Page 2: History of Whitstable's Windmills - Details of Eleven Local Mills

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What is known about Whitstable’s 11 windmills?

Sadly, very little is known about most of them! However, the sections below as much background as I have been able to uncover to date.

Wndmill 1: Borstal Hill (Black) Mill

This is the best known and sole remaining of all Whitstable’s windmills. The subject of our opening illustration, the Borstal Hill windmill is located on the East side of Borstal Hill being used in its heyday for ‘grinding’ wheat into flour or grains in general for meal.

Built in 1792, this 5 storey smock mill replaced an earlier mill further down Borstal Hill. The sole survivor into the 21st century, Borstal Hill windmill is the only Whitstable windmill with a modern history extending into living memory.

Contrary to the popular impression, the windmill stood alone, independent of the miller’s house until the mid 1920s long after milling ceased. Illustration 8 below was re drawn from one of the earliest photographs of the old mill, possibly taken as early as 1850, and showing both the mill and mill house from the general direction of Borstal Hill. For clarity, the otherwise then white windmill is illustrated in a somewhat darker coat.

Illust 8: The Borstal Hill (Black) Mill

Illustration 8: The Borstal Hill (Black) Mill

Dimensionally the octagonal base of Borstal Hill windmill was about 24 feet diameter overall with two floors, the first being a semi basement. The top floor of the brick base was the equivalent of a dispatch warehouse and therefore clear of machinery.

The first storey of the timber structure was crowded with hand hewn machinery – timber wheels with apple-wood cogs, leather belt driven grading drums and heavy stone governors suspended overhead. On this floor large doors opened onto a wooden gallery that ran round the mill. Above stood the wooden hull of the windmill tapering to 12 feet in diameter at the top and finally the rotatable hood supporting the sails.

Believed originally built by Foord, by 1808 it was occupied by Joseph Daniels. Subsequent millers, although not necessarily owners, were Edward Lawrence, Henry Somerford (owner), Jonathon Rye, the Callingham brothers and George and William Dawkins.

In 1851 Wynn Ellis, Lord of Whitstable Manor, purchased the windmill from Jane Austin of Upper Hardres. It would be nice to think that meant ‘our windmill ‘ was once owned by Jane Austen noted author of such works as ‘Pride & Prejudice’ who had relatives and reputedly owned property at Godmersham not far from Upper Hardres. Unfortunately the author died in 1817 long before Wynn Ellis purchased the windmill.

By 1860 Henry Somerford had become the owner, James Callingham replacing him in 1866.

Until 1885 the mill was painted white serving as a navigational landmark for Trinity House. In that year much of the old weatherboarding was replaced and the structure tarred, a common practice with buildings in this maritime town. Some authors claim that was against the preference of Trinity House, some record that it was with that organisation’s support.

After being tarred black Borstal Hill windmill became known as ‘The Black Mill’.

Despite the connotations of such a dark name the old mill, being 1792 born, missed ‘The Battle of Bostall Hill’ in 1780, a night time battle between smugglers and Dragoons in which two officers were killed. Rightly or wrongly a youth. Thomas Knight, was tried, convicted and hung for the officers’ murder. The youth’s body was hung in chains on a gibbet on Bostall Hill as a warning to local smugglers. Later the decomposing body was allegedly placed at the door of the person presumed to have informed on him. Reputedly young Thomas Knight’s ghost can still be seen in the town.

By 1899 the mill ceased operating as the need for such a corn mill had passed, no doubt with the aid of steam. On several occasions early in the 20th century sails were seen erected but reports say the mill never turned again by them. The old windmill is locked facing East of North as the strongest winds typically blow from that direction.

After milling ceased in 1899 The Stanhope Shipping Company acquired the property for use as a home for their retired seamen until 1906. Presumably only the mill house was used as the home. The original mill house was separate from the windmill being a little further downhill and closer to the main roadway as shown in the foregoing illustration.

In 1906, (some have written 1904), the mill became the property of H.B. (Henry) Irving and his wife Dorothea, both well known stars of the Edwardian stage. The mill house became their weekend retreat, the windmill itself an unusual but unused garden feature. Dorothea Irving, said to be a warm hearted person better known as ‘Dolly,’ supported London children from deprived homes through a London based charity. In Summer some of those children would enjoy a trip to Whitstable for a day in the windmill’s gardens, a far cry from their usual playground of dismal London streets.

During the Great War, the First World War, ‘the Black Mill’ was reputedly used by observers watching for enemy Zeppelins. It would be nice to discover that they actually saw some and the Windmill served the purpose effectively.

