Postcard from our Windmill Archive

This 1906 postcard of the Old Mill, Brixton Hill, was donated to our Windmill Archive by one of our volunteers. The view of the short lane leading up to Mill Cottage and the tower of Brixton Windmill – then known locally as Ashby’s Mill – was posted at 9pm on 22 December 1906 to an address in Herne Hill. The stamp cost a halfpenny.

The card was probably bought locally, as it was published by EJ Blogg of 108 Brixton Hill. It has the message “Love & very best wishes to you all for Xmas” written in copperplate handwriting on the back.

1906 Postcard back The colourised photochrome image of our windmill, without its sails but with a viewing platform at the base of the cap, presents a rather idyllic rural scene in the heart of what was by 1906 a fashionable suburb of London.

Looking at the image it is hard to believe that there were electric tram cars rattling up Brixton Hill only yards from the gate leading up to the mill yard. Another clue to the windmill’s urban setting is the gas lamp standing at the entrance to the property.

The covered wagon parked in the mill yard just beyond the cottage was probably pulled by a horse stabled in one of the mill’s pantile-roofed and weatherboarded outhouses.

Mill Cottage and Mill House

Living in the Mill Cottage were families associated with Brixton Windmill. Some were servants of the Ashby family, who lived in the much grander Mill House. John Ashby established his flour milling business on Brixton Hill in 1816. The business existed for 118 years until his grandson closed it in 1934. You can read more about who lived at the cottage here.

Unfortunately, we have no record of what the family home looked like at the time this postcard was sent. Described as a “plain two storey stock brick villa with a central entrance”, Mill House stood near the entrance to the mill yard at 25 Cornwall Road. In July 1937 the address changed to 49 Blenheim Gardens.

When we move into our new Brixton Windmill Centre we will be able to display more of the archive material we have gathered about the history of Brixton Windmill, the Ashby family and the surrounding neighbourhood of Brixton Hill. Meanwhile, you can find out more about the history of Brixton Windmill and the Ashby family in the History in 16 objects pages of our website.

If you live in the Brixton area and are spending much more time in your home because of Covid-19 restrictions this might be a good time to look into your cupboards, storage boxes or attic. You might discover some interesting things that tell you more about the history of your local area.

If you find a photograph of the Ashby’s Mill House or of 108 Brixton Hill where this postcard was published, please email us at info@brixtonwindmill.org. We would love to hear from you!

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