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Education centre for Windmill Gardens

Architect's sketch of new education centre in Windmill Gardens

November 2017

Tenders invited for construction of Windmill Education Centre

The Friends are busy preparing for the opening of the Windmill Education Centre in late 2018 and for an expanded programme of education for schools to be delivered at Brixton Windmill from January 2019.

After some frustrating delays, the invitation to tender for the construction of the new education building has been issued by Lambeth Council, who plan to appoint a construction firm in January 2018.  Building work is due to start in late February/early March.

The centre, which has been designed by the Brixton-based architecture firm Squire and Partners, will contain a large teaching area that can be used as a visitor centre when Brixton Windmill is open for guided tours.

The main area of the building will also be available to hire for events or community meetings and when open for public use will provide much needed toilets for park users. We are confident the centre will be a wonderful new asset for Windmill Gardens and the local Brixton Hill community as well as an exciting education resource for all Lambeth schools.

The council are funding all the construction costs of the building, including a well-appointed training kitchen where we hope to offer baking courses using fresh stoneground Brixton Flour produced by our volunteers at the windmill.

FoWG now have to raise £27,000 to furnish the building. Our sustainability and fundraising group have been working on a three-year business plan and are making a number of bids for grants to support the project. 

But we will also be asking everyone who loves the Grade II* Brixton Windmill to help. Early in 2018 we will be asking all our friends and supporters, including local businesses, to ensure that this exciting new resource for Lambeth schools and our local community is fully equipped and will open, fit for purpose, as soon as the construction work is completed and FoWG sign the lease with Lambeth Council.

March 2017

Great news - the Lambeth Planning Committee has approved the application for the education centre in Windmill Gardens!

Jean Kerrigan, Chair of the Friends of Windmill Gardens, said:

“The Friends of Windmill Gardens are delighted that planning permission has been granted to build an education centre in Windmill Gardens. This will allow us to provide improved facilities to visitors and most importantly to provide an education building for schoolchildren that visit the 200-year old Brixton Windmill.

“Having an education building also allows us to increase our activities and support the flour production at Brixton Windmill as well as provide a space for use by the local community.

“The Friends of Windmill Gardens, a local charity that is wholly run by volunteers, are committed to managing the building upon its completion. We thank Lambeth Council for funding this project and hope to work in partnership with them as we continue to organise the successful programme of tours at Brixton Windmill and popular community events in Windmill Gardens.

“We also thank architects, Squire and Partners, for their design, commitment and generous support for this project.”


November 2016

We are delighted that, in the year of Brixton Windmill's bicentenary, Lambeth Council has approved the expenditure of £360,000 for the construction of an education centre in Windmill Gardens.

Under the plan, the Friends will be granted a lease to run and maintain the centre. This will allow us to maintain and expand our very successful education programme with local schools and beyond, as well as developing milling and other activities to provide an income to safeguard the future of Brixton Windmill.

Squire & Partners, the architects who worked with the Friends, Lambeth Council and Clearview Consulting as part of the first stage design, will be continuing with the overall design and build of the education centre subject to planning consent. This is anticipated for the end of November / early December 2016.

We will publish further updates here as they occur. In the meantime, here is some more information.

Architect's sketch of new education centre in Windmill Gardens


  • Why is an education centre needed?

The education centre is the next step for Brixton Windmill and Friends of Windmill Gardens. In 2016 the windmill was 200 years old and, as well as celebrating the anniversary, the Friends of Windmill Gardens recognised the achievements of the group and its aim of providing a legacy for the next generation. Today they are once again producing flour at the windmill, and the education centre will provide a place of learning and interest for both children and adults who visit the windmill.

  • Who will own, operate and pay for upkeep of the new building?

Lambeth Council will own the building, and the Friends of Windmill Gardens will be responsible for running and paying for the upkeep, under a Community Service Agreement.

  • What will the building be used for?

The building is primarily an education and visitor centre, so it will be used to run workshops for schools and other groups as well as supporting the regular programme of open days and other events. Having a dedicated building will also allow the Friends to expand their milling activities and develop a social enterprise selling flour to local bakeries, restaurants and retailers, as well as running baking workshops, to fund the education programme. The Friends will also be able to sell and store merchandise, which helps to raise much needed funds for the windmill. When it is not being used for Friends’ activities, the building will be available to hire, at affordable rates, by community groups and others.

  • Why can’t you use / extend the existing building?