After H.B. Irving died in 1919 Dorothea continued to live in the mill house still entertaining her many friends of theatre and screen.

In the mid 1920s Dorothea and H.B’s son, Laurence Irving OBE, became the owner. He built a large house attached to the mill for his family, moving into the new house in 1928. Laurence refurbished the mill itself. All the weatherboarding and gallery timber was replaced with an emphasis on retaining originality.

A designer for both stage and cinema Laurence converted the first floor to a studio, the ground floor becoming home to a lithographic press. It is nice to think the old mill oversaw design of Laurence’s successful theatre sets for ‘The Man In The Iron Mask’ and ‘Taming of the Shrew’, ‘Hamlet’, ‘The Nelson Touch’ and ‘The Good Companions’ along with film sets for Shaw’s Pygmalion, ‘Major Barbara’ and ’77 Park Lane’.

IIllustration 9 below of the Irving house and windmill, viewed from the south east, is based on a mid 1900s photographic experiment to show the complete windmill with its 19th century sails and fantail.


Illust 9: The Borstal Hill MIll and Irving House

Illustration 9: The Borstal Hill MIll and Irving House

The original mill house, separated from the mill as noted earlier, was replaced about the mid 1930s by a mock Tudor style dwelling shown to the left in Illustration 2 towards the beginning of this article.

The Irvings left the new mill house with the outbreak of war in 1939. Laurence rejoined the RAF having trained as a fighter pilot in the First World War earning his OBE.

Once again the military used the windmill as an observation platform for spotting enemy aircraft. The windmill would have provided an ideal observation post to support the anti aircraft guns on Duncan Downs and the Seasalter golf links as well as the searchlight units situated at Bellevue Road above the Cemetery and even the short range radar site off Grimthorpe Avenue off Borstal Hill. Soldiers were billeted in Mill House in a few cases their families were billeted elsewhere around the Town.

After the war Laurence Irving returned to resume his career but turning to writing and illustrating a number of books associated with the sea. The old windmill no doubt witnessed him enjoying his sailing and paintings of local scenes, most of them, like those of the books, associated with the sea.

TThe Irving family left the property in 1961. The property was sold to a Mr Harbornne who built a number of motel units along the entrance driveway as shown in Illustration 10 below.

Illust 10: The Borstal Hill (Black) Mill as a motel in the 1960s

Illustration 10: The Borstal Hill (Black) Mill as a motel in the 1960s

The motel entrance was created in the base of the windmill with a bar and dining room established in the floor above with some of the original machinery adding atmosphere around the latter. Extensive renovation work undertaken on the windmill did not unfortunately extend to a planned re-installation of sails.

1973 saw yet another change in ownership with the Ferrari family taking over. The octagonal shaped ground floor was converted into a restaurant and the accommodation units improved.

Sometime during this period the Giovanni family ran the restaurant. Fourteen years later in 1987 the facility closed. Extensive restoration around 1989 included restoring the cap’s fan and fantail but again, disappointingly, the sails proved too expensive and were not installed.

SSince then houses have replaced the motel rooms, the entrance road leading to a courtyard in front of the mill with Laurence Irving’s old house now a private residence. The windmill itself has again been sold (2007) and it is pictured below as a residential development in the snow of January 2010.

llust 11a: The Borstal Hill Mill as a residential development in 2010

Illustration 11a: The Borstal Hill Mill in 2010 - a residential development

llust 11:  The Black Mill as viewed from a position close to the former site of the "Lower"Borstal Hill" mill.

Illustration 11:  The Black Mill as viewed from a position close to the former site of the "Lower"Borstal Hill" mill.

It will be interesting to see what developments add to the old windmill’s history.

Before we leave ‘The Black Mill’ to look at other Whitstable windmills, illustration 11 (right) is a distant view extracted from a larger year 2007 photograph taken from near the former site of the Millstrood Hill windmill.
Clearly Borstal Hill’s ‘Black Mill’ does not sit on top of the hill as popularly thought.

A misconception no doubt brought about by so many illustrations depicting the windmill from lower down the hill
The band of trees across the scene mark the course of the Gorrel Stream. The trees, now being referred to as Gorrel Wood, extend across the East side of Duncan Down to the left of this scene.

