The Mills of Windmill Lane, Nottingham

Nov 6, 2017

As has been noted before, teasing out the history of particular mills can be intriguing as they can change their names, be knocked down or otherwise destroyed and rebuilt or even be moved to new locations. The windmills that once stood on Windmill Lane in Nottingham are no exception.

1805 Map of NottinghamA map of Nottingham dated 1805 shows three mills on Windmill Lane. The most southerly is depicted as a postmill with a brick-built roundhouse around its base. Further up Windmill Lane, on the left (approximately now the site of the Queen Adelaide pub) is a postmill without a roundhouse and there is another such on the right (more or less the site of the present primary school).

The first of these mills is on the site of the present Green’s Mill. In 1807 Mr Green, a Nottingham baker (and father of the mathematical physicist George Green) bought the plot of land on which to build his mill. The postmill that occupied the site was not included in the sale and was dismantled and re-erected further up Windmill Lane. The Doncaster Gazette of 14 October 1836 records its fate;

On Tuesday morning very early, Nottingham was visited with a very high wind which at seven o’clock blew down a windmill at Sneinton, in the occupation of Mr Marson of Wood Street, Nottingham. The miller was inside at the time and was very severely hurt. The mill is very old and the centre or king post was quite rotten.

The Nottingham Review added further details, particularly noting the mill’s migration from the site of our mill. (It also adds a little confusion to the tale by saying that the mill belonged to a Mr Pepper whereas the precious account names Mr Marson as being ‘in occupation’).

Henry Dawson Painting of the mills

A detail of a painting by Henry Dawson mid-19C
To the left is the tower of Sneinton parish church and to the right Green’s Mill.
Rather indistinctly between them is a postmill.

We can glean information from the records of insurance companies as windmills were often insured against fire, a continual risk to wooden structures that could ignite if the miller was inattentive and allowed the millstones to rub one on another, causing a shower of sparks. Mills were also susceptible to being struck by lightning. In 1787 the Sun Insurance Company issued a fire policy to

‘Thomas Day of Bottle Lane in the town of Nottingham, baker. On his dwelling house, Bakehouse and stable adjoining situate as aforesaid brick and tiled £250. Post Windmill and stable under situated on Sneinton Hill near Nottingham aforesaid £300’

It seems that 29 years later Mr Day put his mill up for sale, as the Nottingham Journal notes on 2 March 1816:

‘To be sold by Auction on Wednesday March 13, 1816. That capital Post Wind Mill very advantageously situated in Sneinton Field, now in the occupation of Mr Thomas Day, who will show the same, and give further information to Persons wishing to purchase it.’

Another Sun Fire Insurance policy, dated 1778, was issued to
‘Adam Wagstaff of Snenton in the Co. Of Nottingham, Miller, and Francis Beck of Wollaston in the same county, grocer. On their Corn timber windmill with the going geers and utensils therein situated in the parish of Snenton, £200.’

We cannot be certain to which mills these policies refer.

In 1904 local historian James Granger wrote that:

‘At Sneinton, and not far from the upper side of the church, is a thoroughfare known as Windmill Lane, which leads to the high ground in that part, and near to it about fifty years since were two post windmills, the approach to which was from the lane. The first to be reached when going up the hill was in a field to the left and probably 400 yards from the bottom of the lane. It was for many years occupied by Mr. George Parkins, baker, who at one time carried on an extensive business at the lower end of Goose-gate. It was probably in his possession until its removal.’

Mr Grainger then notes that:

‘A little higher up the lane (Windmill Lane), but in a field on the opposite side (i.e. right) was another mill, which for many years was occupied by John Bennett, and known as Bennet’s Mill, but the last in possession of it was the late William Oakland, who has previously been mentioned as being connected with assisting at the largest post mill on the Forest. This mill also had a pair or set of patent sails similar to the one at the top of Back–lane (Wollaton Street)’

So Bennett’s Mill became Oakland’s Mill. William Oakland had been the last miller at Green’s windmill before it ceased to work c. 1865. In 1881 the Stamford Mercury advertised
‘Post Windmill to let, situate at Sneinton, Notts. Apply to W. Oakland, Windmill Hill, Sneinton’

Oaklands Mill

Two views of Oakland’s Mill

This mill was the last Nottingham mill to work by wind power.

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