|Union Mill, Cranbrook|
Registered charity no.1031879
History of the Mill
Cranbrook Windmill was built for Mary Dobell by the Cranbrook millwright, James Humphrey, in 1814, just before the end of the Napoleonic Wars, to set up her son, Henry, in business. After Napoleon was defeated in 1815, there was a great depression in England and many businesses went into bankruptcy, including Henry Dobell's in 1819. As a result, it was conveyed to and operated by a union of creditors, local farmers and businessmen, hence the name, "Union Mill". When Mary Dobell's debts had been paid off, it was sold to John and George Russell in 1832 and remained in the Russell family until the death of John's great grandson, another John Russell, in 1958.
Originally the mill had common sweeps with canvas to catch the wind and the cap was turned manually by a chain and Y-wheel. However, in 1840 the Russells decided to modernise the mill. They employed the millwrights Medhurst of Lewes to fit a new iron windshaft and gearwork, as well as the new style Cubitt's patent sweeps. Next, they employed Warrens, the millwrights of Hawkhurst, to fit a fantail.
The partnership between John (right) and George (left) was dissolved, probably by 1850, as George had become firmly established at Furnace Mill (a water mill) in Hawkhurst by 1851. John's eldest son, Caleb, died aged only 20 in 1847, and so his only other son, Ebenezer, took over after John's death in 1875. The mill passed to Ebenezer's son, Hugh, and then to his son Caleb.
Grinding by wind was always unreliable, so that in 1863 a ten horse-power Middleton steam engine was installed to drive three sets of millstones in the base of the mill. By 1870, milling by wind had virtually ceased, and in 1912, Caleb Russell removed the shutters from the sweeps and the fantail was also taken down. Latterly grain was milled for livestock use only.
In 1960 the Mill was taken over by Kent County Council who, with the support of the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings, put the Mill into good repair. The Cranbrook Windmill Association was formed in 1982 to look after the Mill, open it to the public and carry out further restoration work.
Read more about Cranbrook in 1814.
There are more detailed articles on the History of the mill as follows: