Saturday, January 23, 2010

Brill, Buckinghamshire


Turn, turn, turn

On the lumpy common above the village of Brill stands this windmill, apparently built towards the end of the 17th century and one of the oldest survivors of its type. It’s a post mill, which means that the structure is supported on an upright post, which is designed to allow the whole of the main part of the mill to be turned so that the sails face the wind. The post is concealed in the brick structure, the roundhouse, which forms the lower part of the mill. Everything above that – the wooden shed-like structure (called the buck) and the nine-metre-long sails attached to it – originally turned with the aid of the pole that sticks out to the right of the picture.

The mill at Brill ran until 1923, by which time motorized mills could grind wheat and barley much more cheaply and quickly than windmills. According to the Brill village website, when Albert Nixey, the last miller, stopped work, he was only the sixth recorded miller since the mill was built in around 1685. That means each one must have put in an average of 40 years service. Recently the mill has been lovingly restored, so the roundhouse, wooden-clad buck, and sails are all looking good. The complex mechanism of hand-made wooden gears and shafts inside has been overhauled, too, so that another generation can appreciate how grain was once turned into flour by in the mill at Brill on the hill.

5 comments:

potok said...

Well what can one say but absolutely brill(iant) ;-)

Peter Ashley said...

Brill Mill. Featured on Midsomer Murders and I remember Betjeman talking about the 'lonely hilltop village of Brill' in his Metroland film, it being at the end of a tramway that lead up from the Metropolitan Railway's Quainton Road station.

Philip Wilkinson said...

Betjeman was right: there is a lonely feeling about the place, even though it's quite near to Oxford, main roads, and other indicators of 'civilization'.

Neil said...

Wasn't there a plan at the height of the English craze for spas to turn Brill into a spa town? I don't think it got very far.

Philip Wilkinson said...

Neil: Yes, a spa was established at the nearby village of Dorton and Brill prepared for a health tourism boom by building a hotel. But the spa did not take off – it was too remote and failed to get patronage and so became one of the legion of failed spas of the 19th century.