Headington history: Streets

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Windmill Road: The Windmill

Windmill of Windmill Road

The above detail from a painting of a “View of Oxford from Shotover Hill” shows the back of the windmill in Windmill Road in the early 1820s, and the adjoining red-roofed miller’s house. On the left is the junction with Old Road and Titup Hall (now the Crown & Thistle). It is likely to be the new mill and adjacent miller's house that were built in c.1822 rather than the previous mill.

There appears to have been a windmill on the same site in Windmill Road from the thirteenth century, approached by Windmill Lane both from the Old London Road and from Old Headington. Before the new London Road was built in the late eighteenth century, Windmill Lane must have started at the present junction of Old High Street with Cuckoo Lane.

On 23 June 1775 Parson Woodforde wrote in his diary:

Took a long walk with [Thomas] Boys, thro’ Eddington to the Windmill, round by Shottover Hill &c. To some Men in a Quarry near Eddington gave 0: 0: 6. The Windmill being going we went into it & saw it.

On Thursday 11 September 1788 there was a sad accident at the mill. The miller allowed Samson Pratt, aged c.11 years, to view the mill in action, but he touched the cogwheels which drew in his arm and head, and he was killed immediately. At an inquest taken “at the Wind-Mill, Headington Field” by N. Elliott, an Oxford coroner, the verdict of “accidental death” was pronounced.

This may be the same miller who himself was pulled into the mechanism a few years later. Jackson's Oxford Journal of 16 April 1791 reported on the nasty death of Thomas Cooper (36), who was buried in St Andrew's churchyard::

On Tuesday last the following melancholy accident happened at Heddington Windmill near this City. Cooper the miller was greasing the Cogs, when his Hand was caught in the Wheel, which drew in his Arm and Head. He was relieved from this dreadful Situation totaly Senseless, and taken immediately to our Infirmary, where he languished till Thursday Morning, and then expired.

Under the Headington Enclosure Award of 1805, Mary Holly or Holley (the daughter and heir of Henry Godfrey and wife of Benjamin Holly) was awarded a 48-acre plot in the Quarry Field (Plot 35) bounded by Windmill Road, Old Road, and Quarry Road, which included the site of the windmill. The windmill with half an acre of land was soon after sold to Benjamin Holly.

In about 1812 the windmill was rebuilt in stone, and on 3 October that year the following advertisement appeared in Jackson's Oxford Journal:

TO be SOLD by PRIVATE CONTRACT.—A capital newly-erected STONE-BUILT WINDMILL, with two pairs of French Stones, capable of grinding from ten to twelve loads of corn per week.
—For further particulars enquire of Benjamin Holly, Headington.

On 14 June 1814 the windmill was advertised as being to let::

TO be LET, and entered on immediately,–A Stone-built WINDMILL, with two Pair of French Stones, capable of grinding from 12 to 14 Loads per Week.
For further particulars enquire of Mr. Benjamin Holly, Headington, near Oxford.
N. B. The Utensils to be taken to at a fair valuation.

In 1815 the windmill was put up for sale again, and on 28 October 1815 there was the following announcement of an auction to be held at the Mitre Inn on 4 November:

All that newly-erected WINDMILL, situated near Headington, Oxon, in the occupation of Mr. Young, tenant on lease, at 52l. per annum; the Mill works 2 pairs of French stones, has a machine for dressing, and is capable of grinding from 12 to 15 loads per week.
For further particulars enquire of Mr. B. Holly, Headington; or the auctioneers, Oxford.

Benjamin Holly was still described as a miller when his daughter Catherine was baptised at St Andrew's Church on 6 February 1817.

When it was advertised for sale in Jackson’s Oxford Journal of 18 January 1823, it was again described as “newly erected”, with the modern invention of a fan-tail (a device in addition to the main sails fitted to the back). The advertisement shows that the adjoining dwelling house was also newly built.

Windmill for sale, JOJ 1823

Two years later, it was up for let again: an advertisement appeared in Jackson’s Oxford Journal on 14 May 1825 reading: “Headington Windmill. Within One Mile and Half of the City of Oxford. To be sold or let for a term of years,- The above Mill, in full Trade, with a Dwelling House adjoining. For particulars apply to Mr. T. Mallam, Auctioneer, High Street.”

On 31 March 1832 notification of another auction of Headington Windmill to be held the next month on 14 April was published in Jackson's Oxford Journal. On 30 January 1836 the following advertisement appeared:

Also to be LET, and entered on at Lady Day,—HEADINGTON WINDMILL, situate within two miles of Oxford. Apply to Mr Matthews, solicitor, Oxford.—Letters to be paid.

