Memories of Brixton Windmill

group of children, blenheim gardens

Tom Kempster was born in 1945 and lived in Blenheim Gardens between about 1949 and 1953. Here he shares his memories of those years.

We all were quite poor (but happy!), and dad had an old camera that he sometimes used, but we do not have many photos from those days. We left Brixton when I was 8, so my memories are from 1950-1953. I was very little.

Rotting wood and weeds

The windmill was in a terrible state then. It was of course black and had no sails, the stairs were unsafe, and the inside was full of debris. My sister and I would sometimes visit the windmill to play and would climb some of the stairs – until our mother found out and forbade us to go there, although we still did once or twice. The stairs were worn and liable to break, so it was scary and exciting. There was some sort of top to the mill, but it was too dangerous to go up higher towards it. Inside smelt of old rotting wood, a smell I have never forgotten.

I remember an old shed outside and a building being used as a workshop. We called it a factory and it had a strong smell of tyre puncture glue. Everywhere there were pink/red flowered weeds, which I think were willowherb. I am almost certain there was an apple tree, but we never brought apples home because our mother would have known where we had been. There was some sort of stream running through the grounds.

We were told that there was not enough wind when we asked what happened to the windmill, and now reading through its history there was probably some truth to this, and this was handed down as fact.

Life in Blenheim Gardens

We lived at 175 Blenheim Gardens, which I understand has now gone. Our father owned a sweet shop, and initially it had a penny library in the back room, but with the introduction of public libraries he had to close it down.

We had no bath – just a tin one that got brought into the kitchen – and an outside toilet. At least we had electricity: our previous house in Tooting only had gas. The phone number was Tulse Hill 0221.

The only man to own a car was the milkman. I think his name was Mr Taylor – he also had a TV and we were allowed to watch the coronation (and boat race) on it. He lived in Blenheim Gardens, half a dozen houses away.

There was a bomb site a few doors from the milkman’s house and another bomb site at the end of the street opposite, which I think was called Millstead Street. We would take the ration book sometimes to the shop on the corner to get groceries for mum.

And of course we would walk everywhere. Blenheim Gardens was a long road and we would walk to Brixton Hill without thinking about it.

I am sorry that I cannot remember more but happy and grateful that the windmill is being cared for.

Click here to see more memories of Brixton Windmill and the surrounding area.

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