Lowfield Heath Windmill is set in beautiful countryside in Charlwood, Surrey, close to the Sussex border. It makes an ideal destination for a family day out with a fascinating glimpse into local history
The story so far...
The survival of Lowfield Heath Windmill is almost as remarkable as the story of its restoration in the hands of a dedicated and committed group of local people. The postmill, originally built at Lowfield Heath in 1737/8, now stands on the edge of Charlwood village. It took thirteen years of hard work and great skill to dismantle, repair and re-erect the mill. It has three floors, with an external staircase leading to the first floor, from where internal ladders rise to two further floors. It has a small visitor centre in the roundhouse.
The windmill first appeared on Rocque’s map of Surrey published in 1762, when James Constable owned it. The Constable family was recorded as running a mill on Horsham Common in 1615 and mention is made of a mill being brought from there to Lowfield Heath Surrey as early as 1738.
Lowfield Heath is depicted
still as open common on a plan of the Manor of Rowley surveyed in 1819. Shortly
after this, in 1821, the ‘Lords and Tenants of the Manor of Charlwood’ signify
their consent ‘to an enclosure being made by James Constable of the wasteland
of Lowfield Heath around the mill situate’ This was ratified in a deed dated
18th April 1827.
You can Help preserve our heritage...
We are always looking for more volunteers and funds; we need people, even for a hour or two, to help with the restoration work. The project represents an invaluable link to the area’s history.
The windmill is a superb example of its type. Whereas many others have fallen into disrepair or vanished entirely this is a fine example of a mill from that era, which is why it's so important to keep it well-maintained and open to the public.
Local Charity Support
The project has cost around £150,000 so far, with funding provided by local charity the John Bristow and Thomas Mason Trust, the Gatwick Airport Community Trust, Surrey County Council, among others, and fundraising by the Lowfield Heath Windmill Trust.
A Living history...
The history is as important as understanding the machinery in the mill, how it worked and what life was like in days gone by. Dendrochronological testing – a fancy term for checking the age of wood – dates the timbers of the current mill to the winter of 1736/7, which ties in with the records of its move to Lowfield Heath Surrey.
There has been a suggestion that the mill was powered in the early nineteenth century by a portable steam engine; certainly the watermill at Horley, also owned by the Constable family was powered, in times of water shortage, by an engine designed and built by William Constable.
Sadly by 1934 the mill had become dilapidated and, with no maintenance taking place during the Second World War, in 1957 the weakened structure was wrecked in a storm.
Emergency work was carried out in 1964 by Dorking and Horley Rural District Council and Surrey County Council, while further work was undertaken between 1965 and 1971 with help from The Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings.
The structure fell into disrepair again in the early 1980s and the Lowfield Heath Windmill Trust (LHWT) was created in 1986 to restore the mill to working order.
The move to its current location in Charlwood, Surrey was complicated. Work on dismantling it began in June 1987 and was finished in September that year. Over the next few years the windmill was carefully reconstructed – in the winter of 1987/88 all 10,000 bricks for the
The windmill was used to grind grain until the early 1880s, when it is thought one of the sails was damaged.
The Windmill has been used as a unique venue for Weddings and Parties
roundhouse were cleaned and stacked, ready for rebuilding the following summer; finally it was reopened by Princess Alexandra in April 1990.
But this only marked the end of the first phase of restoration, the completion of the main structure. Mr Simons knows it was a huge undertaking. He said:
“It was a massive effort. The windmill was completely dismantled and every item was numbered and logged, to enable it to be reconstructed in the correct manner.”
Work continued, and on June 26, 1998, cloth was spread on the sails and at 3.30pm the mill ran for the first time since the 1880s. In 2011, as part of ongoing restorations, new sails were fitted.
Former LHWT member Mike Yates said in 2012: "It is an ongoing, expensive project; there is always something going wrong, the wood doesn't always last long. The timbers are never quite as good as you thought."
The trust is working to
raise funds to bring the mill back to its former glory, with events planned for
the summer. Donations are always welcome, no matter how small