Bembridge windmill, at Brading Haven, on the Isle of Wight, dates from the early 18th century. It is an example of a “tower” or “cap” mill. The tower rises to 30 feet with the stone walls ranging from 3.5 feet at the base to 1.5 feet at the top. Roman cement faces the weather side, and stone outlines the doors and windows. The “cap” is a wooden roof built on oak beams that forms a cradle. The cap turns on this along with the wind shaft, interior driving wheels, and the sweeps (60 feet tip to tip). From the exterior the cap, turning gear and steering wheel are visible.
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Much of the original wooden machinery is in the mill. You can explore the mill beginning at the large double oak doorway on the ground floor. This is where corn sacks would have been unloaded and sent to the Bin floor by a sack hoist. Wooden ladders lead to the third floor.
The Bin floor gets its name from the bins that stored the grain. Gravity would empty them down to the mill stones where the grain was ground. On this floor you can see the four oak beams, the cast iron wind shaft, and, through the window, views of the countryside. On this floor is the eight-foot-in-diameter brake wheel with beechwood teeth.
Down one floor is the Stone floor that gets its name from the its grinding stones. Each stone weighs half a ton. As the grain was ground it went down a wooden chute to the ground floor, where it was bagged. The Machine floor gets its name from all the machinery located there: an upright shaft, a great spur wheel, a meal bin, a small wire machine, a large wire machine, and much more. The wire machines, dated 1860s, separated and graded brans and waste products.
The ground floor is where the grain was unloaded to go up to the bin floor. The canvas and wooden chutes delivered the flour, bran, and meal here from the floors above. Scales for measuring hang from the ceiling.
The windmill produced flour, meal, and cattle feed until land was reclaimed from Brading Haven—1894-97. After this time only cattle feed was produced with the mill permanently closing in 1913. It was partly restored in 1930 but became derelict in the 1940s. In the late 1950s restoration was again initiated.
There is much more on the details of this mill in the National Trust’s handbook available on-site in the shop kiosk.
˝ mile south of Bembridge on B3395
Tel. 0 1983 873 945
Open: mid March-first few days Nov, daily, 10.30am-5pm
Drinks available in kiosk; gifts; no wc’s; parking 100 yards in lay-by; upper floors accessible only by climbing the ladders.