Stembridge Mill, High Ham

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Stembridge Tower Mill
Stembridge Windmill (geograph 2013400).jpg
Mill location High Ham, Somerset, England
Grid reference ST432305
Coordinates 51°04′17″N 2°48′39″W / 51.0713°N 2.8107°W / 51.0713; -2.8107Coordinates: 51°04′17″N 2°48′39″W / 51.0713°N 2.8107°W / 51.0713; -2.8107
Operator(s) The National Trust
Year built 1822
Purpose Corn mill
Type Tower mill
Storeys Four storey tower
Number of sails 4
Type of sails Common sails
Windshaft Wood, with a cast iron cross[1]
Winding Wheel and chain
Auxiliary power Formerly had a steam engine
Number of pairs of millstones 2[1]
Size of millstones 4 feet 0 inches (1.22 m) diameter[1]
Other information Restored 1971/74 and 2009

Stembridge Tower Mill in High Ham, Somerset, England, is the last remaining thatched windmill in England. The mill is designated as a grade II* listed building.

The stone tower mill was built in 1822 with four floors and the thatched "cap". In 1894 a steam engine was installed and after the mill was damaged in a storm in 1897 or 1898 this became the sole source of power. Commercial use ended in 1910. The mill is now owned by The National Trust and underwent a £100,000 restoration by local craftsmen funded by the Grantscape Community Heritage Fund in 2009 and was re-opened later in the year.


Stembridge Mill was constructed for Robert Tatchell in 1822.[2] It incorporated parts from the earlier Ham Mill which stood nearby,[1] a few hundred yards to the north east.[2] The mill has a 26 feet (7.9 m) high tower situated on an old mill mound.[3] The earth mound with a low wall was intended to keep people and livestock away from the sails.[4]

Tatchell leased the mill to his son-in-law John Sherrin, who inherited the mill in 1824 following Tatchell's death. When Sherrin died, the mill passed to his three sons, although only one, Robert, worked the mill. Simon Spearing was the miller by 1869. He was later assisted by his son William, who had lost an arm in an accident at a watermill in Low Ham when he was thirteen.[2] The mill was leased to Adam Sherrin and his family from 1881 and 1902.[5] By the late 1880s, the mill was being rented by George Parker.[6] He added a portable steam engine as auxiliary power.[1] It drove one pair of stones. The mill was damaged by storms in 1897 or 1898 and after that was only powered by the steam engine, rather than wind power.[6] The wind-powered drive to the millstones was removed about this time and the bakehouse ceased to be used.[2]

Robert Hook then acquired the mill. Proving unable to compete against grain imports and the building of dockside mills at Avonmouth, Stembridge Mill was last used commercially in 1908.[2] Hook sold the mill and 5 acres (2.0 ha) of land to Dr. Hugh Hale Leigh Bellot for £500. On his death in 1928,[2] it was inherited by Professor Hugh Hale Bellot.[5] In 1969 Professor Bellot left the windmill, cottage and garden to the National Trust in his will.[7] Repairs including new sails were carried out in 1971. Further repairs were carried out in 1974, these included the renewal of floors.[2] It was designated as a grade II* listed building in 1986.[7]

It is the last survivor of five windmills that once existed in the area.[8]

In 2009 the sails were replaced and the mill re-thatched and restored at a cost of a £100,000 by local craftsmen funded by the Grantscape Community Heritage Fund in 2009 and was re-opened later in the year.[9][10] Although the sails will not rotate with the wind they will moved be moved 90 degrees four times a year for maintenance.[11] Before the restoration work was undertaken surveys revealed that the mill was used as a roost for long-eared and lesser horseshoe bats. The work ensured that the bats would still have access after the restoration.[12]


A tower mill is a type of windmill which consists of a brick or stone tower, on top of which sits a roof or cap which can be turned to bring the sails into the wind.[13] The advantage of the tower mill over the earlier post mill is that it is not necessary to turn the whole mill ("body", "buck") with all its machinery into the wind; this allows more space for the machinery as well as for storage. In the earliest tower mills the cap was turned into the wind with a long tail-pole which stretched down to the ground at the back of the mill. Later an endless chain was used which drove the cap through gearing as is used at Stembridge.[4]

The mill has four floors, a thatched cap and is constructed of local limestone known in the area as Blue Lias.[6] The remains of the old bakehouse can still be see to the rear of the mill.[4]

Technical description[edit]

Terms explained in the Mill machinery article are in italics
Stembridge Mill is a tower mill with a thatched cap. It is winded by a wheel and chain. The windshaft is of wood, with a cast iron cross, which carries four Common sails. The brake wheel is of clasp arm construction. No other machinery remains, the wallower, upright shaft and great spur wheel having been removed after the mill ceased to work by wind. It has two pairs of 4 feet 0 inches (1.22 m) diameter millstones.[1] One pair are French Burr stones, which date from 1859.[14] The other pair have a French Burr runner stone on a conglomerate bedstone. Both pairs of millstones were originally driven overdrift by the windmill, with the mixed pair later being driven underdrift by the steam engine. A wire machine was also driven by the steam engine.[1]


These millers worked Stembridge Mill.[1][2]

  • John Sherrin (1822- )
  • Robert Sherrin (1861–69)
  • Simon Spearing (1869– )
  • Joseph Loader (1879–81)
  • George Parker (1889-97)
  • Frank Parker (1897–98)
  • Robert Mead (1898– )
  • F G Harding
  • Hill

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Coulthard, Alfred J.; Watts, Martin (1978). Windmills of Somerset and the men who worked them. London: Research Publishing Co. pp. 49–51. ISBN 978-0705000604. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h Brown, R. J. (1976). Windmills of England. London: Robert Hale Ltd. p. 164. ISBN 978-0709156413. 
  3. ^ Warren, Derrick (2005). Curious Somerset. Stroud: Sutton Publishing. p. 68. ISBN 978-0-7509-4057-3. 
  4. ^ a b c Greeves, Lydia (2006). History and Landscape: The Guide to National Trust Properties in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. National Trust Books. ISBN 978-1905400133. 
  5. ^ a b "High Ham Deeds". National Archives. Retrieved 31 March 2015. 
  6. ^ a b c Dunning, Robert. "'High Ham', in A History of the County of Somerset: Volume 8, the Poldens and the Levels". British History Online. Victoria County History. Retrieved 31 March 2015. 
  7. ^ a b Historic England. "Stembridge Mill (1235260)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 4 April 2015. 
  8. ^ Leete-Hodge, Lornie (1985). Curiosities of Somerset. Bodmin: Bossiney Books. p. 84. ISBN 978-0906456996. 
  9. ^ "The National Trust Magazine". News (Autumn 2009): 11. 
  10. ^ "Thatched windmill sails again". BBC. Retrieved 3 March 2015. 
  11. ^ "Britain's only thatched windmill restored to former glory". Telegraph. 23 October 2009. Retrieved 31 March 2015. 
  12. ^ "Sails are returning to historic National Trust windmill". This is the West Country. Retrieved 31 March 2015. 
  13. ^ "Stembridge Tower Mill". Windmills UK. Retrieved 3 March 2015. 
  14. ^ "Featured Mill ‒ Stembridge Mill, Somerset". Wessex Mills Group. Retrieved 31 March 2015. 

External links[edit]