Several options were explored during the early feasibility stages. Extending the existing building would put the current Stay & Play group at risk and impact their ability to deliver their activities. Additionally, the cost of extending would not be feasible, as the area required for the new building would lead to an irregular form wrapping round the windmill, and would be overly expensive due to its complex geometry.  This ultimately would have led to the perception of more park space being lost, whereas the current proposal is tucked away against the boundary wall with limited impact.

  • Will the new building spoil the view of the windmill (i.e. by blocking it or impinging on the space around it)? Or will the design of the modern building 'compete' with the windmill?

The design has been considered in terms of its scale and aesthetic to complement the windmill. The building has been kept to a single storey with a shallow apex roof to limit any obstructing views to the windmill. The choice of material to clad the building has been selected to mimic the windmill, ensuring that the two buildings harmonise with each other. The planning application includes a heritage statement that examines the impact the new building will have on the listed windmill.

  • Will the design be in keeping with 19th century architecture and materials?

The proposal is for a crafted timber frame construction for the skeleton of the building, which will support the roof and walls, directly referencing the windmill. Historic photos show many smaller buildings sited around the windmill, clad in weather boarding as proposed in these designs. One of the key concepts was to try and reintroduce a village feel to the park.

  • Will the building be environmentally friendly?

It is intended for the new building to achieve a BREEAM rating of Excellent. It will have great thermal efficiency, and the architects are engaging with to supply solar panels for the project.

  • Why not use the existing building (Stay&Play) next to the Windmill?

Holmewood Nursery and the Friends of Windmill Gardens have enjoyed a good working relationship, but as both organisations are looking to expand, the building can no longer accommodate a shared facility.

  • Will the existing building (Stay&Play) be knocked down?

No. However, the exterior of the existing building is likely to be painted to reflect the style of the windmill and the education centre in line with the aim of creating a village feel to the park.

  • Who will staff the education building, who will employ them and are there any job opportunities for local people ?

The Friends are aiming to recruit a part time education officer and part time business development manager in the first instance – and they welcome interest from local people.

  • Does this mean the windmill will be open permanently or more regularly?

Tours of Brixton Windmill will continue to be organised and run by the Friends of Windmill Gardens, who are all unpaid volunteers. It may be possible to run tours during the week subject to increasing the number of volunteers. This is being discussed as part of our business planning. The primary purpose of the education centre is to allow the Friends to resume and expand their education programme so that more schools are able to visit the windmill.

  • When will the centre open?

We are aiming to open the centre in summer 2017.

  • Will it be a community hall for the use of Blenheim Estate?

The education centre will be available to hire by community groups and others when it is not being used by the Friends.  There is likely to be a sliding scale of hire costs, with community groups getting a discounted rate.

  • What’s in it for the local community?

The local community will have access to a new space for workshops and activities, expanding the kind of events that can be held locally. Local schools, who have modelled some of their curriculum around windmill visits, will benefit from an expanded education programme. There will also be new facilities for park users, including public toilets when the building is open.

  • How can I book school visits?

Please contact for information on school visits.

  • How can I book the hall for parties etc.?

Once the centre is completed we will publicise details of how to book the space for events.

  • When will the café be open?

At the moment there are no plans for a permanent café, but it may be possible to run a pop-up café occasionally at weekends once the centre is open. In the meantime, the Friends will continue to offer refreshments, including home-made cakes, on days when Brixton Windmill is open.

  • Will there be public toilets?

The toilets will be available to park users when the building is open.


November 2017: Tenders invited by Lambeth Council for construction of the education centre.

March 2017: Planning permission is granted for the education centre to go ahead.

October 2016: Lambeth Council approves £360,000 for the construction of an education centre in Windmill Gardens, subject to planning permission and consultation.

July 2016: Public consultation, when proposed plans and site of the new building are displayed and people are encouraged to give their feedback, which is overwhelmingly positive. 

May 2016: Clearview Consulting and Squire & Partners are appointed by Lambeth Council to carry out a feasibility study and create building design options for an education centre. Their work involves talking to local partners, businesses and residents, including the Windmill Cluster of schools, Blenheim Gardens RMO, and Holmewood Stay & Play, to ensure that the plan considers all viewpoints and feeds into building development. 

Nov 2015: The Friends start a high-profile campaign and petition urging Lambeth Council not to delay plans to build a promised education centre in Windmill Gardens