Excitement – one property surveyed in 1909 for the Lloyd George survey of land values (Gloucestershire Archives D2428/1/3) was described as a windmill, and this was the first time that we had come across one – mills, yes, flour mills, yes, but no windmills. Of course, by 1909 the contribution of windmills to the nation’s flour supply, produced by means of this early medieval technology, however up-dated with new pieces of equipment it might have been, was very tiny, if any at all. Large steam-powered flour mills had displaced both wind and water mills.
One of the volunteers transcribing the 1909 data, M J A Beacham, is also author of Mills and Milliing in Gloucestershire (Tempus, Stroud, 2005). Could he tell us something about the Almondsbury windmill? After some searching and to and fro-ing in email communication, it turns out that all was not as it seemed.
The owners in 1909 of the property described as ‘windmill’ were the trustees of Almondsbury Memorial Trust, and there was a note that formerly it had been part of Woodhouse Farm. Recourse to the Ordnance Survey map revealed a windpump on Woodhouse Farm at this date. Would this have been called a ‘windmill’? Researchers were sceptical. The history of windpumps on farms, which were once quite numerous, is yet to be written, Mike comments.
A real windmill may have existed on Almondsbury Hill from the mid-seventeenth century. There was certainly one marked on Isaac Taylor’s map of Gloucestershire dated 1777; windmills provided very helpful landmarks to travellers. Two years before Taylor’s map, a lease of a windmill in Almondsbury (GA D674/a/E29), shows it to have been part of the Knowle estate of William Bromley Chester; Col. Chester-Master owned Woodhouse Farm in 1909, suggesting this was tbe the windmill we were looking for. It was marked on the OS 1830 map (surveyed perhaps twelve years earlier) as circular in plan, and may have been a tower mill of brick or stone, with the latter more likely. By 1843 only ‘Windmill field’ was marked on the tithe map. The windmill probably ceased work at about the same time as the one in Falfield a few miles to the north.
The Almondsbury Memorial Trustees still own Windmill field, but in 1909 it was only the memory of a windmill. The search has been interesting, and our thanks to Mike who has contributed substantially to this account.