 

Wndmill 2: Lower Borstal Hill Mill

Little is known about this windmill built prior to 1736. Apparently it was located on the East side of Borstal Hill opposite the bend where the steep section flattens out and about midway between Canterbury Road and Windmill Road as indicated by the white arrow in the earlier Illustration 2. (Also indicated in the Martindown mill location Illustration 12 below). Some early maps have been taken as showing this windmill on the same site as the ‘Black Mill’ but, being of small scale and the windmill symbol or ‘dot’ used so large, they could not clearly show the positions accurately.

Local lore indicated this corn windmill was a small smock mill, possibly by inference when it was referred to as “being a smaller windmill than the one up the hill.” Comparison of symbols on an old small scale map although small and unclear show it may have been a post mill which is more likely for a 1736 windmill. We Stanley Road kids used to play on several large, ancient looking, concrete blocks in that location during the 1940s. Now, looking back, I see the size and triangular placement of the blocks as being consistent with the ‘foundations’ of a post mill. Considering the early forms of transport, the steepness and height of Borstal Hill before the hill was ‘lowered’ and rendered less severe, one can perhaps understand why this early windmill was not built higher up or even on top of the hill to take advantage of clear wind.

Windmill 3: Martindown Mill

FFurther uphill on the other (western side) of Borstal Hill stood Martindown windmill, reputedly a ‘four storey’ smock mill located near Martindown Farm.

Illust12: Picture showing the Black Mill and the former site of the Martindown Farm mill

Illustration 12: Picture showing the Black Mill and the former site of the Martindown Farm mill

Built prior to 1800, Martindown windmill was believed to predate ‘The Black Mill’. Initially a corn mill, it is shown on a Greenwood map and also on a map of 1819. Later, it appears to have been converted to a pumping mill supplying water to Whitstable until replaced by a more modern water reticulation system not dependant upon the vagaries of the wind. Below: an artist impression of Martindown Windmill looking south over ‘the Long Reach’ area towards Clapham and Wraik Hills.

llust 13: Artist's impresion of Martindown mill

Illustration 13: Artist's impresion of Martindown mill

The windmill is depicted in its heyday, fully equipped, as it would have been before losing staging and eventually its sails.

Either the windmill or adjacent Martingdown Farm were known to have played a part in the local smuggling trade of the 1700s and possibly in the smuggling of escaping French prisoners of war from the Thames moored prison hulks during the Napoleonic war. Signals were reputedly received there from a Clapham Hill farm and then passed on into the town.

Martindown windmill fell into disuse after it was no longer required for water pumping apparently being finally dismantled during the 1930s.

Windmill 4: Feakins Mill

FFeakins Mill, shown on an 1819 map off present day Belmont Road, replaced an earlier post mill (our Windmill Number 5) in about 1785.

Illustration 14: Whitstable's Feakins Mill in Belmont Road

Illustration 14: Whitstable's "second best known" mill - Feakins Mill in Belmont Road

Undoubtedly Whitstable’s second best known windmill, Feakins 3 or 4 storey smock corn mill was built on the north side of lower Church road, which became Mill road and eventually Belmont road.

The tarred black windmill ceased working in 1891 having been replaced by a steam mill reputedly ‘because the railway embankment built around 1860 deflected the wind’. There is some indication that the windmill may have worked until 1894.

Although popularly known as ‘Feakins’ mill, Leonard Lawes is listed as the first miller, Robert Feakins taking over in 1836. Until 1849 this windmill had canvas sweeps or sails. In 1868 two of the four sweeps (sails) were replaced by the more efficient and convenient new patent type. In that same year a steam engine was installed nearby but the windmill apparently continued working by wind power until 1891. One author states the mill continued operating by steam power. That may have been although one wonders as the engine house was so far from the windmill so perhaps that referred to the old post mill nearby. John Alfred Johnson, who took over from Robert Feakins during that period of change remained until 1894.

Often written of as having been ‘dismantled in 1905’ ,,,,,,,and the brickwork used in the foundations of houses in Millfield’. A popular photograph of 1905 shows the chimney of the steam mill being felled in that year. I feel that ‘dismantled in 1905’ referred to the steam mill and perhaps the windmill’s sail spars, hood and machinery as I have a (vague) recollection of the black hull standing (late ‘30s early ‘40s). The brick octagonal base was allegedly converted to a dwelling or workshop (which may still remain).

A reasonably grand double fronted house in Belmont Road is believed by some to have been the miller’s residence. Many corn smock mills were not owned by the millers. They were far too costly to build or maintain for a typical humble miller to own. Conversely anyone affluent enough to own a corn smock mill may not have wanted the daily, arduous and sometimes dangerous toil of the miller. Although not always owned by the millers, windmills typically became named after the miller or head miller. Smock mills usually required two people to operate them.

