Windmills have been a feature of Brill since at least the 13th century. Two fields adjacent to the Thame road are named Milldene and Millpiece, signifying connections with the earliest siting of windmills in Brill around 1250.
The present windmill on Brill Common was probably erected sometime in the 1680s. Although not quite the oldest windmill in England, it is one of the best preserved of the dozen or so 17th century 'post-mills' still standing. (Pitstone Windmill, also in Buckinghamshire, was built in 1627 and is believed to be the oldest windmill in Britain.) A post-mill is a mill in which the whole structure revolves around a central post in order to face the wind.
When Brill windmill last operated it was working two sets of stones; a pair of French burr stones for milling wheat, and a pair of peak stones (Derbyshire millstone grit) for milling barley. When operative, the mill had four sails, each 27 feet (9m) long and 5 feet (1.5m) wide. Since construction, the mill has probably been operated by only six millers.
Brill's last miller was Mr. Albert Nixey. Mr. Nixey last milled flour in 1919, but continued to grind barley for cattle food for a further four years. The new roller mills (the first opening in Glasgow in 1872) could produce 7,000lbs (about 3,200kgs) of bread flour per man hour, compared to 180lbs (81kgs) produced by a windmill such as that in Brill.
In 1634, another post-mill was built opposite today's windmill, on the other side of the road across the Common. This windmill, known as Parson's Mill, was struck by lightening in 1905 and demolished in 1906. The 'tump' on which it was built is still clearly visible.
Brill Windmill is open to the public every Sunday from Easter to the end of September between 2pm and 5pm - adults £2 & children 50p. For out of hours opening for groups please email email@example.com.
Look out for:
- Brill Windmill, an Explanation, a booklet published by the Brill Society, in 1985. Available from local shops, price 85p.