Close to the wind – In search of The Dummer Windmill

Open rolling fields between the A30 and M3, but for how long?

A local Hampshire windmill, on a site under serious threat of development.

I remember loving windmills since a child. Maybe because I could see one from my grandparents house. Anyway, fond memories and many visits to local mills in Surrey and Sussex as a youngster. In fact, a friend just last week reminded me of ‘Jack and Jill‘ so surely a case of windmills in my mind…

Hampshire and the Isle of Wight barely a handful of windmills left to see these days. ‘Hampshire is not a Windmill County
A. Keeble Shaw noted in his essay, and historically, Hampshire was more in favour of watermills, from its river network, and which was easier to harness.

Agricultural needs of the area also had a bearing. Around the Basingstoke area records show there was a ‘Wind Engine’ at Pitt Farm, Upper Wooton, and there was a ‘new’ windmill built in 1821, in Norn Hill, Basingstoke, which itself was only to have a short life. I can’t see any details of other windmills recorded.
In the village of Dummer, 5 miles south of Basingstoke, records show there were 2 Windmills, which almost sounds a bit greedy!
So that’s where I’m going to visit and try to visualise the location.

An article in The Hampshire Field Club & Archaeological
Society by G. Bowie shares some insights about Milling , Dummer and some of the mill machinery.

“Hampshire windmills reflected this dual function. In the late 1820s Dummer tower mill had a pair of French burr millstones for grinding wheat and a pair of ‘peak’ stones for grist milling (RM 11 Aug 1823, 3). Moreover, there was no strict demarcation between rural and urban grain milling.” 

G. BOWIE

Dummer had no local water supply to tap into, so for milling it needed wind technology. What a pity both mills were out of use by the time photography was being used to record history. But we do have quite a few written documents as evidence.

The Dummer Windmills

Jennie Butler and Sue Lane at VCH have thoroughly gone through the economic data of Dummer and written a fascinating insight into the past, and the records show who owned the land. You can read their articles here.
I don’t want to repeat them, but they draw attention to the details of these windmills.

There is less detail on the “Dummer Clump” windmill site, which was East of Dummer and dated from before 1743. ‘Clump Farm’ is still marked on modern maps.
The other mill which there is more information on was part of Little Manor Farm although its setting was a little way north of the village. It was a smock mill and built on 1811.

Another extract below from G. Bowie article:

“Another example was Dummer tower mill, which was the subject of a fourteen year lease starting in 1830. The property consisted of 43 acres of arable land and meadow, a farmhouse. outbuildings, and the windmill. Though small, the farm was subject to the conventional landlord’s cropping restrictions at this period, indicating that the farming activity was taken as seriously as the milling: the tenant was ‘not to take two successive wheat crops on the same ground, nor to grow more than fifteen acres of wheat a year, and that after a summer fallow or a green crop of clover, peas or beans”

In search of the windmill

The only ‘graphic’ evidence we have of its location is on Greenwood’s Hampshire  map 1826. It appears set back from the Turnpike road (now A30), which was for centuries the main coaching route from London to Cornwall and the South of England.

Location of the Little Manor’s Farms windmill, (Greenwoods map of 1826)

An early 20th century O.S. map, with no sign of the windmill… Notice there is also a footpath running across…

Read more stories along this coaching route, click here and here

Beautiful as Greenwoods map is, it’s not totally accurate, but the two roads that framed it give us a good indication.

Below is the old lane from Dummer, (now dissected by the M3). Oakdown Farm is on the right hand side.

If I take it literally, then I’m looking across the field towards Dummer from the A30, and the mill would have been located in this field.

I’m wasn’t able to access the field any more, so I went to another vantage point, off the M3 slip road. There is a subway and there is a path, which looks hardly used. I looked back over to the site. Oakdown Farm is where the barn is.

Without the remains of the windmill, it really could be anywhere in the green boxed area I suggest below… The other point of note is Little Manor Farm, which we know from records the mill belonged to, is quite a distance away. Farms are full of outbuildings normally, but a windmill by its nature has to harness the wind.
Having walked around the (pretty) village of Dummer, it backs on to open fields quite readily, so could a mill have been situated closer? Even on the new map, there is a noticeable straight track leading out away from the village, which was worth a look at, although it doesn’t head directly for the mill site, but to a border.

