10 things you probably didn’t know about windmills

Did you know that Special Collections & Archives hold not one, not two, but four collections relating to windmills and their history? To celebrate National Mills weekend (being held virtually over the bank holiday, 9 – 10 May 2020) we thought we’d put together some interesting facts based on our marvellous mill material! (Alliteration encouraged but not necessary.)

We challenge you not to find windmills awesome after this post

We challenge you not to find windmills awesome after this post

1. Windmills are important sources of local history

We’re so used to living in an age with electrical everything, but before the industrial revolution happened mills were vital sources of power across the UK and Europe. They didn’t need to be near water sources to generate energy and were used for all kinds of work, especially grinding wheat to make flour – vital in a world before mass imported food.

Because mills could be found almost everywhere until the 19th century, they’re a unique source for exploring local history and a great starting point for archive research: who owned the mill? What was it used for? Where was it in the community and how long did it operate for? If it’s no longer around, what’s replaced it on the site? Who worked in mills and how much did they earn? Mills are a great resource for economic, local and art historians alike.

2. Know your mill types: tower mill

Lots of tower mills: note the brick and cylindrical body

Lots of tower mills: note the brick and cylindrical body

If you’ve been following our #WindmillWednesday hashtag on Twitter, you’ll notice that there isn’t just one type of windmill to explore. We traditionally associate windmills with tower mills – they’re fairly cone-like in shape, often brick-based and the sails are attached to a wooden roof that can rotate in the direction of the wind. Tower mills have existed since the 13th century but they became popular from the 16th century onwards; however they’ve always been more expensive to build than other types of mill. In the UK, the tallest existing tower mill can be found at Moulton in Lancashire.

Moulton windmill's workers must have been extremely fit to get all the way to the top (image taken in 1938)

Moulton windmill’s workers must have been extremely fit to get all the way to the top (image taken in 1938)

3. Kent has so many windmills there’s an entire book about them

At one point, Kent had over 400 windmills – with Deal and Sandwich hosting 6 each! Today 12 still exist; Kent County Council look after 6 of them. The definitive work about Kent’s windmills was written by historian William Coles-Finch (1864 – 1944) in 1933. Windmills and Watermills was republished in 1976; we have several copies of each edition. We often get asked “why do you have things relating to windmills anyway?!”; our answer – alongside the local history and generally awesome elements – relates to the creators of the three main mill collections we hold. Keep reading for more information…

4. Know your mill types: post mill

Post mills, not to be confused with post boxes

Post mills, not to be confused with post boxes

Post mills are the earliest known type of European windmill and generally the most affordable to build. They can be recognised easily – they have a blocky, boxy structure that sits on top of one post, often hidden by a cylindrical base. Architecture aside, the main difference between tower mills and post mills is that in post mills the mechanisms are enclosed within the box of the mill (around a single post, hence the name) and it’s this part that turns. In comparison to a tower mill, this is a huge difference – in tower mills it’s only the top of the mill that rotates. Sometimes you’ll see post mills without the cylindrical base, but as it’s pretty useful for storage many are built with this area included as part of the design. In the UK, the longest working post mill can be found in Outwood, Surrey; the oldest non-working mill is in Great Gransden, Cambridgeshire.

Great Gransden windmill shows off its best side (1979)

Great Gransden windmill shows off its best side (1979)

Miller Stanley Jupp looks mighty proud of his Outwood windmill, as he should (1961)

Miller Stanley Jupp looks mighty proud of his Outwood windmill, as he should (1961)

5. The Muggeridge family really liked windmills

The Muggeridge family - father and son

The Muggeridge family – father and son

The largest collection of mill material we look after belongs to the Muggeridges. William Burrell Muggeridge (1884 – 1978) started taking images of mills in 1904 and continued for most of his life; we hold his glass plate photos. William passed his love of all things windmill onto his son, Donald (1918 – 2015) who spent much of his spare time cycling around the UK with his wife Vera. Vera and Donald were interested in all things heritage-related and windmills formed a large part of that interest. Donald’s photographs also reside with us. You can read more about the Muggeridges here.

