Article ID: CBB000830416

Tower Windmills in Medieval England: A Case of Arrested Development? (2005)


Windmills became a very common sight on medieval landscapes from the late twelfth century onwards, particularly the mostly timber post-mill variety. Much rarer were tower windmills, where the wooden cap carrying the sails rotated on the top of a high stone tower. Despite the fact that tower windmills were known from at least the late thirteenth century and seemingly had advantages of durability and as attractive show-pieces for medieval landlords, they were never built in any great number during the medieval period. Our article surveys the six certain, probable and possible cases of tower windmills in medieval England and then tries to explain why there were not more of them. Their greater cost relative to post-mills was one obvious reason. But another, we argue, was the reluctance of carpenters to build them, since the requirement of constructing the stone tower meant that much of the work was given over to masons. In order to ensure their continued dominance in the lucrative windmill business, carpenters seem to have preferred promoting the more timber-based post-mills, which they managed to do with great success to the end of the medieval period and beyond.

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Authors & Contributors
Morris, Andrew M. A.
Raby, Angela
Gorski, Richard
Cooper, Ian
Zeilinger, Stefan
Worthen, Shana Sandlin
Technology and Culture
Transactions - Newcomen Society for the Study of the History of Engineering and Technology
Studies in History and Philosophy of Science
Social History of Medicine
Osiris: A Research Journal Devoted to the History of Science and Its Cultural Influences
Journal of Medieval History
Oxford University Press
Flaxton Publishing
English Heritage
Boydell Press
Water mills; water wheels
Crafts and craftspeople
Mills and milling
Smeaton, John
Newton, S. W. A.
Moxon, Joseph
Time Periods
18th century
16th century
19th century
Early modern
Great Britain
London (England)
Scandinavia; Nordic countries

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