KEYMER, WEST SUSSEX
A very distinctive small white post mill stands by the junction of three ancient trackways in a picturesque part of Keymer, near Hassocks, West Sussex.
Oldland Windmill as she stood in 1980
The exact date of her construction is not known but the earliest record is an estate map displaying the faded date of 1703. The map shows the mill with an open trestle (like Nutley windmill). There are further records of the mill in the Churchwarden's Accounts dated 1755 and in the Napoleonic Wars Defence Schedules dated 1801. A carving dated 1839 which is on the main post shows the mill with common sweeps and provides the first evidence of the brick roundhouse. This roundhouse is one of the many unusual features boasted by the mill in that it is not round ( as the name might suggest) but in fact octagonal.
2004 : The new Roundhouse
The mill is recorded to have finished working commercially under a miller named David Driver, in 1912. At this time the early timber construction was contrasted by the installation of very modern Victorian cast iron machinery including a steam engine drive which meant the mill was no longer solely dependent upon wind power. In 1927, the mill together with a small plot of land was conveyed to the Sussex Archaeological Society ( now known as Sussex Past) with the intention of securing her future preservation. However maintenance proved expensive and although major repairs were carried out in 1935 and 1958 the mill continued to deteriorate until the Hassocks Amenity Association acquired a lease in 1980. The first stages of the current restoration project had begun.
In 1981 a team of volunteers started work on the now very derelict mill. Most of the structural timbers had decayed to a serious extent. The mill body was supported by complicated underpinning and many parts and features of the mill were missing including one pair of sweeps.
The 1980s saw the removal of the sweeps and stock, the tailpole and much of the internal machinery, to allow work to proceed on replacement of the trestle and crown tree. Temporary support work was carried out to stabilise the mill and support heavy items such as the windshaft. The trestle was rebuilt in oak and a new crown tree (two and half tons, two foot square, twelve foot long) was lifted into the mill without the use of a modern crane. (The function of the crown tree is to carry the weight of the mill body to the top of the post).
1980 : The Stone Floor
In the 1990s new oak frames for the sides, breast, sheers, and tail wall were constructed on the ground. The remaining machinery was removed and stored allowing the rotten timbers to be dismantled and the new frames erected.
In 2001, the new roof was erected and the mill body reclad in white painted feather edge boards (excluding the skirt).
Work now continues [Autumn 2004] on reinstating the floors and machinery. The roundhouse is being rebuilt and fund-raising is in hand to finance the replacement of the sweeps and get the mill working again. Unpaid volunteers are responsible for most of the work.
[Text by Philip Hicks]
On Thursday 23 October 2008, after many years of restoration, flour flowed from the millstones for the first time in around 100 years.
Oldland Windmill website