Little Manor Farm today, Dummer

It is lined with hedgerows, and from the google maps I can see its the right feature. I walked round the back of the village which crosses it.

Looking back towards Dummer, the lane looks like private land now, but it looks like it was a substantial route . It reminds me of an old drove and slightly banked up.

This has the feel of an old agricultural drove

Fate

We also know from the records, the fate of the windmill. It appears it had been dormant for a while, but On the 31st May 1833, A witness reported seeing flames as they passed by on the Turnpike (London) Road. With dry materials and dust, fires were not an unusual occurrence on farms. They raised the alarm, but the mill was lost. The VCR article implies the fire may have been started deliberately, due to a time of social unrest with agricultural workers in what was know as the ‘Swing Rights‘ The Mill was never to be restored.

A worse fate…

Another reason for my urgency to visit the site is because ‘Newlands Developments’ are putting forward a proposal for huge warehouses (and these are HUGE), alongside the M3, which I find a pretty horrifying prospect for many reasons…

The windmill site would be one of the access points – probably concreted over, if not a Warehouse.
If you look at what they are proposing, it’s going to change the landscape forever, and not in a good way – especially if you happen to live there. Huge warehouses are a real possibility increasing traffic, blighting the landscape and effecting local villages. It would be refreshing if our Council thought for a moment, instead of fawning after big business intrests.

Please take a look at this and lend your support.

Photo taken from the south of the proposed Mega warehouse development, (Windmill location is also highlighted).

The proposal is for the land between the A30 and M3 will be built on – that’s around 28 football pitches. Visitors from the south will have just seen the Basingstoke and Deane ‘welcome sign’ lauding it as the birthplace of Jane Austen, (One up on Winchester), only for their assumptions of Basingstoke to be affirmed! I’ve always enjoyed this route back to Basingstoke, and even with the presence of the motorway straddling it for almost 50 years, it has been farmland for centuries.

Back to the mill…

Anyone familiar with the TV show ‘Detectorists‘ will know of the archaeology firms brought in to survey an area before development. Let’s leave that comparison there, but it’s one good thing to come out of their research and is a firm suggesting for the windmills location. It must have been gleaned from local knowledge, but it’s a viable spot as any…

map © Border Archeology

On their plan, ( just out of the green area I had marked), and the track/drove we looked at earlier from Dummer is just marked at the bottom of their drawing. (You can see the M3 motorway had already cut through when it was built bringing its access to an abrupt end.) The Windmill followed along the boundary.

Anyway, the archeologists report has (so far) failed to find any material in the trenches dug, so I’ll be watching to see if they widen their search and find some debris. If there was the fire, the remains should have some scorching. It was almost 200 years ago! Let’s hope before anything gets decided on the site that the location of Dummer Windmill is concluded with some hard evidence.

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5 thoughts on “Close to the wind – In search of The Dummer Windmill”

  1. This is a fascinating and well written Blog, Nigel, and extremely interesting. I taught history in a well known Basingstoke comprehensive school from 1975-1978 and devised a Mode 3 CSE History course called, ‘The Making of the Basingstoke Landscape’. It was a chronological history of the area and many of the sites on here featured in it. The pupils were not academic but visits and walks brought it to life for them and they reacted brilliantly.
    I am long into retirement now and research the local history of the Upper Itchen Valley but your Blog has brought back some fond memories of my time in Basingstoke.
    Congratulations and well done.
    WDT

    1. Thank you – that’s very kind of you to say. Just concerned some of the decisions being taken by the council at the moment are going to harm all the good things we have here!

  2. This is a really good piece of work which will inform Basingstoke residents and historians alike.
    Will post on as it’s so much about being mindful of our heritage. Trust you will be ok about this.

    1. Thank you Christine – yes, Hopefully I’ve attributed fully the other peoples research, which I used. It seems so much around Basingstoke is in danger of being forgotten, let alone concreted over. One may be able to make a fair argument for the needs of housing etc, but this feels like something else. We won’t get it back.

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