A few days ago I took a trip to the striking Chesterton Windmill in Wiltshire.
Not only is the windmill impressive in it's own right, but it had been years since the surrounding fields were planted with rapeseed, so I couldn't pass up the opportunity to get a few shots of this unique Grade I listed building on such a beautiful day.
The windmill is one of Warwickshire's most famous landmarks. It has stood on the hilltop overlooking the village of Chesterton for nearly 350 years. It was built around 1632-1633, probably by Sir Edward Peyto, who was Lord of the Chesterton Manor House.
The mill is set on six pillars linked by semi-circular arches. Originally there was a central timber structure within this open space, containing a staircase and storage area. The mill machinery itself is set on two floors inside the stone tower – the lower houses the two pairs of millstones and the upper the actual driving mechanism. The sails have a 60 foot span and would have carried 450 square feet of canvas.
The machinery was repaired in 1776 and again in 1860. Chesterton Windmill continued to be used until shortly before the First World War when the winch which turned the sails into the wind failed to operate, and milling became impossible. The last miller, William Haynes, moved to the windmill at Harbury about a mile away.
The man who probably commissioned it, Sir Edward Peyto, was an astrologer and astronomer, and there’s a tradition that the building was originally an observatory that he used to look at the stars – presumably the rotating top, turned by means of a hand winch, housed Peyto’s telescope. The estate accounts though, now at Warwick Record Office, show that it has always been a windmill, making it the earliest tower mill in England to retain any of its working parts, and making it a real piece of English history.