of Shipley Windmill
the mill | History
of the mill | Section
through the mill
windmill is the youngest and the largest windmill in Sussex.
She - for windmills are always female - has been known at
different times as Shipley Mill, King's Mill, Vincent's Mill and
Belloc's Mill. She was built in 1879 for Mr. Fred Marten by
Mr. Grist, millwright of Horsham, a firm that had its premises on the
corner of London Road and Springfield Road.
It is interesting to note that the estimated cost of building the
Mill was £800, although she actually cost £2,500.
Marten and his wife ran the Mill and the village stores and post
office at Kings Land house until he died in 1884. After his death
his widow Sarah put the house, shop and the Mill up for auction,
but it was not sold, and she continued to run it, with Robert Wood
as miller, until it was finally sold in 1895 to Richard
Vincent took on Ernest Powell to work for him as miller. In 1906
Kings Land, the mill and five acres of surrounding land were
bought by writer Hilaire Belloc, who then leased the mill to
Powell continued to operate the Mill until the end of her active
life in 1926. During the time she was in active work there were
seven or eight other windmills within easy reach. These included
Coolham, Cripplegate, Littleworth and West Chiltington.
The number of mills was no doubt due to the dependence on them by
local farmers, and the limited range of the horse-drawn wagons
used to deliver the corn and to collect the meal after grinding.
It is sometimes asked why windmills
with their free power should have declined so rapidly in this
country. There are probably several reasons. The introduction of
motor vehicles allowed farmers to travel further afield, giving
rise to bigger power-driven mills. The spread of small internal
combustion engines later allowed them to do their own grinding
reliably and economically. The increase in wages, too, made it
difficult for millers to make their businesses pay without
auxiliary power for the days when the wind did not blow.
This last problem did not, however, apply to Shipley Mill. In the
shed alongside the Mill there stood a steam engine which, when in
action, drove a belt connected to the Mill, so she could work on
the days when there was no wind. Indeed, through the years from
its construction until the end of the 1914-1918 war, Shipley Mill
was always busy, and Mr. Powell was an active and experienced
was not until the war was over that custom began to slacken off.
The renewed import of grain from overseas, leading to the
expansion of the big roller mills, better provision of
long-distance transport and the spread of electrically driven
machinery, caused the windmills of the country to become less
popular. Shipley Mill was no exception, in spite of Ernest
Powell's efforts. By 1922
she had ceased regular working, and, although she operated
spasmodically until 1926, her active life was over.
the two wars Mr. Belloc was at pains to preserve the fabric of the
Mill, but when the Second World War came and for some years after
it, no materials were available to keep her in repair. At the time
of his death in 1953 much needed to be done to prevent the Mill
from falling into ruin like many others throughout the country.
local initiatives, an appeal was launched to restore Shipley Mill
as a memorial to Belloc. His many friends and admirers responded
generously, and a local committee was formed, including Ernest
Powell's son, Peter, who from his boyhood had loved the Mill and
helped to work her. The committee also gained the support of the
West Sussex County Council, who agreed to contribute towards the
repairs and maintenance of the Mill, with the help of the
admission charges paid by visitors. The repairs were carried out
by the well-known firm of Sussex millwrights, Ernest Hole &
Sons of Burgess Hill. On completion of the work, a memorial plaque
designed by Edmond Warre, an old friend of Belloc's, was fitted
above the entrance door to the Mill, and a grand opening was held
in May 1958.
local committee, the Friends of Shipley Windmill, continued to
open the Mill regularly to visitors
each summer, and to operate her whenever
possible until 1986, when it became clear that further major
repairs would be necessary if the Mill was to continue to turn.
County Council, realising that it would find it difficult to
continue to cover these
costs, then agreed to set up a charitable trust to manage the
Mill, in conjunction with the owner and other interested parties.
Accordingly, the Shipley Windmill Charitable Trust was formed in
1987, and for the next 23
years managed the Mill.
The trustees include representatives of the County and the
Horsham District Councils, the Friends
of Shipley Windmill, the Mills Section of the Society for the Protection
of Ancient Buildings and the Sussex Literary Guild, to represent
the literary interest, together with the owner of the
mill, a great
grandson of Belloc. He gave
the Trust a 25-year lease of the mill at a peppercorn rent.
first priority of the Trustees was to have a survey to see the
extent of the repairs needed to
restore the mill to full working order, and
to raise the necessary money. They engaged a professional millwright,
Vincent Pargeter, to carry this out. His report revealed that
the necessary works were more extensive than had been envisaged,
and, in 1987, would cost in the region of £160,000. However,
thanks to substantial donations from the County Council and
from Horsham District Council, together with a 40% grant from
English Heritage, plus other
generous donations both from individuals and grant-giving trusts,
it proved possible to make an early start on
the necessary works. After
tenders had been received from several firms of millwrights, the
local firm of Hole and Son was again
engaged to carry out the work. The
Mill was re-opened, although with only a single pair of sweeps,
in July 1990, by the Lord Lieutenant
of West Sussex. A year later, further
grants and donations made it possible to complete the second
pair of sweeps, and in May 1991,
Shipley Mill was once again working in all her glory.
2000, English Heritage gave another grant towards the restoration
of the engine shed which is attached
to the Mill, and by the end of that
year the fabric of the building was completed. The new visitor
centre was opened in the northern
end in time for the 2001 season. The
other end of the building now houses an engine, which has been installed to drive
the mill when wind is in short
Unfortunately, in 2008, the owner of
the mill decided not to renew the lease to the Trust, and the mill
was closed to the public. The last opening day was held on
July 15th 2009, when long queues of people
waited for what so far has proved their last chance to visit the
Since that time, the mill has been allowed to deteriorate; the
shutters have been removed from the sails and the fantail has
broken, preventing the mill from turning into the wind. It
also appears to be desperately in need of a new coat of paint.