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The Elusive

UK Derp Windmill (Visited 2014)

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Originally I thought this was a random turret! spotted it on the ode GE months ago and was going past so I thought Id check it out. Access was creative and the place was serious derp. It wasnt until after I got back that I stumbled upon some info and turns out its way more interesting the thought previously I might have looked abit more closely to the upper floor had a realised (although I didnt fancy the 9 remaining stairs held up by a pole smaller than a washing line prop!) Any way background info,

The remains of the mill, built around the beginning of the nineteenth century, tower strikingly above the surrounding houses. Although the sails are long gone and the upper section has been modified and added to over the years, the mill is still a remarkable sight - and all the more interesting because of its varied history. The tower has a slight taper until the later cylindrical portion is reached; it is roughly five storeys - some fifty feet - high, with a crenellated top, also added later.

Mentioned in the Birmingham Gazette, it came up for sale by Edward Rigby in both 1826 and 1828. We know that Thomas Jennings worked it from 1835 to 1841, and in 1841 the Midland Counties Herald shows it being advertised by local builder M. Salt with a shop and cottage. Shortly thereafter, it was purchased by Mr. Moses Eyland, founder of the famous Walsall firm of buckle and spectacle makers Eyland & Sons, Ltd, of Lower Rushall Street (that factory having been converted into apartments in recent years). His son Charles Eyland, Mayor of Walsall 1857 - 58, inherited the property, having left his house in Lichfield Street for Hope Cottage, which stood in its own grounds adjoining the mill. During the Eyland ownership the mill was worked by James Griffiths, who lived in the cottage opposite the malthouse, and it seems to have fallen into disuse between 1864 - 1868. After this Charles Eyland removed the mill machinery, including the two grindstones. Appreciating what a wonderful view could be obtained from the top storey of the tower, Mr. Eyland rebuilt, raised and comfortably furnished the top room, fitting a fireplace and laying a carpet. Often he would go up for a quiet smoke and to contemplate the fine panorama. To aid his viewing he arranged a mirror on the camera obscura principle, so that the four compass directions could be seen in one glass.

In 1890 Charles Eyland died, and the mill passed to Charles Newbold Eyland, About 1919 the tower was struck by lightning, knocking down a piece of the parapet. One evening several men arrived claiming they had been asked to repair the roof. Their 'repairing' consisted of stripping the old place of its lead, and away they went with a haul worth many pounds, never to be seen again. Deprived of its protective covering the roof sprang a leak and the inside walls were marked. The general soundness of the brickwork, however, remained a tribute to the workmanship of bricklayers in days gone by.

On the death of Charles Newbold Eyland in 1925, the mill was bought by George Skidmore. At the time Mr. Skidmore was famed for his remarkable record in playing cricket for more than sixty years. Mr. Skidmore, who had for many years been interested in astronomy, supervised the rebuilding of the tower, re-pointing the brickwork and raising the parapet by about two feet, adding to the crenellations, so that it could be converted into an astronomical observatory. The floors were relaid with concrete on the oak beams, intending the construction to be more solid than ever, and new stairs were built. George Skidmore then installed a large equatorial refracting telescope, and at the time spoke with pride of its fine lens, its view finder, and its clockwork motor drive whereby it was possible to set the telescope on any star and ensure that it would be followed in its course across the heavens.

During the Second World War, Highgate Windmill's commanding position made it the natural choice for use as an observation post by local Air Raid Patrol wardens, and for years it was manned by them every night.

By the 1960's the mill had fallen into disrepair, becoming covered in ivy, and it appears to have changed little since then, though it is now much less overgrown. Today the windmill remains privately owned, and although not open to the public, it is a fascinating sight.

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