Explore Nottingham's working windmill and see for yourself how grain is turned into flour by harnessing the power of wind.
A poor harvest of corn in England, combined with the difficulties of importing grain due to the Napoleonic Wars, puts up the price of grain. The people of Nottingham, unable to afford bread, riot.
"August - Notwithstanding that the last day of this month was a Sunday, it was marked as the commencement of a serious riot. A great increase in the price of provisions, more especially of bread, had roused the vindictive spirit of the poorer classes to an almost ungovernable pitch. They began late in the evening, by breaking the windows of a baker in Millstone Lane, and in the morning proceeded, with an increase of numbers and renewed impetuosity, to treat others of the same trade in the same unwelcome manner. Granaries were broken into at the canal wharfs, and it was really distressing to see with what famine-impelled eagerness many a mother bore away corn in her apron to feed her offspring."
It is possible that the baker referred to is a Mr Green who has a bakery near the Market Square and who has grain stored by the Nottingham Canal. His bakery is attacked and he pleads with the Mayor for assistance. Mr Green's son, George, is seven years old. He will become one of the greatest scientists of his time, a mathematician whose work is known and used the around the world. But before then he must help his father by working in the bakery.
Mr Green buys a plot of land in the village of Sneinton on which he builds his windmill. A small wooden post mill which already occupies the site is not included in the sale and it is moved a few hundred yards further up Windmill Lane. Mr Green's mill is the most powerful and up-to-date of the twenty or so windmills in and around Nottingham.
Mr Green builds a fine house next to the mill and the family move out of the noisome overcrowding of the town.
The year in which George Green produces his first - and most remarkable - scientific paper. A visitor to the mill describes the mill at work:
". . . I ascertained some facts relative to the economy of a wind-mill. His sails have a radius of twelve yards and they revolve twenty five times a minute, or more than a mile at the extremities. This great velocity carries round the stones , which are sixteen feet in circumference, 162 times in a minute, and they grind a load of ten sacks of wheat in two or three hours. The sails are placed at an angle in the shaft, and then in union are placed exactly in the wind's point, but the quantity of cloth is varied inversely as the force of the wind. I went through this fine mill, and really felt terrified at the centrifugal force of such heavy masses as the stones, the peripheries of which were carried round with a determined velocity of forty miles an hour. Of course, none but particular kinds of stone will bear such a momentum, and the smallest fracture or inequality occasions them to separate with destructive consequences."
Old Mr Green dies, leaving the mill and other property to George, by now a fairly wealthy man. Two years later, during the Reform Bill riots, an angry mob attacks the mill. George defends his property by firing his musket from the mill whilst his eldest daughter Jane passes the ammunition.
George Green lets out his mill and becomes a student at Caius College, Cambridge, where he continues his studies. He becomes a Fellow of his college and writes scientific papers on such subjects as wave motion, the behaviour of light, crystal structure and the elasticity of materials.
George Green's health fails him and he dies in Sneinton. He is buried in the churchyard of St Stephen's, close by his windmill.
The mill is still producing flour as it is advertised in the Nottingham Mercury:
"To let and may be entered upon in November next. That excellent Smock windmill situate at Sneinton, Near Nottingham (built by the late Mr Green) with granaries, stabling for eight horses, hay chamber, miller's house and tenement adjoining, spacious garden, large yard etc. now in the occupancy of Mr Fletcher."
A photograph of the mill and Mill House c.1860 shows the mill to still be working. The following year the census records one William Oakland as the miller. But the mill has become uneconomic when faced with competition from the new steam powered roller mills and is soon to come to the end of its working life. The mill is abandoned and the sails removed. William Oakland moves to a post mill nearby on Windmill Lane, the last windmill to operate in Nottingham.
The fantail frame at the back of the cap crashes through the roof of the mill foreman's cottage, destroying - it is said - a grand piano. The wooden gallery rots away and the boards covering the cap begin to fall away as the nails rust. But a mill tower is not without its uses and it is possibly used as a dovecote or pigeon loft.
Clara Green, George's last surviving child, dies and the mill is bought by Oliver Hind, a local solicitor. Four years later he has the cap covered in copper to keep out the weather. The mill machinery and stones are still in the mill. The mill is let to H Gell and Co who use the ground floor and first floor to manufacture furniture polish and boot polish. A lot of these materials are stored in the mill.
On the 10th July the mill catches fire. The lower floors are full of wax and polish and with the mill tower acting as a chimney the blaze rapidly takes hold in the brisk wind. Only the brick tower survives, a few charred beams still spanning the interior. The mill is abandoned once again.
Responding to a rumour that the mill might be demolished, staff at the University of Nottingham start a fund to preserve the tower as a monument to George Green whose reputation as a mathematical genius has been growing. Five years later the Fund buy the mill and present it to the City of Nottingham and restoration starts.
With new floors, doors and windows in place, the new cap is hoisted onto the top of the tower by a crane.
The restoration is placed in the hands of professional millwrights to bring the mill into working order. A science centre is built around the mill yard to tell the story of George Green and his mill.
The mill and centre are officially opened to the public though there is still much work to be done on the mill.
In June the sails are finally hoisted into place though it is not until 2nd December that the sails turn and flour is produced in Green's Mill for the first time since the 1860s.
The amazing inner workings of the mill can be seen, especially on a windy day, over four floors, including the grain cleaner and grindstones. This enables you to see first-hand how the whole process of how flour is made.
Within the science centre is a special under 5s discovery zone for even the smallest scientists to start discovering and learning! The list below is just a selection of items to discover:
- Mirrors and cut out half-shapes to use with them (to complete a whole images)
- Rods with cubes that can spin
- A spinning wheel with different pictures in it
- Magnetic diamond shapes that can be stuck onto a magnetic wall
- Giant spiral that rotates
- Two velcro walls, with velcro pictures to stick onto the surface to produce a picture;
- Different textured surfaces including bristles, rubber
- Gear wall
- Peep holes and coloured discs in the ceiling
A trolley full of amazing activities for all ages. Explore all the different compartments and you'll find easy interactive experiments, colouring sheets, books and resource sheets that enable you to learn about science in a fun, hands on way.
Buy our organic flour
All the flour from Green's Mill is organically grown and available at the mill shop or by mail order.
Green's Windmill has won 'best flour' in the Soil Association Organic Food Awards in partnership with You magazine; 2001 Winner for wholemeal spelt flour, 2002 Winner for white spelt flour and Commended for wholemeal spelt flour.
Get our latest updates delivered to your inbox.
Sign up for Job Alerts, What's On, Latest News and more...