As Wicken Windmill nears its 200th birthday we look back at its past


Built in 1813, to grind wheat into bread-making flour for use by the villagers, and to grind feed for the local farmers' animals. The How family owned the windmill for many years from 1891 onwards. After the 1914-18 War smaller milling businesses generally became less economic in England and milling by wind at Wicken ceased in the 1930s. After the milling operation stopped the mill became more derelict. The sails were dismantled, and later, the roof failed progressively in the 1950's and 60's. By 1971 Wicken Windmill was in a very poor state of repair. Fortunately at this stage Mr G C Wilson of Over Windmill fitted a temporary domed roof to Wicken Mill with the cooperation of the then owners, Mr and Mrs Johnson. This slowed the decay of the mill.

In 1987 the Wicken Windmill Preservation Group, of amateur millwrights and supporters, bought the mill to repair it to working order. This was to be a spare time project, with all repair work being done by the Group. Grants for materials were obtained from English Heritage and East Cambridgeshire District Council: the grants together with individual donations have allowed timber and metal to be purchased as the work has progressed. The repair programme has moved forward steadily, the wooden tower was strengthened and reclad, the cap was rebuilt on the ground and lifted back in place by crane. The replacement sails were fitted in 1996, and since, have been fitted with a complete set of shutters. The internal gearing has been restored and one set of stone furniture made. A small amount of meal has been produced. Currently, a 'wire machine', for dressing the meal into various grades is being made.

We are looking for others to join them in restoring this further.