6. Know your mill types: smock mill

Smock mills in all their finery

Smock mills in all their finery

Like tower mills, smock mills only rotate through the top of the building where the sails are attached. The main difference between smock mills and tower mills is that smock mills are generally constructed of wood and have 6 or 8 sides, whereas tower mills are made of brick and generally cylindrical in shape. Because of their multiple sides smock mills resemble smocks traditionally worn by farmers. In the UK you can find the oldest existing smock mill in Lacey Green, Buckinghamshire.

Lacey Green smock mill looking mighty atmospheric (1934)

Lacey Green smock mill looking mighty atmospheric (1934)

7.  Not just the UK: windmills across the world

The majority of our mill collections focus on UK windmills, but they’re well documented across Europe and beyond. The Netherlands is particularly famous for milling – in 1850 they had 10,000 windmills in operation out of Europe’s 200,000 total! After the Second World War Donald Muggeridge moved to North America (Canada then California), so his collection contains many photos of American mills and others across the globe from his travels. You can explore the listing of Donald’s adventures here.

8. C.P. Davies was also a big mill fan

Our other significant mill collection belonged to C.P. Davies, a Kent based librarian in the 20th century. The Davies collection differs from the Muggeridges’ in that it is much more text and ephemera based – you can find newspaper cuttings, articles, pictures and handwritten notes amongst its c.100 boxes. Davies was primarily focused on mills along the south coast (Kent and Sussex), but there’s information about a wide variety of mills across the UK and Europe. You can browse the listing of the collection here.

9. One final Kent name to remember: the Holman family

Two of the scrapbooks from the Holman family. There's at least one cute sheep photo within.

Two of the scrapbooks from the Holman family. There’s at least one cute sheep photo within.

If you’ve visited Special Collections & Archives on an open day in the past few years, you may well have seen one of our gorgeous windmill scrapbooks. These scrapbooks were made by John Holman; his collection also includes engineering notebooks and many other memorabilia relating to mills. The Holmans were a famous milling family in Kent; they built twelve wooden smock mills across the county between 1793 and 1928, of which six still stand. The Holman milling business (which included engineering and designing mill parts too) ran for 150 years. If you’re interested in finding out more about them, The Mills Archive have a wonderful biography of the Holmans online.

10. Mills have switched from practical structures to heritage buildings

Nowadays most mills aren’t in use for power generation as there are far more efficient methods, and the number of buildings that still exist are far fewer. As you might expect given their structure and components, windmills are at risk from bad weather, neglect and occasionally fires – there are a lot of photos across all our mill collections that record the damage time does to these marvellous machines. However many mills now are managed either through county councils (Kent County Council looks after eight of twelve remaining) or via volunteer charities. They often open for visitors in the summer months, and initiatives like the National Mills weekend help to raise support and awareness.

If you’ve read this far…congratulations! You may now call yourself a molinologist, aka someone who studies mills! Maybe one day you will find yourself seeking out windmills far and wide, like the author of this blog:

Zaanse Schaans windmills in 2018 and 1982.

Windmills: guaranteed to make you happy!

Resources and references:

Kent County Council have a fantastic resource pack to teach children (and adults) about windmills: https://shareweb.kent.gov.uk/Documents/Leisure-and-culture/heritage/heritage-education-packs/windmills-education-pack.pdf

The Mills Archive is a fantastic site for molinologists of all ages but we particularly like their biography of the Holman family: https://millsarchive.org/explore/features-and-articles/entry/158534/holman-bros.-millwrights-of-canterbury-a-history/6817 

For much-needed reading, the Wikipedia pages on windmills are a great place to start (and very thorough): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Windmill

The majority of our windmill collections are catalogued; you can view details of their contents here: https://archive.kent.ac.uk/TreeBrowse.aspx?src=CalmView.Catalog&field=RefNo&key=MILL 

We are continuously cataloguing our library of mill-related books, and you can view up to date listings on LibrarySearch: https://librarysearch.kent.ac.uk/client/en_GB/kent/search/results?qu=windmill&qf=LOCATION%09Location%091%3ASCA%09Special+Collections+and+Archives&if=el%09edsSelectFacet%09FT1&ir=Library&isd=true

All photographs used in the hybrid images in this post are from our Muggeridge collection: https://archive.kent.ac.uk/Record.aspx?src=CalmView.Catalog&id=MILL%2fMUG

Snow in the archives: exploring the big freeze throughout our collections

Hello from a very wintery Canterbury! The SC&A team have been battling up the hill this week as 2018’s infamous ‘Beast From The East’ lands upon Kent.