On 7 July 1838 an auction of the belongings of the outgoing miller, Francis Baker, was advertised:

All the useful FURNITURE and various Effects of Mr. Francis Baker, who is leaving Headington Mill, near Oxford; consisting of the usual description of Household Furniture; a valuable six-year old draught horse, quiet to ride or drive; light spring cart, miller's ditto, market cart, with tilt; in-pig sow, 6 store pigs; about 60 corn and flour sacks, and various other effects.

On 3 August 1844 it was again advertised to let:

TO be LET, and entered on immediately,—
HEADINGTON WINDMILL, stone-built, of great power, advantageously situated within 1½ miles of Oxford, a good Residence and Bakehouse belonging thereto; and likewise a most pleasant Cottage, suitable for a respectable family, either with the Mill or separate.
— For particulars apply to Mr. Sharps, Abingdon, Berks.

Thomas Sharp is listed as both occupier and owner of the House and Mill in Windmill Lane in the Headington Rate Book of 1850. It had a rateable value of £22 10s and a gross estimated rental of £30.0.0.

Richard Lamburn became the owner of the windmill in the mid-1840s, and the following advertisement appeared in Jackson's Oxford Journal on 9 January 1847:

TO BE SOLD or LET,–That lofty, powerful, and substantial stone-built WINDMILL, now in full trade, drawing two pair of stones, but calculated for four pair, most eligibly situate at Headington, near the city of Oxford.–For particulars, and to view, apply to Richard Lamburn, at the Mill. There is a good Residence, with Bake-house, &c., and likewise a detached Cottage.

It was probably let rather than sold. Richard Lamburn died at the age of 49 in 1854.

John Hunt married Richard Lamburn’s widow Elizabeth just a year after her husband’s death and took over the mill and the four surviving Lamburn children. Between 1856 and 1866 the Hunts had another five children of their own. Hunt is still listed as the miller in the 1871 census,

On 15 June 1872 the forthcoming auction of the windmill was advertised thus in Jackson's Oxford Journal:

All that Stone-built CORN MILL, adapted for Two Pairs of Stones, Gear, &c.; TWO COTTAGES, with large Gardens (about Half-an-Acre), Stables, Cart Sheds, &c., the whole enclosed with a stone wall, situate at Headington, within two miles of the City of Oxford. It is Copyhold of Inheritance under the Manor of Headington.
   May be viewed on application to Mr. Hunt, miller, Headington.

Milling operations appear to have ceased soon afterwards, as by 1876 the mill was described as “Old Windmill”.

Windmill in 1876


The 1876 OS map (left) shows the windmill still in place at the south-east end of Windmill Road (then called Windmill Lane), and the adjoining Mill House and Windmill Cottages

To the south-east of the windmill is the pit then known as “Crossroads Quarry” (now Rock Edge), and to the south-west is the Wingfield Convalescent Home, built for the Radcliffe Infirmary in 1872.


By the time of the 1881 census, the windmill had been pulled down, and four new cottages were built on the site at right-angles to the road, apparently from the stone of the old mill. These, together with the old mill house and two original cottages, were known as Windmill Cottages.

Directories show that John Hunt continued to live privately in the mill house in Windmill Road until 1899, with the census describing him as “Living on own means”.

Windmill Cottages (photographed here in 1939) survived until the 1950s, when they were deliberately destroyed by the Fire Brigade during a training exercise, and Windmill House (a children’s short-term reception centre) was built on the site in 1957. It later became a hostel for the homeless.

Windmill House was demolished at the end of April 2009 (following approval of planning application plans 08/02670/FUL) and replaced by facilities for vulnerable young adults and people with learning difficulties. The old garden wall of the former Windmill Cottages was removed at the same time.

The old Windmill House

Above: the old Windmill House in 2006 and below: the new Windmill House in 2010.
Windmill House was renamed Matthew Wigglesworth House in 2014

New Windmill House in 2010

Headington’s other two mills

There was a second windmill at Bayswater, near the Green Road roundabout where Townsend House now stands, but this ceased operation in about 1800. The Headington Enclosure Award of 1805 mentions this former mill in its description of Bayswater Road:

Also one other public Carriage Road and Driftway of the like breadth of forty feet numbered IV likewise branching out of the said new Turnpike Road near to the spot where the windmill formerly stood and extending along the Hollow Way between the furlongs called Inott and Sandhill into the Parish of Stanton St John in the said County of Oxford at a certain place called Bayswater being part of the public Road from Oxford to Stanton St John and the Otmoor towns

Bayswater also had a watermill which operated until 1899, and the building still survives.

© Stephanie Jenkins

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