The restoration

The restoration

Brixton Windmill has been restored three times.

Brixton Windmill restoration in 1960s

Image: Copyright © London Borough of Lambeth/ Lambeth Archives

In 1962, the area around the windmill was laid out as a public open space, and in 1964 the mill itself was restored. Some of the later (20th-century) machinery was removed at this time.

A Lincolnshire millwright, Mr JE Thompson, restored the mill over four months, using some machinery from a mill at Burgh-le-Marsh in Lincolnshire as well as creating brand new parts. The 50-foot sails were made from imported pine timber. The total cost of this restoration was £5,350.

When restored, the bottom of the mill was painted white, the remainder black. Many of the internal beams of the mill were considered to be much older than the mill itself and may have been old ships’ timbers reused during the initial construction in 1816.

In 1968 the windmill opened to the public for the first time, and for several years it opened each weekend during the summer.

Brixton Windmill restoration in 1980s

In 1971 Lambeth Council took over the ownership of Brixton Windmill and the adjacent gardens from the Greater London Council. Over the next 30 years the windmill fell into a cycle of restoration and refurbishment followed by vandalism and neglect.

In 1978 the mill was given a facelift costing £1,800, which repaired the sails and windows and repainted the black exterior. But in March 1982 the windmill was severely damaged by vandals, with the main door being smashed.

In the mid-1980s the Council instigated a major restoration of the mill. Millwright David Nicholls removed the whole cap and sails, transporting them to his workshop. He recalls bringing them back through central London in the middle of the night, with a police escort, as “great fun!”.

Unfortunately, in the 1990s, the windmill was closed to the public and once again became derelict and vandalised. In 2002 it was placed on English Heritage’s Buildings at Risk register.

Brixton Windmill restoration in 2010-11

In 2003 several local residents formed the Friends of Windmill Gardens and started campaigning for the windmill to be restored. They organised an annual summer festival, football tournaments and a host of fundraising events.

In 2007 Lambeth Council formed a partnership with the Friends of Windmill Gardens to oversee the restoration of Brixton Windmill and to develop a heritage education programme for the general public.

In 2008 the Council and the Friends submitted a joint funding bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), and in 2010 the HLF awarded £397,700 towards the restoration of this unique building. This grant was combined with match funding from the Council and money raised by the Friends.

Restoration began in October 2010 and took seven months to complete. The windmill was completely overhauled, with specialist architects and contractors employed to undertake much of the work. 

  • The modular mill was powered by electricity so that it could be used to mill flour.
  • The two patent sails (which consist of wooden shutters that can be opened and closed, like Venetian blinds) were restored so that the sails could turn in the wind.
  • Clamps were added to strengthen the stocks (the wooden bars that support the sails) as they are under greater force when they are turning.
  • The cap was removed and repaired and protected from roosting birds. The winding mechanism for the mill, which sits inside the cap, was overhauled.
  • Windows and security grilles were repaired and replaced. Brickwork was repaired and the tower redecorated.
  • A new electrical supply, lighting and smoke detection on each level was installed as well as an intruder alarm.
  • Floors, joists, beams and ceiling timbers were repaired, including the stairs and ladders, hatches and balustrades.

Specialists involved

Specialist restorer Stonewest Ltd (which has worked on some high-profile restoration projects, such as St Paul’s Cathedral) was responsible for the standard construction work – drains, electricity supply, doors and windows, gullies, and manholes.

Brixton Windmill sail
Image: Owen Llewellyn Replacing the sails
restoration of Brixton Windmill
Image: Owen Llewellyn