21 May 2022

Why Bradwell Windmill is
one of the most distinctive
landmarks in Milton Keynes

Bradwell Windmill, one of the most distinctive landmarks in Milton Keynes, dates from around 1817 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

Patrick Comerford

Last weekend, two of us walked from Wolverton to Bradwell to visit Bradwell Windmill, one of the most distinctive landmarks in Milton Keynes. This is believed to be the second windmill built in the parish, replacing an earlier post mill that once stood on the site of Summerfield School. It is also thought to be the oldest tower mill in Buckinghamshire.

Bradwell Windmill is just off the V6 Grafton Street. It is a stone tower mill built of locally quarried limestone. It has a pair of common sails, on which a sailcloth can be spread, and a pair of spring sails. The wooden cap can be turned so that the sails always face into the wind.

The windmill has three floors above ground level, the stone floor, the bin floor and, at the top, the dust floor. On the stone floor, two pairs of millstones are set in timber vats, one pair of Derbyshire Peak stones, used for grinding animal feed, and one pair of French burrs, for grinding flour for human consumption.

An unusual feature of the windmill is a fireplace on the ground floor. This would have been very risky as flour dust is highly explosive.

Before 1800, the milling needs of the local community were served by the many watermills on the River Ouse and Bradwell Brook. The opening of the Grand Junction Canal, which linked London to the Midlands, opened up the possibility of serving a wider market.

Samuel Holman acquired an acre of land from Henry Wilman, close to the newly opened canal, with the hope of erecting a tower mill. It is not known when the building was completed, but a reference was made to it being ‘newly erected’ in 1817. The cost of the windmill was thought to be around £500, a considerable sum in those days.

Holman operated the windmill until he died in 1825, when it was inherited by his wife and son.

The mill was owned by Elizabeth Curtis by 1846 and was run by William Carr, whose name was carved into a tentering beam in the mill. Over the next few years, the ownership of the mill passed to the children of the Curtis family.

The mill was bought by Robert Adams of Bradwell Abbey in 1857. He planned to set up his ward, John Abbott, in business at the mill. However, Abbott showed no interest in the business. Instead, Robert Adams persuaded his son, also Robert Adams, to move from Manor Farm to the mill cottage to get the business up and running, in the hope that Abbott would take over at a later date.

Robert Adams established a profitable business in farming and milling. He used a steam plough engine at the mill on days when there was little wind in order to provide additional turning power.

John Abbot sold his interest in the business at Boughton Green Fair in 1871. Robert Adams junior then moved to Carr’s watermill in Haversham and a new miller, Robert Saxby, took over the business for a short time.

By this time, large, steam-powered, rolling mills were developing, milling grain that had been imported from America, and the distribution of flour was much more efficient due to the extensive rail network. At the same time, arable farming was in decline in north Buckinghamshire. The windmill could no longer run at a profit, and it ceased operating around 1876.

Bradwell Windmill remains one of the most distinctive landmarks in Milton Keynes. Following a major refurbishment, Bradwell Windmill reopened to visitors on Sundays throughout the summer months, although when we visited last weekend it was fenced off once again and seemed to be undergoing further refurbishments.

One of the millstones at Bradwell Windmill (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

Praying with the Psalms in Easter:
21 May 2022 (Psalm 87)

Singers and dancers alike say, ‘All my springs are in you’ (Psalm 87: 7) … an improvised interpretation of syrtaki in an olive grove in Crete days after the death of Mikis Theodorakis (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

Patrick Comerford

Before this day begins, I am taking some time this morning to continue my reflections in this season of Easter, including my morning reflections drawing on the Psalms.

In my blog, I am reflecting each morning in this Prayer Diary in these ways:

1, Short reflections on a psalm or psalms;

2, reading the psalm or psalms;

3, a prayer from the USPG prayer diary.

Psalm 87:

Psalm 87 is found in Book III in the Book of Psalms, which includes Psalms 73 to 89. In the slightly different numbering scheme in the Greek Septuagint and the Latin Vulgate, this is psalm is numbered as Psalm 86.

Psalm 87 is one in a group of psalms at the end of Book III within the 150 psalms, from Psalm 84 to Psalm 89. These psalms attempt to provide hope to the exilic Israelite community. But, despite their celebration of the historic traditions of the Jewish people, they remind the reader that these elements no longer provide the hope they once did.

Four psalms of this group – Psalms 84, 85, 87 and 88 – are attributed to the Korahites, who are described as the doorkeepers of the tabernacle in the Book of Chronicles.

Psalm 87 describes Jerusalem as the centre of the world or the ‘mother of nations,’ where God placed the Torah.

This psalm is classified as one of the ‘Songs of Zion,’ looking to the future Jerusalem as the centre of universal worship and listing some of the surrounding nations – from which Jewish proselytes have come to the festivals – or as a ‘reference to Jews who come from different countries in the dispersion.’

Rahab in verse 4 may refer to the primaeval monster quelled by YHWH (‘You crushed Rahab like a carcass; you scattered your enemies with your mighty arm’, Psalm 89: 10), perhaps representing Egypt.

The ‘springs’ (verse 7) may symbolise divine blessing, placing Zion as the source of the streams of Paradise.

Verse 3 inspired John Newton to write the hymn ‘Glorious Things of Thee Are Spoken’ (1779), later sung with music from Haydn’s Gott erhalte Franz den Kaiser (1797).

‘On the holy mount stands the city he founded’ (Psalm 87: 1) … the city of Jerusalem depicted in Jerusalem restaurant in Dublin (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

Psalm 87 (NRSVA):

Of the Korahites. A Psalm. A Song.

1 On the holy mount stands the city he founded;
2 the Lord loves the gates of Zion
more than all the dwellings of Jacob.
3 Glorious things are spoken of you,
O city of God.

4 Among those who know me I mention Rahab and Babylon;
Philistia too, and Tyre, with Ethiopia—
‘This one was born there,’ they say.

5 And of Zion it shall be said,
‘This one and that one were born in it’;
for the Most High himself will establish it.
6 The Lord records, as he registers the peoples,
‘This one was born there.’

7 Singers and dancers alike say,
‘All my springs are in you.’

Today’s Prayer:

The theme in this week’s prayer diary of the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel) has been ‘Advocacy in Brazil.’

The USPG Prayer Diary concludes this theme this morning (21 May 2022), inviting us to pray:

We pray for the Brazilian Chamber of Federal Deputies. May Brazil’s political representatives make wise decisions which challenge injustice and support marginalised communities.

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow

Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition copyright © 1989, 1995, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org