about by:

- the mill's unfortunate position at the foot of the hill.

- competition from seaport mills.

- the cost and trouble of carting coal from Winslow for the
  engine before the through line from London was opened.

- the conversion of the Vale of Aylesbury to grass as a result of
  the enclosure of the fields.

Stanley Freese added "whilst wind and steam power were in occasional use some forty years before, the mill ceased to work after the fantail blew off, after which the mill was left derelict". (The fantail blew off in a gale in 1899.)

Messrs Prentice of Tring bought the engine and boiler for scrap in 1914.


Quainton Windmill Society

The Quainton Windmill Society was formed in 1974 with the object of restoring the mill. The present owner and Society Life President is Mr Colin Dancer: he is a descendant of James Anstiss. Restoration work has continued since 1974. At this time grants were obtained from the Bucks County Council, English Heritage, New Horizons Trust, and EB Buckinghamshire, The Friends of the Vale of Aylesbury, the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) , the Ernest Cook Trust and Bucks Historic Buildings Trust Ltd. Many individuals have made donations and help in kind has been received from numerous organisations.

It is appropriate to list the names of members who have devoted many years of service to the Society:

Dennis Moreton

John Faircloth

Patrick Tooms

Roger Lewendon

Roddy Rodwell

Colin Richardson

Tony Atkinson

Dick Lee

Alasdair Simpson

Bernard Hall

John Gleave

Bob Bleasdale



FIRST RESTORATION OF THE MILL 1974 - 2013

October 1970
Suggestion to Quainton Parish Council that the mill be restored.


March 1971
Feasibility report written on behalf of the Society for the Preservation of Ancient Buildings and the Department of the Environment.


July 1972
Detailed report written on the requirements of a restoration, with costings.


February 1973
Restoration costed by the National Trust.


May 1974
Public meeting held to discuss restoration; Quainton Windmill Society formed.


June 1974
Restoration work started. Ladders erected and temporary flooring installed. Floors cleared and a wall and pit on the ground floor eliminated.


December 1974

Top floor reached; plans made to remove the cap and machinery by crane. The one remaining sail was removed.


May 1975
Cap and machinery removed.


December 1975
Arrangements made to collect two 35ft pitch pine timbers for the head-frame from St Catherine's Dock in London. Sufficient boarding for the floors obtained, also 1,000 second ­hand bricks.


April 1976
First floor joists of oak and second floor joists of elm in place.


October 1977
Aylesbury College agreed to make 168 shutters for the sails (because of pressure of work the College could complete only half the task: the Society completed the job using Aylesbury College's machinery). Brickwork at top of mill re-laid. First and second floors re-boarded. 75% of gallery in place.


Spring 1978
Ground floor paved with bricks. Wooden doors fitted to the gallery floor.   Electric lighting and power points installed on each floor.


1979
Arrangements made to collect timber for sails from the old Custom House in Cutler Street, London, being demolished by the Port of London Authority:  11 double beams 40 ft long and 24 beams 6ft long collected.   Five lengths of iron track from the top of the mill taken away for repair.


1983
Fantail structure completed and head frame assembled.


1986
Head frame, fantail, brakewheel and cap fully assembled on the ground behind the mill.


May 1987
Cap lifted on to the mill.


1988

Governor completed and installed.


1989
Fantail severely damaged by gales, also fibreglass skirt of the cap torn off. Fantail redesigned, built and refitted; skirt repaired and refitted.


1990
Whips, stocks, and shutters of sails complete and ready for assembly.


Autumn 1991
Sails assembled.


August 1992
First of the new sails hoisted into position and fixed.


October 1992
All the sails hoisted and fitted into position.


January 1993
Sails first turned by wind power.


July 1994
Millstones first turned at operating speed under wind power.


1995
Interior walls of the mill lime-washed white. New floor to Stone Floor fitted.


February 1997
Grain milled into flour for the first time for about 100 years.


1997
One of the sail hemlaths rotted and broke: several shutters blew out and needed replacing. Grant obtained to build replacement set of sails using modern durable materials. Arrangements made to procure the required timber, galvanized steel, glass fibre sheeting and fixings. New drums for sack hoist fitted.


April 1998
Restored wire machine (flour dressing machine) first operated.


July-Autumn 2000
First set of sails now unserviceable removed from mill.


October 2000
Casting in the cap holding the luffing gear wheels found to be split -removed for repair. Also fantail removed as mill could no longer be turned into wind.   Fantail blades replaced.


June 2002
Luffing gear and fantail back in working order. Gallery decking replaced.


April 2003
Shaping of timbers for second set of sails complete; timbers sent for weather-proofing treatment.


October 2004
Assembly of second set of sails complete; sails hoisted into position and fixed.


April 2005
Second set of sails first turned by wind power


October 2006
Stone Crane bought and installed


May 2007
First milling of flour with new sails.


April 2012
Milling of flour ceased as control bars on two sails sheared preventing shutter operation.


September 2012
Fantail spokes and blades replaced after storm damage as a memorial to Dennis Moreton.


October 2012
New committee elected.


November 2012
Started locating grant bodies for replacing the head frame.


November 2012
Applied to English Heritage for Grade II* status.


December 2012 - January 2013
Obtained quotes from consultants for a survey.


March 2013

Started windows refurbishment.


May 2013

ATG apprentices making (free) replacement parts for sails controls.


June 2013
Awarded grant from BHBT Ltd towards cost of survey and costing for replacement head frame.


July 2013

Fitted replacement control bars to two sails; removed ‘temporary’ striking bar operating mechanism and refurbished the original mechanism—the Y-chain wheel. The sails turned again after a break of a year but unable to mill flour as the head frame is too weakened.


December 2013
Survey reports showed the head frame so weakened that the sails had to be removed for safety reasons.


January 2014
The fantail blades were removed for the same reasons.

 
THE HISTORY FROM 2014 UNTIL THE PRESENT DAY IS COVERED IN THE RESTORATION
SECTION

 

 

 

 
 
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