The rather ferocious winds that have been battering us all these past couple of days got me thinking about a well overdue post that I had started to write about something windy. Windmills.
The Culverden Windmill in a painting by Charles Tattershall Dodd.
Tunbridge Wells had two windmills. Sadly neither of them exist anymore but for a few remaining clues.
The Culverden Windmill, pictured above in a painting by Charles Tattershall Dodd, was constructed in around 1832 and was demolished by 1870. It has appeared in several works by the artist and there is another one below in this post. You can also see the windmill in the map below, can you find it?
Culverden Windmill on an 1849 map of Tunbridge Wells by ES Gisborne.
It was a Post Windmill, its defining feature being that the main machinery part of the building is mounted on a single vertical post, around which it can be turned to bring the sails into the wind. Even though the windmill was demolished in 1870 it appears that it had ceased functioning as a mill some twenty years before it was pulled down.
The Culverden Windmill appears in a sketch of Toad Rock by Charles Tattershall Dodd.
The Culverden Windmill in a painting by Charles Tattershall Dodd
All that remains of the other Tunbridge Wells windmill, the Calverley Windmill, is a street name, some houses bearing the name and an old pub. The parish area is also still locally called Windmill Fields. The pub, which is now a private residence, has a rather beautiful tile rendition of the mill on the front which you can see in the photo below.
Tiling on the old Windmill Tavern pub.
It's hard to establish when exactly the Calverley Mill was built. It appears on a map of 1769 but does not appear on an older map of 1730. It would therefore appear that the mill was constructed between these two dates. If anyone knows different please drop me a line.
The Calverley Windmill was a Smock Windmill, this type of windmill is made up of a sloping, horizontally weatherboarded tower which is topped off with a roof that rotates to bring the sails into the wind. The pub tiling above shows quite well the type of windmill that stood there many years before.
An excerpt showing Calverley Windmill from the great panorama by Saltmarsh.
Early in January, 1933, a local newspaper reporter stopped by the celebrations of the diamond wedding anniversary of a Mr and Mrs Smith. The two 85 year olds had lived all their lives in the neighbourhood, having in fact played together as children beneath the shadow of the old windmill. Mr. Smith remembered the mill as a very old, weather-boarded structure on a brick base, worked by fantail-operated gear; its sails swept very close to the ground. He even recalled hanging on the sails as they swung past!
He remembered that it was last used for corn-grinding about 1860 and then moved a little distance away and re-erected near the present golf links. The old structure was not used as a windmill at its new home as he didn't remember seeing its sails at work after its removal. It was used by the purchaser, a Mr. Joslin, as a shed and pulled down soon after. The inner workings were removed and taken to Crowborough for use in the newly constructed Pratt's Mill.
Calverley Windmill on an 1828 map by Decimus Burton.
Where is our nearest mill now? It's in Argos Hill. It's a Post Mill so would look very similar to how the Culverden Windmill used to look. You can pay the Argos Hill website a visit, make sure you click on the donate page to help towards the restoration, to see some really lovely photos of it. Or why not go and see the windmill for yourself, it's not currently open to the public as it is in a dangerous condition (even more reason to donate), but it can be viewed from the road.
View of Calverley Windmill by J Newman, 1875. Click for larger.
In these days of alternate energy I wonder how long it will be before the horizon is once again adorned with the spinning blades of a windmill?
Thank you to Richard Howes at Argos Hill Windmill, Michael Howes, Ian Beavis and the lovely folk at Tunbridge Wells Museum for their help in this post.