Inevitably, this cold weather got us thinking about how snow has been represented throughout history, and it’s almost no surprise that the British fascination with bad weather spreads its icy tendrils through our collections (not literally, though!)…

Special Collections & Archives is known for our extensive archives of windmill photos from the 20th century, particularly the collections of the Muggeridges and C.P. Davies. Here, Muggeridge finds the ideal winter shot: a model of a post mill in Sussex that’s mostly buried by the white stuff…

UKC-MIL-MUG-BW.540246, ‘Black and white negative and print made from it of a model of a post mill with roundhouse in Outwood, Surrey, in Camelsdale, Sussex, taken on 22nd December 1938, showing a side view covered with snow’, Muggeridge Collections

Our Modern Firsts collection of poetry contains verses in almost every format and theme imaginable, and it’s there that some of the most interesting ideas about weather come to light. In his 1997 work ‘Snow has settled (…) bury me here’, Peter Riley explores memories of place from a starting point of cold weather. The way that snow changes landscapes so completely is simulataneously refreshing, exciting and alien. Snow is also (in Britain at least) a hugely memorable event: we can all recall snow days, which are increasingly rare, particularly when we were young.

MOR.I526 POETRY (057119600), Peter Riley: ‘Snow has settled (…) bury me here’, 1997, Shearsman Books

MOR.I526 POETRY (057119600), Peter Riley: 'Snow has settled (...) bury me here', 1997, Shearsman Books

MOR.I526 POETRY (057119600), Peter Riley: ‘Snow has settled (…) bury me here’, 1997, Shearsman Books

The dramatic elements of cold are frequently used in fiction to express mood, so it’s no surprise that the shock of the snow is also popular for playwrights. In 1862, Bristol’s Theatre Royal put on a multi-show performance that included an entertainment called ‘The Angel of Midnight, or, the Duel in the Snow’ set in Munich in 1750:

UKC-POS-BRSROY.0592650: Playbill advertising PEEP O’DAY and THE ANGEL OF MIDNIGHT at the Theatre Royal, Bristol, 21 April 1862

Our Pettingell collection is full of popular entertainments and melodramas from the Victorian era – you can see from the scripts why winter weather was a popular theme for audiences. Through the magic of scenery, audiences could be transported to far-off places like Russia or the Alps, where the characters were less familiar but the villains remained the same:

PETT B.53 SPEC COLL (059016100), 'The snow storm; or, Lowina of Tobolskow : a melodramatick romance', W. Barrymore, 1818

PETT B.53 SPEC COLL (059016100), ‘The snow storm; or, Lowina of Tobolskow : a melodramatick romance’, W. Barrymore, 1818

The Victorians were well known for developing stage effects. The lure of seeing spectacles frequently drew crowds to theatres long before movies, TV and the internet. What could be more exciting than seeing an avalanche live on stage?

PETT MSS.U.10 SPEC COLL (059872400), ‘Under the snow: in three acts’, J.C. Griffiths, 1877

PETT MSS.U.10 SPEC COLL (059872400), 'Under the snow: in three acts', J.C. Griffiths, 1877

PETT MSS.U.10 SPEC COLL (059872400), ‘Under the snow: in three acts’, J.C. Griffiths, 1877

PETT MSS.U.10 SPEC COLL (059872400), ‘Under the snow: in three acts’, J.C. Griffiths, 1877

Cartoonists, too, can use the weather to reflect goings-on in society. In 2016, Brian Adcock imagined what a certain blonde Republican presidential candidate would have to say…

BAD0244, ‘”If I was president I would have a total and compete shutdown of snow entering the United States”‘, 25 Jan 2016, The Independent

Because we all need a laugh more than ever when struggling with leaving the house, the job of a cartoonist becomes vital during the winter months. In the digital age, it’s probably easier for artists to email scans of their work in, but before that – spare a thought for Carl Giles:

GAPH00137, Black and white photo of Giles in the snow at Hillbrow Farm handing packaged artwork to helicopter pilot [Rob Flexman of Aeromega Helicopters], 17 Jan 1987, Express Newspapers

Perhaps unsurprisingly, we leave the job of summing up our feelings towards snow to the early 20th century cartoonist W.K. Haselden: it’s mighty pretty to look at but perhaps slightly less fun when we get stuck in it – literally…

WH2559: ‘Snow in poetry and reality’, 18 Jan 1926, Daily Mirror

All snow-related material described here can be found through either LibrarySearch, the Special Collections & Archives website or the British Cartoon Archive catalogue; all are welcome to come and explore weather-related adventures in our snow-free Reading Room.

