2nd Dec 20 Windmills were more common in Cheshire than one might expect. The Wirral was the main location and their history is brilliantly recorded in Rowan Patel’s ,’The Windmills and Watermills of Wirral’ 2016.

Cheshire’s 18 Domesday mills were all watermills. Two on the Wirral and of the other 16, possibly 8 were on the R,Gowy. Windmills first appeared in England, in the 1180’s and on the Wirral in 1270. Early records for Cheshire suggest some early ones did exist, but I cannot recall any published evidence. Most recorded ones are post-C17th.

10th April 2021.

Some fascinating research appears in Rowan Patel’s recent article( Lancashire and Cheshire’s First Windmills: A Review of the Thirteenth-Century Evidence) shows there were 23 late  C13th and very early C14th windmills, in Lancashire and Cheshire, with the majority held by religious houses. St.Werburgh’s Abbey held a windmill in Saighton and Whitby (Heath?)

The assumption that windmills needed high, exposed sites to be viable. True, high ground offered a clear advantage but many mill sites can hardly be regarded this way. Over time, being taller, set on mounds and stone built almost obviated the need for high ground. Windmills were built in low lying areas where exposure to the wind was not compromised.

As almost all Cheshire’s windmills are gone, to find them, without documentary evidence, in any form, is very difficult. Aerial photography is a real bonus in locating the characteristic field impression left behind, IF it hasn’t be ploughed out, filled-in or in any other form of extinction. The following are key clues:

(1) the contrast in grassland highlighting the former walls of the mill

(2) Actual solid foundations for wooden mills, in particular, ensured stability. Here cut into solid geology

(3)  The timber ‘cross-trees’  set on stone pillars,. Early post mills revolved, by hand. round a fixed pole in the centre.  Gradually, only the ‘cap’ at the top of the mill moved round to enable to catch the wind from the best direction.

4th Dec. 20 :Foulk Stapleford Windmill

Not all windmills were built on high. Some were physical moved to a different site, when Lord Crewe demand it moved from  behind Peckforton Hall Farm, to Luddington Hill, Tarporley ,above the A49; a more appropriate site.

Such an auxiliary windmills supported water mills when problems of water supply caused the millwheel to stop. In winter, many watermills were disabled by floodwater or freezing conditions.  Bott, Cornmill Sites in Cheshire, records that in 1607, the two mills at Stapleford ceased due to freezing of R.Gowy. He suggests one was a  cornmill/fulling mill. This reference is included to highlight there being a unknown windmill at Stapleford ,  though in fairness, Bott does suggest ‘there were others’ at Stapleford.

This  is the aerial image that first prompted a windmill  at Foulk Stapleford when compared to a present day site


Radial pattern of paths to the Stapleford site are similar to the one shown above.

The windmill was on the boundary of Hargrave parish, seen below on aerial view

A reference in Ormerod (Vol 2) relating to the John Bruen, points to a possible fulling mill for the refining of wool and this mill, might well have been used for that purpose and not the two watermills on the Gowy, as Bott records.


6th Dec 20 :Mouldsworth Windmill…discovered

This was a really feel good discovery. It came about after scrutinising an 19th OS map. Indeed, it needed contacting the Ordnance Survey headquarters, as the windmill symbol was the cartographers ‘take’ on the later standardised one. Various personal contacts viewed the symbol, with some returning odd comments. Regardless, the location of the mill and a fragment of of documentary evidence was enough to justify it as an unrecorded windmill.

Unfortunately, there is no tithe award details only a map on the CRO online tithes.

Viewing the OS 1898 1in map, as a whole, was a challenge, but the site was found as visible in the magnified image below.   

The symbol is shown, rather vaguely, below

Caution is necessary in assigning any mill in Mouldsworth as there was both a Little and Great Mouldsworth. A watermill, on the Peel Hall estate, on Ashton Brook, was in Mouldsworth Parva (Little). No mill was known in the Mouldsworth Magna (Great).

Dodgson (Vol 3) : in 1819, Little Mouldsworth  is said to consist of two estates, Horton and Peel (cited in Orm.2). No watermill is mentioned but rather, given as Peel Mill…Bryant’s map 1831 and ‘one Mulneplace in Great Mouldsworth’ 1397 in Orm.

Here, the watermill is Little Mouldsworth and, Great Mouldsworth, the windmill. Having studied the Peel Hall estate map of` 1717, the mill house is on this land although, the brook flows along the boundary of both Mouldsworths, with access from both sides, highlighting the understandable confusion.

The 1839 Mouldsworth tithe map compounds the confusion  in showing the watermill and the brook not on the Peel estate but in Great Mouldsworth. Sadly, the data relating tithe award on the CRO site does not show the

Information as to the millers is equally challenging. All I can glean is:

  • 1857 Post Office Directory, William Manley, Mouldsworth
  • 1825 Thomas Jefferson (in E.Baines, Directory and Gazeteer  of the County Palatine of Lancs., Vol 2, p.595, 1825
  • 1735-1790 Edward Antrobus, miller, Great Mouldsworth, watermill in Mills Archive online.

All I can suggest is W.Manley was the miller at watermill on Ashton Brook, in Little Mouldsworth/Peel Hall and apparently, was preceded by Edward Antrobus. The windmill was run by Thomas Jefferson.

All the above is in good faith!

12th Dec 20:  Cheshire Windmills:

Source: P.H.W.Booth, The Palatine of Chester, Inq. Post Mortem, in Cheshire History, Aut. No. 18, 1986,pp 6-9

Sir Hamo Mascy of Timperley, 1349: Backford Manor, a windmill worth 6s 8d.

John Bulkeley 1349; Willaston in Wybunbury...a windmill worth 5s. William Boydell 1349; Dodleston…a windmill worth 6s 8d. An interesting note includes: ‘an acre in the past now worth 8d, on account of the pestilence’…3 carcucates of  land of 40 acres each held y tenants-at-will, same value, because all the tenants are dead.’/ also owned Handley : windmill with broken post worth nothing/ and Grappenhall: watermill worth 3s 4d and windmill worth (…)

Source: R.Stewart-Brown, Cheshire Inquisitions Post Mortem; Stuart Period: 1603-1660, Vol 1 (A-D) as Vol 84, RSLC, 1934

Henry Belde (1619) Upton windmill, Chester(p.37)/…Sir Henry Bunbury(1636)…the Manor of Hoole…a windmill(p105)/ Hugh Beeston (1617), the site of a windmill in Tiverton(p31)/

op.cit Vol II  (E-O) Ralph Egerton (1620)…a windmill at Bickerton worth 40s…and a windmill and 40a. of land in Farndon (p10)

Vol III: (P-Y) Sir John Savage (1615) the manor of Clifton, and in Clifton Park…a dovecote, a windmill…(p39/ and a windmill and 3 water grain-mills in Frodsham (p46)

Note: Both sources include watermills and horsemills.