Ovenden's Mill (The Polegate Windmill)
It's been a while since we've penned an article about some of the unique features that grace our East Sussex landscape so today we thought turn our attention to one particular such feature in Polegate. Ovenden's Mill (aka the Polegate windmill) is a Grade II listed historic windmill that was built in 1817. It operated as a mill right up until the early 1900s and produced flour for the local community. It's 70 feet tall and has a diameter of 22 feet at the base. Ovenden's Mill is located on a hilltop (as many windmill are) and offers panoramic views of the surrounding Sussex countryside.
History and restoration
The mill originally had four sails but in the mid-19th century, it was converted to a six-sailed windmill to increase its turning efficiency - more sails equals more torque!. Sadly, the sails were removed in the 1920s, and the mill fell into a state of disrepair. The Polegate windmill is a four-storey brick-built windmill with a domed cap.In its heyday, the mill drove two pairs of millstones with a third pair driven by an auxiliary engine. surprisingly, it was still being powered by wind right up until 1943 and was then working by an electric motor up until 1965. By the time the mill stopped working, it was becoming derelict so Eastbourne and District Preservation Trust bought both the mill and grounds it stood in and undertook its restoration.
Although only seven years old, one of the new stocks broke in July 1974, which brought the sail down with it. A replacement stock and two new sails were fitted in May 1976. Additional restoration work was undertaken in 2004. Two new sails were also fitted in 2009.
Ovenden's Mill is now a popular tourist attraction that is open to the public for guided tours. You can still climb to the top of the mill if you want to see the original machinery, which includes the grinding stones and the wooden gears that were originally used to power the windmill. There is also a museum that showcases the history of milling in general throughout the East Sussex area which features a collection of historic photographs and documents for you to look at. As well as being a tourist attraction, the mill is still operational and produces flour that is sold in the mill shop so why not buy yourself some and bake a nice loaf of bread with it?
Watch the video
If you prefer videos, here's a good one with some old footage included in it too (don't let the music at the beginning put you off, it stops after about 20 seconds).
How to find it
If you fancy taking a look around, the postcode is BN26 5LB. We suggest visiting the windmill's Facebook page first though to make sure it's open. You can also find the phone number on the page too.
Ovenden's Mill is a fascinating example of the ingenuity that showcases the incredible craftsmanship of the early industrial age. It provides a unique glimpse into the history of milling in the UK. If you decide to visit, Polegate is also home to another historic landmark; the 12th-century St John the Baptist Church. If you're a\ keen walker, there's also the nearby Cuckoo Trail that runs through Polegate, which is a dream to walk whatever the time of year.
When we're not researching the history of East Sussex, we're busy providing skips to the residents of Polegate and the rest of East Sussex.