History of Chesterton Windmill

The windmill is Chesterton's most famous landmark, standing on the hill overlooking the village for nearly 350 years. It was built in 1632, probably by Sir Edward Peyto who was Lord of the Manor. At this time John Stone, a pupil of Inigo Jones, was in Chesterton designing the new Manor House and he probably helped with the windmill as well. Sir Edward was a mathematician and astrologer and it was said to have been built as an Observatory, but it was very soon working as a windmill grinding corn.

Construction of Chesterton Windmill

It is built of hard local limestone with sandstone detailing. The tower is supported on six semicircular arches, on piers, the outer faces of which are arcs of circles radiating from a common centre. A sandstone string course surmounts the six arches and runs round the tower below the windows. There are four windows in the tower, two small and two much larger with stone mullioned windows. A small window set in the roof on the opposite side to the sails. It has a small plaque above it with the letters E.P. 1632.

Workings of Chesterton Windmill

There are two floors to the Mill. The lower floor is 15' above ground level, housing stones, great spur wheel, and sack hoist. The upper floor houses the windshaft, main gearing and winding equipment. Until 1930, the space inside the arches used to have a wooden structure to store the grain and an open staircase to reach the mill. This structure was removed to prevent vandalism. The cap of the mill is a shallow dome which used to be covered with lead, but because of vandalism is now covered with aluminium. There is a wind direction indicator on the roof which is continued into the interior and a small repeat indicator at its lower end, so that the miller could set the mill without leaving his work. The sails have a 60' span, counter clock-wise rotation and are covered with 450 sq ft of canvas. The arched tower covers a very small diameter of 22'9" and it has an unusual winding gear for an English windmill: the cap being wound by a hand operated winch having spur and worm gears.

Restoration of Chesterton Windmill

It seems the mill has had three major reconstructions: one in 1776 when the shaft was modified (and the date carved in the tail of the shaft); one in 1860 when the old curb and cap framing was altered; and one in 1969 when reconstruction began after the windmill had ceased functioning in 1910. The windmill was finished in 1971, and reopened for a few days to the public. In 1975 it was awarded one of the Civic Trust Heritage Awards.

NB. A copy of Chesterton Windmill was built in Newport, Rhode Island, U.S.A. by Governor Bededict Arnold about 1676. William Arnold, his father, was born in Leamington and his son was sixteen when Chesterton Windmill was built. They emigrated to Rhode Island in 1635 and Benedict became Governor in 1663. The wooden mill at Newport was blown down in 1675 and the stone mill was built in its place. It was not quite the same, having eight round pillars not six, but it was very similar.