Tiffin Scrapbooks

Jon Shepherd, Assistant Archivist in Special Collections & Archives until December 2017, writes:

The Tiffin Scrapbooks is a small collection of scrapbooks containing several hundred black and white and coloured images of windmills and cuttings mainly from around the county of Kent but also elsewhere in the UK and even from further afield in Europe.

The first scrapbook is titled ‘Windmills In Kent-past and present’ including photographs from the villages of Aldington in Mid Kent to Worthin East Kent.

This card is pasted into the front of MILL/TIFF/2
















Secondly there is a miscellaneous scrapbook which contains newspaper and magazine cuttings and postcards dating from the 1930s and covering the following English counties; Kent, Sussex, Essex, Yorkshire, Surrey, Cambridgeshire, Lincolnshire, Norfolk, Nottinghamshire, Buckinghamshire, Warwickshire, Leicestershire, Northamptonshire, Yorkshire, Bedfordshire, Suffolk, Oxfordshire as well as Anglesey, Holland, Belgium, Spain, Germany, USA and Mykonos.

Articles from Tiffin scrapbook MILL/TIFF/3

Scrapbook three again covers the Windmills of Kent and was assembled in around 1935. It includes cuttings, photographs, maps, poems, lists, postcards, typescript text and cartoons. It includes items on windmills from the villages of Acrise in South Kent to Yalding in West Kent, as well as images of some other subjects.

This image is pasted into Tiffin Scrapbook MILL/TIFF/3

The fourth scrapbook contains a photographic record of all of the windmills in Kent that remained standing in the year 1931 taken by A. W. Tiffin This includes examples from the Kent villages of Ash in East Kent through to Woodchurch in South Kent.

The last scrapbook is known as the Lancaster Burne Album and includes 261 pages of cuttings, postcards, adverts, photos and manuscript notes regarding windmills that can be found from Argos Hill to Zoandam. It includes windmills in Kent, West Sussex, East Sussex, Surrey, Holland, Belgium and France.

The collection can be browsed via the online catalogue via https://archive.kent.ac.uk/TreeBrowse.aspx?src=CalmView.Catalog&field=RefNo&key=MILL%2fTIFF.

If you would like to take a closer look at any of these five items and their fascinating images of windmills then please get in contact with us on specialcollections@kent.ac.uk or +44 (0)1227 82 3127.

Happy New Year!

With the last days of Christmas coming to a close, we hope that you all had a restful and enjoyable festive season. Special Collections & Archives is now open as usual again and we look forward to seeing you in 2016.

If you’ve been getting involved in social media over the festive period, you might have seen our very own celebration of the Twelve Days of Christmas via @UoKSpecialColls. With only 140 characters in which to celebrate our wide range of collections, we had to be brief, but I thought I’d take this opportunity to tell you more about some of the items we featured.

The first day of Christmas: an ancient Greek vase

Perhaps one of our most enigmatic items, this Greek vase has been part of Special Collections for a long time, and represents those stand alone items which are not part of any collection, but are unique, rare or valuable within their own right. Although the provenance of the vase is unknown, information with the item does suggest that this is an ancient treasure.

The second day of Christmas: two pantomime clowns

Still a staple of the festive season, pantomime was an important part of the theatrical tradition throughout the Victorian and Edwardian periods. The clowns were, of course, an early part of the pantomime genre, which evolved from the Italian comedia dell’arte. These two comedians are Dick Henderson and George Jackley, who regularly collaborated with the Melville family in their annual pantomimes. This image is from the 1923/24 production of Jack and the Beanstalk at the Lyceum Theatre.


Information about the Theatre Collections.

