North Leverton windmill

Photo: Illustrative image for the 'North Leverton windmill' page
Photo: Illustrative image for the 'North Leverton windmill' page

North Leverton windmill

A 200 year old tradition

By Jonathan Mcguinness

North Leverton windmill, near Retford, was built by subscription in 1813. A windmill of this size would cost around £1700 to build, thus the subscription was formed. The windmill was to be used by the subscribers and "other industrious poor persons" at an agreed rate.

In 1884, the mill was extended (vertically) to provide an extra storage floor, and with the sails higher up, a Granary was built next to the mill. During the re-fit, sails from a dissued mill at Ordsall were acquired and fitted on the mill.

The windmill enjoyed many years of healthy trade, but by the 1920's, as with all other windmills, trade was becoming scarce and the mill required major attention. The new miller, George Foster, was a millwright by trade and soon set to work building a new set of sails at cost price. With the help of local farmers, Mr Foster soon had the sails fitted, and as well as running the milling business, he found time to repair the rest of the mill too.

George Foster had only one day per year off work, when he and his wife would walk to Sturton-le-Steeple railway station and catch the train to Cleethorpes for the day. Such was his devotion to the mill, that the last night he lived, at 23:30 he went outside to check his beloved mill was alright. He died at 01:30.

The year of his death was 1955, and most of the windmill's trade was now animal feed for the local farmers. Mr Albert Wilby took over as miller and in 1956, the windmill became a Limited Company. In 1959 the windmill was struck by lightning causing some £3000 damage.

In 1969 Mr William Heathershaw became miller and soon took to the job. In 1972, the mill was again struck by lightning, damaging two sails that were repaired the following year. Bill Heathershaw ran the mill until ill health prevented him doing so in 1986, when Keith Barlow took over.

By the mid 1980's, most of the mills trade had fallen away. Farmers were no longer bringing 10-15 sacks of grain to the mill, then fetching them a week later, they were ordering 20 ton lorry loads of feed in bulk  to be blown into feed silos.

The only trade for the mill seemed to be school visits, but with the 90's worries of "Health and Safety" even these reduced in frequency. Despite all this, the mill continued to operate and still saw use by local farmers.

In June 2008, two sails were found to be rotten and needed to be removed. The windmill is now working using the two remaining sails.

In the summer of 2008, the Windmill Company decided that the way forward was to become a Charitable Trust. In December 2008, the North Leverton Windmill Trust was born.

Since then, the trustees have raised almost £100,000 towards repairs and new sails. Mr James and Mrs Julie Barlow have worked tirelessly to find funding and go through all the red-tape to ensure the mill survives for another 200 years. It is heart warming to realise that the Mr Barlows are direct descendants of one of the original subscribers.

Every September there is an open weekend with many interesting exhibits and things to do. It has become a focal point of the village calendar and gets bigger and better year on year. 2013 will see the 200th anniversary of the mill and several events are planned to celebrate.

Here we are in 2011, just two years from her 200th birthday, and she is still doing what she was built for, milling flour and feeds every Saturday, all year round. And with that, all the traditions of Millwrights, Stone dressers and not forgetting Millers are still here too.

The mill is open to the public every Saturday throughout the year. A full range of stoneground flour is on sale.


This page was added by Jonathan Mcguinness on 02/08/2011.

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