Windmill Road: The Windmill
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.
On 3 October 1812 the following advertisement appeared in Jackson's Oxford Journal:
HEADINGTON, NEAR OXFORD
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 28 October 1815 the following announcement of an auction to be held at the Mitre Inn on 4 November appeared:
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.
There is some uncertainty whether the last two advertisements refer to the windmill in Windmill Road, however, as 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.
Two years later, it was up for let again: an advertisement appeared in Jackson’s Oxford Journal for 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 on 14 April 1832 was published in Jackson's Oxford Journal.
On 3 August 1844 it was 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 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”.
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 adjoining 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 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.
- Oxford Mail, 20 April 2009:“£2.7m care project replaces Oxford children’s home”
Above: the old Windmill House in 2006 and below: the new Windmill House in 2010.
Windmill House was renamed Matthew Wigglesworth House in 2014
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.
Bayswater also had a watermill which operated until 1899, and the building still survives.