Members and friends assembled at Brixton Windmill at 11am for the start of the tour on a hot day, to look round the outside of this 1816 built black tower mill. Unfortunately we were not able to go in because of the insecure nature of the interior, which comprises machinery once used in the derelict tower mill at Burgh-le-Marsh.
We then drove to Wimbledon Common to visit the unusual Hollow Post Mill here. A splendid collection of models made by Norman Plastow, most of which turn by electricity, created much interest. Much of the windmill's machinery no longer exists, having been removed after she stopped working in 1864. There are many educational aspects at Wimbledon Windmill, including a continuous three hour video and a reconstruction of a Victorian living room.
The next visit was to Merton Abbey Waterwheel on the River Wandle, where the restored wheel was originally used to drive machinery for washing fabric for the Liberty Silk Works. New paddles had only just been fitted, these being made out of scaffold boards as they are found to last longer that traditional elm ones. The undershot waterwheel is 12 feet in diameter and 15 feet wide and now powers a variety of machines including a lathe, pillar drill, electricity generator and a potters wheel.
A short drive brought us to Morden Park Hall to see the one remaining frame of the two 15 foot breastshot waterwheels that powered a snuff and tobacco mill. The empty building will eventually house the Wandle Industrial Museum. Nearby there was another mill site at Ravensbury.
Our final visit was to Shirley Windmill, an 1854 built tower mill in Post Mill Close! Here we were given a comprehensive tour of this restored mill. Since the SIAS visit seven years ago, a substantial Lottery Grant has enabled internal refurbishment to be undertaken by the British Engineerium as well as touch-screen computers and hands-on interactive displays.
All in all an enjoyable day in an area that is not often visited by most of us. Our thanks are due to Peter Hill for the excellent arrangements in organising another successful tour.
Report compiled by David Jones.