Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Wrawby windmill

click photo to enlarge
The mill at Wrawby that stands proudly on the escarpment above the Ancholme valley is the sole survivor of the Lincolnshire post mills. There were once many windmills of this design, structures that were mounted on a single vertical pole and turned to face the wind by means of a projecting beam rather than the later fantail. Wrawby is a Midlands development of this basic post mill design with a roundhouse made of brick surrounding the supporting trestle and some of the weight of the upper structure borne by wheels and runners on the top of the brick wall. A windmill has been on this site since at least the sixteenth century though the building we see today was constructed in 1832 from the remains of an earlier open trestle mill. It worked until the second world war powered by wind, then steam and finally oil, and after its abandonment fell into serious disrepair.

By the 1960s the mill was close to total collapse: sails were missing, much of the weatherboarding had fallen off, and an application was made for its demolition. However, a stay of execution appeared in the form of a trust set up to preserve it. What followed has been described as "the most comprehensive rebuilding of a windmill undertaken in this country since the nineteenth century." Original components and newly fabricated timbers were assembled to restore the mill to how it had been. The work was completed by a mixture of enthusiasts, academics, former millers, and carpenters and culminated in its official opening on 18th September 1965.

Prior to the invention of spring regulated sails that allowed shutters to be positioned to catch the wind or let it pass through, many windmills used what were known as "common sails". These were cloth sails, edged canvas made of hemp, flax or cotton, fixed to the wooden structure of each sail. Like the sails on a sailing ship the area of canvas could be reefed in if the wind speed increased to a speed greater than was required for efficient milling. An old photo shows this type of canvas sail fixed to the wooden sails of Wrawby mill.

The weather  on the afternoon of my visit - hazy sun trying to burn its way through cloud that had made the morning quite dark - gave enough shadow to model the structure but left the bluish sky looking rather weak and washed out. Consequently I converted my photographs to black and white and applied a digital orange filter to increase the contrast.

photograph and text © Tony Boughen

Camera: Sony RX100
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 20mm (54mm - 35mm equiv.)
F No: f5.6
Shutter Speed: 1/800
ISO: 125
Exposure Compensation:  0 EV
Image Stabilisation: On