Meopham Windmill (formerly known as Killick Mill) was built in 1819 by the three Killick brothers reputedly from old ships timbers purchased from Chatham Dockyard. It is one of a handful of six-sided smock mills in the UK, eight being the usual number. The mill’s black smock tower stands on a brick base of two storeys. The mill stands preserved with all its milling machinery including three pairs of millstones. The Windmill is a grade 2* listed building. It is now owned by Kent County Council and leased to the Meopham Windmill Trust, which also owns the land around the mill (the 'Windmill Garden'). The former engine shed is currently used by Meopham Parish Council as its Parish Office. The hexagonal base of the windmill is often used for Parish Council meetings and forms a very unusual council chamber, possibly the only one of its kind in the country.
Kent has many other interesting windmills. The website for the Union Mill in Cranbrook has an excellent page of links to other windmills in Kent that are open to the public.
The Windmill is currently under restoration to working order. It will be closed to the public except on a limited basis for most of 2023 and will reopen fully in 2024. For more information, please contact the Meopham Windmill Trust: firstname.lastname@example.org
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Meopham Mill is of a type known as 'Smock Mills'. These are basically made up of two parts, the smock and the cap. The cap bears the sails and is automatically kept facing into the wind by means of the fantail at the back of the cap. A change in wind direction would cause the wind to turn the fantail which is connected to a worm gear enmeshing with teeth in the top of the smock, so as the worm turns, the cap is pulled round to face the wind. The smock itself is hexagonal, built of wood with a brick base.
The sails of the mill were made up of wooden shutters mounted on the sail frames. Only a limited number have been fitted to each sail, but the connecting cranks are all there. The shutters pivot about their own axis to give different effective areas to the passage of the wind, as can be seen when the sails are turning. The inclination of the shutters and so the total effective sail area, was determined by the wind speed, stronger winds forcing the shutters further open. The opening of the shutters was opposed by a weighted lever at the rear of the cap. This sail mechanism, called the 'Patent Sail' caused the sails to turn at a nearly constant rate for different wind speeds. The brake is also to be seen in the cap. The miller could stop his sails with the brake, although in a strong wind this would be somewhat dangerous due to the amount of heat generated in the brake, many fine mills have been lost through fires starting in this way.
Grain sacks delivered by farmers were hoisted to the top of the mill by the sack hoist which is still in position. The grain was then emptied into hoppers from where it flowed to the stones on the floor below. The grain was fed to the 'eye' of the runner stone by the feed shoe, a shallow metal lined trough kept shaken by a four sided metal spindle called the damsel. The ground meal emerged at the circumference of the stones and was separated and graded in the dressing machines before being bagged, weighed and sent to the local bakers.
The fineness of the flour was to a great extent determined by the gap between the stones. This gap was controlled by the centrifugal governor which can be seen on the balcony floor. The mechanism lifted a lever, lowering the runner stones at higher speeds. The mill had just one governor connected to all three sets of stones.
In time the pattern of grooves in the stones would wear down and the miller would have to redress them. He would lift the runner stone away from the bed stone with a block and tackle and chip the pattern of grooves back into the stones with a 'mill bill', an instrument with a specially tempered steel bit. Afterwards he would check that both stones were still level by means of the proving stone which can be seen in the mill.
The hoppers had bell alarms to warn the miller that the level of grain in them was getting low. The weight of the grain in the hoppers held down a leather band which had a bell, clear of the rotating main shaft. The band lifted as the grain level fell, allowing the bell to bump against the main shaft and so warn the miller to refill the hoppers.
This site is maintained by the Meopham Windmill Trust