Beaconsfield Windmills

Mike & Margaret Grace

Copy of a black and white photograph of windmill
BHS archives
Black and white photograph
BHS archives


Records indicate that there have been at least two windmills in Beaconsfield, one behind properties in London End and one on the Gregories Estate.  The first mention of windmills in Beaconsfield is in a lawsuit in 1311[1].  This is believed to have referred to one on the south side of London End, however it may have been in existence for some time before this. Because Beaconsfield has no rivers to drive watermills, most lords who had suitable uplands, built windmills and Robert II de Burnham probably financed this one to avoid the high cost of sending corn to Wooburn or Wycombe to be milled.

The windmill off London End was built in 1811 on what was considered to be the second-best site in the town and was of the tower mill type construction of brick and flint, with only the top section moving round to make the best use of the wind. This was an innovation at this time compared to having to turn the whole mill round to face the wind, an unpleasant and laborious procedure. Cottages for the mill workers were built nearby, also the Old Mill House in London End where, it is believed, the miller lived. The windmill ground corn for local consumption only, as watermills in and around Loudwater were far more efficient and produced flour for the London market. The mill originally belonged to the Rance family then James and George Sibley operated it as tenants and the last miller to use it was named Wooster[2]. The mill was in use until nearly the end of the 19th century when two of the sails fell off and the others were removed. Some residents said it was working into the 20th century, but this may refer to the fitting of a small steam engine located in an outhouse connected to the mill by a belt drive[3]. Storm damage and subsequent deterioration reduced the mill to a stump. The town was divided between the conservationists, who claimed it was a historic monument, and the utilitarians who said it was just a useless stump[4]. It further suffered in a storm in 1974 when it collapsed.

Little is known about the mill on the Gregories Estate, except that Edmund Burke had it built in 1769[5]at a time of scarcity, to provide flour for his own house and retailed to the poor at a very reduced rate[6]. It was located somewhere near the farmstead of Butlers Court, the high spot on Burke’s estate. Mill Lane, now lost to recent development in Wattleton Road, was the approach road to the mill. An engraving of the anticipated completed Gregories house incudes the mill within the grounds.

Although Beaconsfield’s two mills no longer exist, a little reminder can be found in the model village of Bekonscot.

[1] The Book of Beaconsfield, Birch Clive, (Barracuda Books Ltd, Chesham), 1976, p.23
[2] Buckinghamshire Advertiser report 24th August 1967 Beaconsfield Historical Society Archive
[3] Beaconsfield, a History, Hunt, J & Thorpe D, (Phillimore, West Sussex), 2009, p.82
[4] Buckinghamshire Advertiser report 24th August 1967 Beaconsfield Historical Society Archive
[5] Lord Justice McKinnon p.37
[6] The early history and antiquities of High Wycombe, Parker John, (Wycombe Butler & Son), 1878

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