The Decline of Britain’s Windmills

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The windmill’s unmistakable silhouette makes it one of the most distinctive features of Britain’s landscape.

From the basic mill to the complex, from the tiny to the tall, windmills were rendered obsolete by the advent of new technologies, firstly steam then electricity. However, some mills remain as beacons of our heritage. Located on the Fylde coast, or “Windmill Land” as it has been called, Marsh Mill has been saved and restored through a mixture of fortuity and community action.

Windmill Land

Situated in the northwest of England, Fylde is the area of land between the Trough of Bowland, the Ribble Valley and the Irish Sea. At one point there were over 35 windmills on the Fylde coast.

This predominance of windmills earned the area its name, Windmill Land. Charles Allen Clarke coined the phrase. Born in 1863, he was sent to work in a local factory mill at the age of 13. After being emancipated, he later turned his talents to journalism. Clarke was to become the editor of the Blackpool Echo.

Windmills throughout history

Evidence of windmills in England dates from the 12th Century, though there are earlier references in the Domesday Book to animal or water-powered mills. Windmills were popular in areas such as Fylde for two reasons. Firstly, their function, grinding corn, was a necessity in an arable area such as this. Secondly, wind power is plentiful on the breezy Fylde coast, making the choice of wind over water mills an obvious one.

In their heyday during the 1840s, there were several thousand mills operating in Britain. Nowadays, few windmills remain and even fewer are functional, making Marsh Mill something of a national treasure. Marsh Mill is a fine example of a tower mill, the third generation of mills.

credit: http://www.bbc.co.uk/legacies/heritage/england/lancashire/article_1.shtml

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