I was very fortunate to recently visit a very old windmill, over 270 years old; the only windmill left on the Isle of Wight.After showing National Trust membership cards to a man in a hut I bought a souvenir guidebook.I had a good look at the top of the windmill, where there is a big wheel and a wooden screw called a ‘Worm Screw’. There used to be chains that hung down and the miller would have used the chains to turn the the top of the mill, known as ‘The Cap’ to face the wind.I also had a good look at the four wooden frames (before posing for a photo by the door). The frames would have been covered in canvas sailcloth, and a small boy known as a ‘Nipper’ had the job of climbing out onto the frames to attach the cloth. I don’t think I would want to be a nipper.Once inside the windmill I set about climbing up to the top. This took me quite a while.At the top there was a trap door. I was a tad worried that it might suddenly open up so I decided not to walk over it. Sacks of grain used to be hoisted up through the trap door. Grain would have been tipped out of the sacks into this huge wooden bin. The grain then traveled downwards through canvas chutes to the hopper above the mill stones on the floor below.There was an enormous wooden wheel with an iron band around the outside; known as ‘The Great Brake Wheel’. The miller would have applied the brake by pulling on a rope (which was attached to a lever) which was passed down on the outside of the mill. The Great Brake Wheel was used to slow down or stop ‘The Wallower’ (the horizontal wheel) which drove the upright shaft. I carefully went back down the wooden ladder to ‘The Stone Floor’ where the millstones are housed. I got a bit distracted here as there were some windows, so I climbed up to have a closer look at the sail frames.One of my humans took a photo of me from the outside!The next floor down is ‘The Machine Floor’, with the huge upright shaft which takes power from ‘The Wallower’ at the top of the mill to the great spur wheel. Here I am sitting on the leather belting drive having a good look at everything.Downstairs there are two millstones that make me look like I am even smaller than I am.There were also some weights which were impossible for me to lift.I climbed onto the scales but they didn’t even move. This must mean that I haven’t eaten too many cakes yet.On the ground floor I was pleased to find some miller style clothing for people and bears to try on. I rather like the hat but I am not sure about the smock, it was a tad large.Before leaving the mill I had a go at milling some grain using some small bear sized millstones.
After a visit to a mill I usually purchase a bag of flour milled there, but Bembridge Windmill hasn’t been used for milling since 1913, so that wasn’t possible!
A very interesting place to visit.
Horace the Alresford Bear 26/4/17
For more information about Bembridge Mill: https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/bembridge-windmill