There were two cottages on the Feakins mill site, quite close to the eventual railway embankment, both shown in the foregoing Illustration 14. The Belmont Road house referred to would more likely have been the home of one of the later mill owners, a local land and property owner.

Windmill 5: Feakin’s Predecessor

A post mill, Feakins mill predecessor is only known to have been built sometime prior to 1785. A windmill is shown in the same location on small scale maps back into the early 16th century. A corn mill, it presumably operated until its replacement, the smock mill, was commissioned. The post mill remained alongside for some time. The smaller cottage shown in the Feakins Mill Illustration 14, converted to a storeroom cum workshop, was by its style and simple structure, most likely the original cottage from the days of the post mill. One of the concrete ‘foundation’ or ‘anchor blocks’ of this windmill could be seen protruding onto the Belmont road footpath outside the joinery works into the 1950s. Some believed those blocks belonged to the steam mill but that was more likely closer to the railway, away from Belmont road and more conveniently placed nearer the early rail yards and coal wagons.

Windmill 6: Millstrood Hill

Another post mill stood at Millstrood Hill Farm (‘Brownings’ Farm) part way up Millstrood Hill. Built pre 1800, this windmill is shown on a map of 1819 and several maps in the 1700s.

The windmill also appears, along with Feakins windmill, in a lithograph of a scene depicting the Canterbury & Whitstable Railway on Opening Day the 3rd of May 1830. Only the top and sails of the Millstrood Hill windmill can be seen near the left hand edge of the scene. Some prints of the lithograph do not cover the full area of the original, the Millstrood Hill windmill not being shown.

In about 1950 I found an 1831 reference to this windmill in The Beaney Institute, Canterbury. Details in the reference found indicated the windmill may have been dismantled in or soon after 1831.

Windmill 7: Church Street

A number of references indicate a windmill stood ‘near All Saints Church’, in ‘the Church Street area’ or ‘in Church Field’. At least one reference indicating it was located on Smeeds Farm. An 1819 map shows the location inside the corner formed by Church Street and Ham Shades Lane. Although there are many illustrations of the Church Street area I have not found any which include a windmill of any type.

Referred to in old scripts as ‘Whitstable windmill’, vague references and the map symbol indicate this windmill may have been a small smock mill perhaps of 3 storeys. As this type was relatively new in the 1700s one would expect the Church Street windmill to have survived well into the 1800s, its existence being better recorded.

Windmill 8: Long Beach

Another early windmill found reference to in The Beaney Institute, stood about the western end of Long Beach and built prior to 1800. When the harbour was being built in 1830/32 work on the East quay exposed foundations perceived to be ‘foundations of a windmill’, almost certainly the one referred to in the Beaney Institute archives.

Salt works once existed in the area between the Harbour site and Tankerton Hill. A mill, wind or animal driven, of the type shown in Illustration 6, a water scoop, would almost certainly have been used for controlled filling of the salt pans from today’s Whitstable Bay.

Using tidal flooding to fill salt pans can allow accumulating salt to wash back to sea especially in areas prone to tidal surges and high seas as Whitstable’s coast is. Use of the water scoop can overcome those problems and also continue filling salt pans during periods of low tide (if a suitable channel out to sea is provided of course).

Windmill 9: Seasalter

Old texts indicate that a windmill stood at Seasalter although its location has not been accurately determined. Salt works existed there as far back as Roman times or earlier so some form of filling and controlling the water level of salt pans would have been employed either animal or later on wind driven. A wind pump is shown on a 1936 Ordnance Survey map at Graveney but well outside the Whitstable boundary.

Logically there would have been at least one windmill, almost certainly of the scoop type shown by Illustration 6. As references to windmills at Seasalter are vague one can only make a logical guess as to likely locations. I have indicated a general location near ‘The Sportsman’ public house as home to a Seasalter windmill. Evidence of an inlet, other features conducive to salt harvesting, and known actual salt harvesting there render this a likely site for a wind scoop type mill.

Blue Anchor Corner has also been suggested in some scripts but other activities and features around this area have been reported throughout the centuries without reference to a windmill of any sort.

Windmill 10: Ellenden Farm

Yet another windmill is shown on an old small scale map on the east side of Ellenden Farm. The establishment of water meadows for development of cleared treed land for pasture was well known from this area to the west.

This windmill, still shown on a 1945 Ordnance Survey map, was almost certainly, a wind pump used to pump water such as the example shown in Illustration 7 on page 1 of this article.

