Saturday, January 21, 2006

Forward to the past


click photo to enlarge
Back to the future? No - forward to the past! That seems to be the current trend in energy generation. Throughout Britain more and more windmills are appearing: singly, in groups and in large "farms". A cluster of giant, three bladed turbines have just appeared offshore in Morecambe Bay. Wind energy, it seems, is the future. But in some parts of the country it was also the past.

The flat lands of the Fylde plain in West Lancashire was once known as "Windmill Land". The farmers and landowners of the eighteenth and nineteenth century harnessed the west wind driving in off the Irish Sea by building a multitude of windmills across the region. They were mainly used for milling grain, and many continued in use into the early twentieth century. Some of these fine structures can still be seen, lovingly preserved, standing tall, watching their high tech children appearing around them.The photograph shows Marsh Mill at Thornton, a brick tower mill built for Bold Fleetwood-Hesketh in 1794. It is now a visitor centre, with exhibitions that tell about its life.

Windmills are best photographed either in the context of the landscape or by selecting a part of the building. Marsh Mill, though the best preserved of Lancashire windmills, has not been fortunate in terms of its surroundings - a shopping "village", and streets. So, I focused on the upper parts, deciding that clear evening light and shadows would add to the visual interest. Windmills are unique structures whose form is determined by their function - they are a combination of building and machine that is highly photogenic. And that's true regardless of whether they were built in 1794 or today.

photograph & text (c) T. Boughen

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