Windmills, in existence for over 800 years, have not always survived since their role of pumping water, grinding corn, and providing power for industry has been taken over by more modern methods.
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The mills that have survived are an attractive feature of the landscape in Britain. Their various types of design and construction open a historical window into the past use of energy, development of engineering, and the processing of agricultural grains.
Following a brief historical background on windmills, this book explains the three types of windmillsópost, tower, and smock. The post is Englandís earliest type and has a timber-framed and clad body. The machinery of a tower mill was enclosed within a masonry tower, hence the name. A smock mill is, in reality, a type of tower mill. The tower is timber-framed and clad.
Another chapter explains the difference in size and shape and design of sails. The chapter on winding is all about the turning of the sails in order to take advantage of the wind. Caps and curbs introduces the types of windmill caps and the differences in their purpose and operation. Anyone who has puzzled over the machinery of a mill will welcome the chapter on machinery with its succinct explanations.
Drainage mills were in a class by themselves. Only one working example still exists at Wicken fen in Cambridgeshire. Industrial and agricultural windmills had their earliest use (besides grinding grain) in extracting oil from seeds. The area around Hull in east Yorkshire was noted for this type of mill.
A helpful list of further reading and a glossary are included in the book. Best of all is a list of windmills, organized by county, to visit with full details of location, contact information, and websites.
Author Martin Watts is well qualified to write about windmills, having studied them since the 1960s. He has a background in architecture and design and was curator of Worsbrough mill museum in south Yorkshire. Following this, he repaired a watermill in Devon over a seven year period and set up a stone-ground flour business. Since 1988 he has worked as a millwright and consultant for historic mills and their machinery. He has authored a number of books and articles.
This informative Shire book lives up to the carefully researched and detailed books for which the publisher is noted. Itís a must for those wanting to visit, or interested in, windmills. A visit to a windmill takes on a more meaningful and enjoyable aspect after reading Windmills.
Publisher: Shire Publications Ltd, Cromwell House, Church Street, Princes Risborough, Buckinghamshire, HP27 9AA
ISBN: 0 7478 0653 5
Published May 2006
64 pages, 92 colour and 10 b/w illustrations
Available from booksellers or from Shire Publications