Windmill 11: St. Anne’s (Tankerton)

The former St. Anne’s Farm, located at what eventually became the core of early Tankerton, evidently had a corn mill circa the 1700 - 1800s as ‘they milled their own flour’. Remains of what may have been a post mill were reportedly found ‘about the site’ in the early1900s but I have not read any other record to provide further information.

Other Local Windmills

Several local fields bear the name ‘Millfield’ indicating Whitstable may have had other windmills.

Fields so named appear: in the North East corner of Fox’s Cross, Great Mill field on the west side of Rayham Farm, Mill field on the south side of Shrubs Hill, Mill field near Crosslands Corner and Great Mill field at Millstrood on the north side of the Old Thanet Way.

However the name ‘Millfield’ may not necessarily indicate the presence, past or otherwise, of a mill of any type.

Millfield may also derive from ‘Mil’ an earlier term for ‘Knight’, the land therefore belonging to a Knight who would have held the ruling monarch’s land ‘in Knights service’. Millstrood Road can therefore be considered as ‘the road (strood) to either a windmill or the Mil’s (as in Knight’s) residence or property.

II include two other windmills which although not within Whitstable’s present parish or civic boundary were well known to many people, well into the 1920s who considered their home in Blean was part of Whitstable. This was an old concept, no doubt a hangover from the days when Blean was once within the Hundred of Witenstaple. Readers born since the 1920s or ‘new’ to the area and familiar with the Whitstable/Canterbury route may be surprised to learn that two smock corn mills existed side by side in the village of Blean into the 1920s as illustrated below.

Illust 15: Two smock mills located together in Blean

Illustration 15: Two smock mills located together in Blean

Located about 100 yards along Tyler Hill Road from the Peacock public house stood two windmills one known as the ‘Old mill’ the other as the ‘New mill’. br /> The Old mill was existent in the early 1800s. The New mill was built from parts of another windmill overlooking Canterbury which was pulled down in 1868. The windshaft, sweeps and some of the machinery were used in the New mill. Both were black tarred weather-boarded smock mills with brick base and a gallery skirt like the Borstal Hill windmill.

In conjunction with the milling there was a bakery operating in part of the Mill House.

The New mill is said to have been used, like Borstal Hill windmill, as an observation post in the Great War spotting for Zeppelin airships.

The mills were used together for many years until about the 1920s. The Old Mill was the first to be pulled down, although demolition was gradual, both retaining their sweeps to the last. It is known that the New Mill was standing in more or less complete order in 1922 when it was last worked. Finally sold and demolished later in the 1920s, the New mill was said to still be in good condition.

A Rare View....

IIllustration 16 below is a rare view of Borstal Hill windmill as seen from the general area of Martindown windmill.

Illust 16: A rare view of the Borstal Hill mill from the site of the old Martindown mill

It was originally taken from one of a number of very old photographic plates of unknown origin and given to me by a Whitstable Council workmate of my father ‘for my hobby’. The crown of Duncan Down can just be seen below the lower left hand sweep, the roof of the original Mill house further left down hill from the windmill.

How do windmills work?

For those readers curious about how windmills do their job the following pages may be of interest.

The following simplified diagrams illustrate the basic mechanism of a simple post corn windmill and the bigger, more complex smock corn windmills followed by a basic wind pump diagram. The wind scoop mill was adequately described earlier by Illustration 6. on page 1 of this article.

A. Grain Grinding Windmill

FFirst we look at a typical but basic illustration of the mechanism in a grain grinding windmill.

Illust17: The mechanics of a Grain Grinding Mill

Illustration 17: The mechanics of a Grain Grinding Mill

Illust 18: The sails, pitch and roation of a mill

Illustration 18: The sails, pitch and roation of a mill

Grain is fed into the centre of the top ‘floating’ millstone. ‘Floating’ means the millstone sits on top of the lower driven millstone and is not fixed to a driving shaft. There would be some means of preventing rotation and retaining the ‘floater’ in place.

The rotation of the lower millstone causes the grain to be fed outwards towards the stone perimeter. During its journey across the face of the millstone the grain is progressively ground down to flour or meal by the proximity and weight of the top stone. The miller may have some vertical or weight control over the floating millstone to determine the size of the flour or meal produced and of course to reduce the stones grinding each other more than necessary.

The simplest windmills with canvas sails, called ‘commons’, had no control over speed other than by turning the sweeps (or sails) towards or away from the wind or perhaps by two of the sails being ‘furled’.

