The most iconic feature and star of Wimbledon Common.
Much like the Commons itself, there’s something for visitors of all ages and, young or old, few have resisted the allure of the shop and its array of postcards, souvenirs and of course Wimbledon Common royalty - The Wombles!
Those who want to fully enjoy the wonders of the Windmill can go on the tour as well as take part in interactive exhibits.
The Windmill has stood pride of place on Wimbledon Common since it was built in 1817 by Charles March to serve the local community. Its hollow construction mirrored that popular in Holland, rather than the traditional British structure, but it’s unknown why Charles March chose to build it this way. The grain-grinding, working mill only operated for almost half a century when, in 1864, the machinery was removed and replaced by residential accommodation. As well as its day-to-day role, the Windmill was also interestingly the vantage point of choice for watching the many duels that took place on Wimbledon Common and Putney Heath back in the 19th century.
Whilst the inner workings of the mill are no longer in place, the sails have been restored to working order and the residential accommodation converted into the much-loved museum, housing interactive exhibits on rural life and local history.
With the passing of the Wimbledon and Putney Commons Act in 1871, the Windmill passed into the hands of the Conservators. But by 1890, the building they inherited was in poor condition, so much so it was deemed to be in danger of collapse. So, a public appeal was launched and in 1893 major repairs were carried out, including completely rebuilding the roof of the roundhouse. The 1950’s and 1960’s saw further repairs to the building but it wasn't until 1974, when the cottages in the roundhouse were vacated that the true extent of the rot within the timbers was discovered. This prompted an appeal to raise £20,000 to fund extensive repairs.
The Windmill Museum
Once the Windmill had been given a big dose of TLC, the Windmill Museum opened to the public in 1976. Featuring models of different types of windmill, a section dedicated to machinery, with examples of gear wheels in wood and iron, the museum walks visitors through the history of the windmill’s structure, both past and present.
Children can even try their hand at flour grinding with the museum’s pestle and mortar, as well as a hand quern, the earliest recorded device for continuous grinding, dating back to 500 BC. Discover the millstones, gears, and inner workings of the windmill and take a peek at the iron brake-wheel through a trap door in the ceiling. Plus, see for yourselves how flour is sifted and grain is measured and weighed with the museum’s measuring machine.
The Tool Collection
The museum is also home to an impressive collection of woodworking tools, kindly donated by Mr Bert Follen to take you back to the trades of the past. Show children how far technology and modern machinery have changed the face of industries, and cast their minds back to the traditional days of carpentry, with tools for cutting, drilling, measuring, shaping, jointing and smoothing.
For more information on the Windmill visit the Wimbledon Windmill Museum website.
Volunteering in the Windmill
The Windmill is manned solely by volunteers and the Trustees of the Windmill Trust would welcome anyone who can spare just a few hours a month to help out.
If you're interested, or would like a chat about what's involved, please contact Paula at the Ranger's Office on 020 8788 7655