One of a kind that towers over the County
By Gail Braznell
On the summit of Windmill Hill in open Warwickshire countryside, overlooking fields of ever changing colour and texture stands grade one listed Chesterton Windmill. This historic local landmark with breathtaking views has dominated the skyline with immense pride for over 350 years.
For many years visitors have been enjoying the peacefulness, space and the tranquillity enhanced by the stunning uncluttered landscape of Chesterton and it’s Windmill, a place for reflection, a haven for wildlife and a perfect spot for romance as the sun sets.
The windmill, the oldest stone windmill in Britain is thought to be based on a design by Inigo Jones, an English architect of the early modern period and built by Sir Edward Peyto, the Lord of the Chesterton Manor House in 1632. A young pupil of Inigo’s called John Stone was in Chesterton designing the Manor House at the time and it’s said he would have probably helped with the build of the Windmill.
Sir Edward was a mathematician and an Astrologer and it’s likely the windmill was built as an Observatory at first and later grinding corn as a working mill even though records do show that it was always designated as a windmill.
However, what the estate records of Chesterton Manor reflect may not have been the whole truth. In 1632 the science of alchemy was in in its ascendency but also carried a stigma that was considered by many to be unwholesome. This was the time of Sir Isaac Newton and Thomas Vaughan and it is wholly possible that the mill served a dual purpose. With Sir Edward’s interest in mathematics and astrology, these interests often went hand-in-hand with other scientific pursuits such as alchemy. The area has certainly attracted many other strange occurrences over the years.
It is the site of several unexplained crop circles (including the famous ‘All Seeing Eye’ of 2009) and has become a popular location for UFO spotters during spring and autumn.
It has been linked to the mysterious and ancient stone tower of Rhode Island. Around 1676 a duplicate of the Chesterton Windmill which was built in Newport, Rhode Island, U.S.A. by Governor Benedict Arnold. The family had lived near the Chesterton windmill prior to immigrating to America in 1635. While this is the generally accepted origin of the Rhode Island Ruin, a small but vocal group of historians believe that the tower dates back to the pre-Columbian era and should be attributed to the Vikings.
The tower is supported upon six semicircular arches and is built with hard local limestone, with sandstone detailing. There are four windows, one of which is set in the roof on the opposite side to the sails and has a small plaque above it with the letters E.P. 1632. Believe it or not, there are actually two floors to the mill, the lower floor is 15 foot from the ground and houses the stones, great spur & wheel and the sack hoist. The upper floor has the wind shaft, main gearing and winding equipment.
Up until the 1930’s the space inside the arches used to have a wooden structure to store the grain and an open staircase to reach the mill, that was moved to prevent vandalism along with the lead cap which has been replaced with ubiflex. The lattice-type-sails are turned on a three-month cycle in order to prevent excessive weathering or sagging of the whips or frames.
The windmill is truly beautiful both in the distance and close up, standing high on a hilltop near the Fosse Way, a Roman road that links Exeter to Lincoln and is 230 miles long. It costs a lot of money to prepare to open the mill each year by a truly dedicated set of people. Kevin Haito is the Miller in Charge and he arranges the volunteers and mill operators on open weekends. Also involved are Adam Marriott who is one of the millers as well as a professional millwright, Warwickshire County Council, WCC Museum and Chesterton Parish Council.
Chesterton Windmill has a few open days throughout the year. The Windmill will be open and working and there will be access inside the mill. There is Parking, refreshments, other attractions and on-site conveniences. Everyone is welcome.