The third day of Christmas: three cute koalas

3714This lovely image is of Hewlett Johnson, Dean of Canterbury Cathedral from 1931-1963. A contraversial figure in his lifetime, owing to his stalwart support of Communist regimes including Stalin’s Russia and Mao’s China, Johnson travelled widely. This photograph is from an album celebrating Johnson’s visit to Australia in 1950 as part of a global tour giving speeches at Peace Rallies. Having travelled via Rome, Karachi and Calcutta, Johnson then visited Sydney and Darwin, arriving in Melbourne on 15th April. The photograph was taken at  Lone Pine Wildlife Sanctuary, Brisbane in Queensland.

Information on the Hewlett Johnson Papers.

The fourth day of Christmas: the voyaging Beagle

The Jack Johns Darwin Collection includes a wealth of early and rare editions of Charles Darwin’s work, including a first edition of the ‘Narrative of the surveying voyages of His Majesty’s ships Adventure and Beagle, between the years 1826 and 1836‘. Johns became fascinated with Darwin while volunteering at the museum of the Darwin family home, Down House in Kent. This 1839 edition comprises four volumes: two written by Fitz-Roy, the captain of the Beagle, one by Philip Parker King, the naturalist on the voyage, and the third volume by Charles Darwin, whose official role on the voyage was as companion to the Captain. Following Darwin’s later fame, later editions of The Voyage of the Beagle comprised just this third volume.

Information about the Jack Johns Darwin Collection.

The fifth day of Christmas: five Portuguese windmills

F184298The Muggeridge Collections include a variety of photographs of mills and other rural subjects, which date from 1904 onwards. William Burrell Muggeridge and his son Donald were fascinated by the vanishing rural life in Britain and across the wider world. Donald’s role in the Second World War gave him the unlikely opportunity of photographing mills across Europe, and he later supplemented this collection on family holidays. The set of images of mills in Portugal were taken in April 1966: this photograph is of a group of tower mills at Abelheira near Esposende. As well as documenting lost architecture and ways of life, the Muggeridge father and son were also innovative in their use of developing photographic technology.

Information about the Muggeridge Collections.

The sixth day of Christmas: six Stand-Up comedians

Stand-Up_LogoSince the autumn of 2014, the University of Kent has hosted the nascent British Stand Up Comedy Archive, which was founded with the deposit of materials from comedians Linda Smith and Mark Thomas. This archive includes a wealth of audio visual materials and is growing rapidly. Alongside the collections of another four comedians, materials include records of venues, interviews with comedians and some magazines relating to the early Stand Up Comedy scene.

Information on the British Stand-Up Comedy Archive.

The seventh day of Christmas: seven bad girls of the family

Melodrama was a hugely popular genre on the stage throughout the nineteenth century and into the twentieth. One of the last series of hugely popular melodramas were the so-called ‘Bad Women’ dramas written and produced by the brothers Fred and Walter Melville, during the first two decades of the 1900s. These included such evocative titles as ‘The Girl Who Wrecked His Home’ and ‘A Girl’s Cross Roads’. One of the novelties of these productions were the use of female villains, usually with a male counterpart, who often had dubious morals and plotted to ruin the heroine. Although Walter Melville was acused of being a ‘woman hater’, these roles would have offered the actresses in the company an unusually rich character to portray. This publicity postcard comes from a set for ‘The Bad Girl of the Family’, produced around 1909 at the Adelphi Theatre, London.


Information about the ‘Bad Women’ Dramas.

The eighth day of Christmas: eight Melville children

The Melville Collection contains gems from a theatrical dynasty which started with George Robbins (1824-1898), who alledgedly ran away to join the theatre, changing his surname to Melville. His son, Andrew Melville I continued the theatre tradition, and had eight children with his wife, Alice, all of whom went on to become performers, playwrights, theatre managers and owners. Of the eight, Jack died young, but the four daughters went on into the profession and married performers. Fred and Walter became successful theatre managers in London, owning the Lyceum Theatre and building the Prince’s theatre in 1911, which is now the Shaftesbury. Andrew Melville II was an actor and manager outside London, with the Grand Theatre in Brighton on his circuit. It was the widow of Andrew Melville II’s son who donated the collection to the University.

M600671Information about the Melville family.