An advance on such simple windmills gave some control over speed of operation by adjusting the pitch of each sail. Pitch is the angle of the sail relative to the mainshaft. Illustration 18 below attempts to clarify ‘sail pitch’.

When the sail is at 900 to the shaft, the wind simply hits the sail. When the sail is adjusted several degrees, towards becoming parallel to the shaft, the wind is deflected as shown in the above sketch. As the wind is deflected some of the wind’s energy ‘pushes the sail aside’ causing the sail to rotate thus turning the main shaft. When the sail is adjusted parallel to the shaft it is said to be ‘feathered’, the wind passes by, the sails do not turn. Sail pitch and the explanation of adjusting it is, in principle, common to all of the wind driven mills described in these pages.

A further improvement was the Meikle spring sail of 1772. Similar to a venetian blind each lath being canvas over a wire frame. A ‘sail bar’ adjusted the pitch of these shutters much the same as the cord used when adjusting a venetian blind. Another type used timber bars (shutters, laths) in place of canvas over wire. Such a system of using multiple small shutters gave the windmill more power and the miller finer control over speed. However the miller now had extra toil keeping the sweep mechanism oiled or in winter perhaps removing ice before commencing the days work.

The large smock mills benefited enormously from the introduction of these relatively expensive new ‘patent’ sweeps. Initially two of the four canvas sweeps would be replaced by them and eventually all four.

Another part of the machinery was a brake, in the case or early windmills one of the few means of controlling speed. With the larger smock mills the brake mechanism needed to be very powerful and kept in good order as there was reportedly little hope of the sole miller stopping the mill to adjust his sails, especially those early canvas ones, once speed had built up.

TThe larger smock mills typically had more than one pair of millstones as shown in the simplified Illustration 19 below. The machinery for driving the millstones would therefore have been more complex with provision for engaging or disengaging any one pair. In addition to controlling speed by adjusting the sails, as explained above, some form of speed controlling governor plus grading drums adds to the complexity of the machinery.

Illust 19: Multiple millstones of a large smock mill

Illustration 19: Multiple millstones of a large smock mill

Illustration 19 above is a simplified diagram of a typical smock mill installation, in this example with 3 pairs of millstones. Only one grain hopper has been shown. There would be a grain hopper for each pair of millstones.

The lower pair of millstones has been moved towards the foreground in the illustration to more clearly show the relationship between the vertical driven shaft, large driving gear and the two other pairs of driven millstones.

BB. Water Pump Windmill

Next we look at a simple, early type of wind driven pump, ‘A’ in Illustration 20 below. Unlike the wind scoop and grain mills the complex gear type mechanism is replaced by a simple crank built into the windshaft. As the windshaft rotates, the crank raises and lowers a rod connected to a pumping piston inside a cylinder.

Illust 20: The mechanics of a water pump windmill

Illustration 20: The mechanics of a water pump windmill

In very simple terms imagine a cylinder ‘B’ standing in the water to be raised.

The cylinder contains a cup (ref: ‘C’) which is pushed into the water as the windshaft crank pushes the piston rod down. Water flows past the cup filling the cylinder above the cup to about the water level.

The windshaft crank continues rotating to raise the piston rod so the cup is raised up the cylinder ref: ’D’. Towards the top of the cylinder the water flows through an outlet into a pipe or trough for distribution to wherever it is required.

As the windshaft crank continues rotating the cup is pushed back down into the water to repeat the process.

In practice the cup, known as the piston, and typically made of leather, has flexible sides. When pushed down the cylinder into the water the flexible sides of the piston allow water to push past into the cylinder above the piston. When the piston is raised the weight of the water pushes the sides of the piston against the cylinder wall forming a seal preventing any of the water from escaping past the piston.

As the piston continues its upwards path water flows into the cylinder to fill the expanding void below the piston. When raised to a suitable height, water above the piston flows out of the cylinder into an outlet pipe. The piston would not normally be raised above the lower edge of the outlet.

The piston is connected via a rod, the piston rod, to the crank built into the windshaft. Some form of pivoting linkage (knuckle joint) would be included to allow for the changing angle of the piston rod relative to the cylinder.

In very early pumps the cylinder was made of wood, typically a bored out tree trunk or limb. The leather piston would have been well impregnated with tallow to soften it as well as lubricate it to reduce wear against the cylinder wall. The top of the cylinder would be enclosed by a timber cap, the hole through which the piston rod passes packed with hemp well lubricated with tallow to reduce wear of the piston rod and cap as well as seal against water escaping.


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