A mixture of several crafts, but essentially building machines to harness wind, water and animal power to drive machinery.
|Craft category||Wood, metal|
|Historic area of significance||UK|
|Area currently practised||Wherever the surviving mills tend to be – South and East for windmills, West for watermills.|
|Origin in the UK||13th century|
|Current no. of professionals (main income)||6-10|
|Current no. of professionals (sideline to main income)
|Current no. of trainees||1|
|Current total no. serious amateur makers
||2 (retirees who volunteer)|
|Current total no. of leisure makers
||Around 20 volunteers who can do basic tasks|
|Minimum no. of craftspeople required|
Millwrighting started as soon as humans started to build machines, probably pre-Roman, but developed as the machines and materials did. The introduction of iron was the largest single development.
Millwrights build in timber, or later metal, make patterns, machine components, make gear teeth, build, repair and dress stones, and make from scratch or repair any part of any mill, from tree or casting to component.
- Timber framing
- Pattern making
- Millstone building
- Millstone dressing
- Painting and decorating
- Sail making
- Iron founding
Issues affecting the viability of the craft
- There is plenty of work but no funding, plus issues with skills, costs, raw materials, recruitment, and business viability due to material costs, premises and set up costs, long turn round and getting paid.
- The smaller companies have cash flow issues and are strategically pushed out by the larger ones.
- The sector is poorly funded with vulnerable buildings often being repaired by unqualified people.
- The Lottery-type funding requires quick turnaround, project management and glossy websites – there’s an increasing demand for pretty but non-functional restorations at the expense of quality.
- There’s no guild/union or recognised qualification – many of the one-man-bands don’t have the skills or experience, and even less so the larger companies.
- Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings (SPAB) – supports its member millwrights
- Historic England – supports the SPAB list of millwrights and use it not only for their own mills, but on those where they have given grants
Craftspeople currently known
- Adam Marriot
- Richard Seago
- Paul Kemp
- Tim Whiting
- Bill Griffiths
- Malcolm Cooper
- Neil Medcalf
- Derek Janes
- Paul Abel
- Ian Clarke, Winchester – works mainly on water mills
- IJP Building Conservation
- Dorothea Restorations
- David Empingham
SPAB suggest that at least 20 millwrights need to be trained over the next 5 to 10 years as this is an intense apprenticeship which would take several years to learn all the various skills. Ideally 3 or 4 a year for the foreseeable future would cover this, allowing for some to drop out.
- Freese, Stanley, Mills and Millwrighting – goes into great detail of how to build a windmill, particularly a wooden post mill, giving the types of materials and tools also the methods that should be used.
- Watts, Martin, ‘Millwrighting’ in Crafts in the English Countryside.
- Wailes, The English Windmill
- Farries, Essex millers and millwrights, volume 2