Lytham St.Annes Coat of Arms

 
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Lytham St.Annes, Lancashire, England
 

 

Lytham Windmill, 1976

Evening Gazette, 1st June, 1976 

 

Soon the sails will turn again for the `mill on the green'

 

 

ADRIAN LITHGOW looks at the che­quered past and hopeful future of Lytham Mill.

 

Lytham windmill in the 1970s A SOLITARY sen­tinel, the "Mill-on-­the-Green" at Lytham has withstood the blast of winds off the Irish Sea since 1805. 

 

For the last 60 years, however, the winds have been wasting their breath, the sails of the mill have stood stationary, locked in position for fear that Fylde coast gales might have torn them apart. 

 

Now, to the joy of wind­mill enthusiasts throughout the region, Fylde Borough Council's Technical Department are near to completing a  £  3,000 restora­tion scheme to set the sails spinning once again and make the Lytham mill the last one operating in the Fylde. 

 

The mill was partially destroyed by fire in the early hours of New Years Eve, 1919. That night strong winds set the sails turning the wrong way. The friction made the iron axle red hot and the woodwork of the drum caught fire. 

 

The interior of the build­ing was gutted, with only the shell, the revolving "cap" and sails remaining intact, and a period of bizarre schemes for the mill's restoration was under way.

Caf  é 

 

In the early twenties it was run by Lytham Council as a cafe, but when this failed the council turned the property over to the Lytham St Annes Motor Boat Club who used it as a headquarters until 1938. 

 

At this time the electrical department of the council took it over for use as a transformer station reduc­ing 6,000 volt current to the domestic charge. The mill was gainfully employed in this way until 1964, when new developments in Lytham put too much demand on the station and a purpose-built trans­former was constructed. 

 

It's use as a transformer may have helped preserve the mill considerably according to the technical department's team now restoring the mill to its original condition.

"The heat generated by the transformer helped to keep the place dry and cut down the dry rot" said Len Hayes, leader of the project. During the last three years the outside mill's shell has been given a pro­tective covering, new sails have been fitted, the dry-rot cleared and a new mechan­ism installed.  Installing the new mechanism has been the biggest challenge. The pre­industrial age machinery is startlingly complex and unstandardised. 

 

As Len Hayes explained: "No two mills were built in the same way. So although we have been studying books on the subject we found we have to take things stage by stage and work them out for our­selves". 

 

The department has shown great ingenuity in gathering together spare parts from wherever they could be found, very much in the tradition of the old millers themselves. The "original" brake wheel, for instance, is thought to have come from a traction engine. French burr milling stones, weighing 2 ¼ tons between them, have been brought in from the water- mill at Ravenglass. When operational they will mill at 120 rpm, yet be balanced on a pin-sized fulcrum and revolving with only a gap one eighth of an inch between them.

 

Controlling the gap is perhaps the most fascinat­ing piece of machinery in the whole works    the gov­ernor    this ensures that the milling speed is kept constant. Two balls con­nected to the drive shafts and gearing, revolve on arms attached to a central pivot. As the speed acceler­ates the arms are lifted up, raising a bar connected to the stones and closing the gap between them it acts as a brake.

 

Handmade

 

The drive shafts and gearing now set to harness the power of the wind to the stones come mainly from the mill at Thornton which has vastly cut down the expense of work contracted out to engineering firms. But much of the finer work has had to be handmade. The gearing connecting the brake wheel on the sail shaft to the mainshaft, a conical wooden gear wheel known as a wallower, was painstakingly made by Len  Hayes, and bearings were made by local firms.

 

The work is now nearing completion and it is hoped to have everything opera­tional next month. When the sails are turning again the "Mill-on-the-Green" will undoubtedly become a main tourist attraction of the Fylde, being the only mill in the area fully in working order. 

 

Whether the mill will ever again grind corn still hangs in the balance. As with most things it is a question of finance and new funds would have to be voted by Fylde Council to provide the necessary chutes and hoppers.  But hopes run high in the Technical Department that these can be installed. It is felt that this would com­plete the mill as a major tourist attraction. Indeed, the work needed to be done is minimal compared to that which the department has put in over the past three years. 

 

It is recorded that before the fire of 1919 hundreds of visiting cards were pinned by tourist to the woodwork of the mill. Perhaps such "graffiti" would be discour­aged today, particularly as those tourists could be numbered in thousands.