The ninth day of Christmas: nine worthy women

IMG_2012Alongside our archival collections, Special Collections also holds a number of rare books. Written by Thomas Heywood, this 1690 edition of The exemplary lives and memorable acts of nine the most worthy women of the world does not include the woodcuts present in the Cathedral Library’s copy. Considering the lives of ‘three Jews, three Gentiles and three Christian’ women, Heywood includes the Biblical Deborah, Judith and Esther, before considering three ‘heathens’, one of whom is Boudicca, called ‘Bonduca’ in this text. The three Christian women are ‘Elphleda’, daughter of Alfred the Great, Margaret of Anjou, queen of Henry VI, and, of course, Queen Elizabeth. Bringing together this range of women shows just how diverse Early Modern precedents for behaviour and virtue could be.

Information about the rare book collections.

The tenth day of Christmas: ten tins of talc

The British Cartoon Archive celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2015. Alongside the many cartoonists represented within this still growing collection, the well loved Giles artwork is a perennial favourite. As cartoonist for the Daily Express, Giles produced satirical political cartoons, but it is for his eclectic family of characters, including the mischevious children and irascible Grandma which he is most commonly known. This cartoon was published on 29th December 1964, proving that the post-Christmas sale is no new thing! Alongside the published version, the Archive holds the artwork and it was also included in the 1964 Giles annual. These annuals are still produced each year, with materials from the Giles Collection at the Cartoon Archive.

Information about Carl Giles materials in the British Cartoon Archive.

The eleventh day of Christmas: eleven Ken Smith poems

Modern literature is well represented in the Collections, with our Modern First Editions including poetry and prose. Alongside the reconstructed library of poet Charles Olson (collected and deposited by Ralph Maud), first editions of Brideshead Revisited and a number of works by E. M. Forster, we have small print press items which are regularly used in teaching. This volume is by Ken Smith, a major voice in world poetry, who died in 2003 and whose archive is at Leeds University, which Smith attended and where he also became tutor as Yorkshire Arts Fellow 1976-78.

Information about the Modern First Edition and Modern Poetry collections.

The twelfth day of Christmas: twelve William Harris letters

William sent his letters home via his friend Mr Hunter, who lived in Paris.

As with the ancient Greek vase, this small collection of letters represents gems in the archive which do not necesserily link with a wider range of materials. As successive blog posts have shown, however, the Harris correspondence offers insight into the adventures of an architect exploring Europe in the early nineteenth century.

Information about the William Harris letters.

If you’d like to know more about any of our items or collections, do take a look at the website, or contact us.

In memoriam: Donald W. Muggeridge

We are sorry to announce the death of Donald William Muggeridge, who passed away peacefully in San Rafael, California on 14 April 2015 at the age of 97. Donald lived a long and varied life and will be missed by his family, friends and all those who knew him.
Donald generously donated his collection of windmill photographs and associated information to the University of Kent, along with his father’s collection of photographs, which include rural subjects from 1904, of a life largely vanished today.

Vera & Donald Muggeridge on holiday

Vera & Donald Muggeridge on holiday

Inspired since childhood, Donald initially accompanied his father on his trips, but by the 1930s was working with his friend Syd Simmons to track down and photograph mills all over the UK. In 1936, Donald met his future wife, Vera, and the couple spent their holidays cycling around the countryside in search of anything of ‘bygone’ England. Along with wind and watermills, this included direction posts, mile stones, columbariums and the furniture of old churches.

The Muggeridge Collection contains photographs on both glass plate and acetate negatives which span the twentieth century and a number of countries, including Europe and America. While  a part of the Allied advance at the end of World War Two, Donald even managed to find time to photograph a number of mills in Belgium, Holland and Germany. In the 1950s, Donald, Vera and their young son Derek immigrated to Canada, and later moved to San Francisco.

After donating the collection to the University, Donald took a keen interest in its digitisation and was eager for the photographs to be made available to researchers and enthusiasts around the world. Further materials from Donald’s collection were donated to The Mills Archive in Reading.

While we are saddened by the news of his death, we are grateful to Donald and his sons for their generosity in making these materials available to the public and hope that these collections will continue offer an insight into the ‘bygone’ rural life in which Donald and his father were so interested.

A full obituary and biography of Donal is available via the Marin Independent Journal.

For more information on the Muggeridge Collection and to view images, see the Special Collections website.