Heage Windmill

Photo taken during restoration work with two sails removed.

Heage Windmill is the only stone towered, fully working, six sailed windmill remaining in the UK. It isn’t very tall, but at 410 feet above sea level it doesn’t have to be. It stands on quite a windy brow just above the village of Heage in Derbyshire, north east of the town of Belper. Although the photo shows it with only four sails it is, in fact, a six sailed mill but rot was found in one in early 2005 so a pair had to be removed to keep the balance. (If one of a pair is removed it makes the mill uneven.)

The first mention of a mill in the village is an advert in the Derby Mercury for 16 June 1791, which calls on any interested mason “inclined to undertake the stone building” to turn up at the site. The ad went on to say “all materials laid down in place” which basically means that stone for the tower was dug out of the side of the hill. Within seven years she was up for letting and in 1803 was put up for sale with an adjoining house, barn and six acres of land. By 1816 she (according to the guide book all mills are called “she”) was up for rent again, this time with only four acres alongside.

In the late 1840s the mill was bought by a pair of Sheffield brothers, Isaac and John Shore, who also bought a water mill in the valley below. They fitted a steam engine to that mill and so ensured that milling could go on in any weather – even if it was too dry to keep a mill leat running or if the wind fell. Heage is believed to have been the only village in the UK with wind and water mills owned by the same company. The Shore family still owned the mill when it closed in 1919. Heage is still used today to grind wheat and make flour but it is for tourism and not for commercial reasons. The mill is open to the public and it is possible to see the machinery in action.