John Webb's Mill, Thaxted

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John Webb's Mill
Thaxtead windmill.jpg
The restored mill, October 2004
Mill nameJohn Webb's Mill
Lowe's Mill
Grid referenceTL 609 308
Coordinates51°57′09″N 0°20′28″E / 51.9525°N 0.3410°E / 51.9525; 0.3410Coordinates: 51°57′09″N 0°20′28″E / 51.9525°N 0.3410°E / 51.9525; 0.3410
Operator(s)The Thaxted Society
Year built1804
PurposeCorn mill
TypeTower mill
StoreysFive storeys
No. of sailsFour sails
Type of sailsPatent sails
WindshaftCast iron
Fantail bladesEight blades
No. of pairs of millstonesThree pairs
Size of millstones5 feet (1.52 m), 4 feet 6 inches (1.37 m) and 4 feet 3 inches (1.30 m)

John Webb’s or Lowe’s Mill is a Grade II* listed[1] tower mill at Thaxted, Essex, England, which had been restored to working order, but is currently out of action following the loss of a sail in April 2010.

Almshouses at the parish church of St John, with the sailless John Webb's Windmill in the background, in July 2012.


The windmill was built in 1804 for John Webb, a local farmer and landowner,[2] to satisfy the increasing demand for flour both locally and in London.[3] It was constructed using local materials, with timber from two local farms and bricks made at a nearby location in the Chelmer Valley also owned by John Webb.[2]

The mill was always worked by millers named Lowe or John Webb, thus gaining its names. The mill was last worked commercially in 1910. The mill was disused for over twenty years until the Thaxted Civic Trust carried out essential repairs and made the structure waterproof. The lower floors were used as a scout hut. The mill passed into the ownership of Thaxted Parish Council in the 1950s. The Thaxted Society, formed in 1964, has been instrumental in the restoration of the mill to full working order.[4]

In 2004, the cap and sails were removed to enable repairs to the brickwork at the top of the tower.[5] The repairs were completed by the end of the year.[6] The mill was officially reopened on 8 April 2005 by Lord Petre.[7] On 5 April 2010, the stock of one pair of sails broke, and the sail crashed to the ground, damaging the stage as it fell. There were no injuries among the six or seven visitors in the mill at the time.[8] On the ground and first floors there is a rural museum containing agricultural artifacts.


John Webb’s Mill is a five-storey tower mill with a domed cap with a gallery. The cap is winded by an eight blade fantail. There is a stage at first floor level. The tower is 24 feet (7.32 m) diameter at base level and 15 feet (4.57 m) diameter at curb level. The tower is 48 feet 6 inches (14.78 m) high, having been raised by some 4 feet (1.22 m) at some time.[2] The mill is 54 feet (16.46 m) high to the top of the cap.[4] The brickwork is 4 feet (1.22 m) thick at ground level and 18 inches (460 mm) thick at curb level.[2]

The cast-iron windshaft carries a clasp arm brake wheel with 88 cogs. It drives a wooden wallower with 50 cogs carried on a cast iron upright shaft. The 8-foot-10-inch (2.69 m) clasp arm great spur wheel has 122 cogs and drives three stone nuts – two with 19 cogs and the third with 20 cogs. The millstones are 5 feet (1.52 m), 4 feet 6 inches (1.37 m) and 4 feet 3 inches (1.30 m) diameter.[2]

As built, John Webb’s Mill had a wooden windshaft some 18 inches (460 mm) longer than the present one, carrying four Common sails. It drove two pairs of millstones, the third pair being added at a later date. In 1890, the mill was carrying four double Patent sails[2] and by the early 1900s was working on two double Patent sails and two single Patent sails.[4]


  • John Webb 1823
  • Lowe 1837
  • John Webb 1848–1853
  • Harry Lowe 1907–1910


Public access[edit]

The mill is open in the afternoon on Sundays and Bank Holidays from May to September and at other times by appointment.[3]

Cultural relevance[edit]

The windmill briefly reached an international audience when it was used in a scene in Passolini's 1972 adaptation of The Canterbury Tales. The mill, in its dilapidated state prior to restoration, provides a backdrop to the conversation between the Summoner, the Devil and the Old Woman in The Friar's Tale. The use of a 19th century tower mill in a depiction of medieval England is anachronistic.[original research?][citation needed]


  1. ^ Historic England. "WINDMILL, THAXTED, UTTLESFORD, ESSEX (1112153)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 13 August 2008.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Farries, Kenneth (1982). Essex Windmills, Millers and Millwrights – Volume Two – A Technical Review. London & Edinburgh: Charles Skilton. pp. 75–78. ISBN 0-284-98637-2.
  3. ^ a b "Thaxted Windmill". Retrieved 13 August 2008.
  4. ^ a b c d Farries, Kenneth (1988). Essex Windmills, Millers and Millwrights – Volume Five – A Review by Parishes, S–Z. Edinburgh: Charles Skilton. pp. 50–51. ISBN 0-284-98821-9.
  5. ^ "Work progressing on Thaxted windmill". Windmill World. Archived from the original on 9 May 2008. Retrieved 13 August 2008.
  6. ^ "Thaxted windmill back in action once again". Windmill World. Archived from the original on 9 May 2008. Retrieved 13 August 2008.
  7. ^ "Thaxted windmill officially reopened by Lord Petre". Windmill World. Archived from the original on 9 May 2008. Retrieved 13 August 2008.
  8. ^ "Sail breaks off Thaxted Windmill while visitors inside on Easter Monday". Saffron Walden Reporter. 9 April 2010. Retrieved 11 April 2010.

External links[edit]