Shirley Windmill opens its doors at noon on Sunday (May 15) for its first open day of the summer.
Entry is free (although donations, however small, are always very welcome), with the first guided tour of this ancient monument at midday.
Built nearly 160 years ago, on the site of a working mill that dates back almost to the 18th century, Shirley Windmill, thanks to the local Friends association, is in working order and a living reminder of the Croydon area’s agricultural heritage.
Brixton’s windmill has recently been repaired and re-opened, and Wimbledon’s windmill is well-known. But Shirley is noted as the last, large-scale windmill to have been built in Surrey and is one of the south-east’s best examples of a working mill. And it is all right on our doorstep.
It is also a (albeit tenuous) link between Croydon and the new Olympic Park: a date of 1740 on one of the Shirley Windmill’s wooden beams has long suggested that it is built from an earlier structure, and documents found recently suggest that a mill in the Stratford area was dismantled and moved to Shirley, all for the handsome price of £2,000.
As a working mill, Shirley has an electrifying history. The mill is one place where lightning really has struck twice, once in 1899 and again in 1906, when the local fire brigade managed to put out a potentially devastating fire.
The mill has been a listed building since 1951. As well as storm, the mill has managed to survive pestilence, from a flock of parakeets picking at its sails, and plague, in the form of developers who wanted to demolish it to make way for a school (which has since closed and been demolished itself).
The parakeets caused £45,000-worth of damage, but repairs were completed a year ago.
Sunday’s open day celebrates National Mills Week, and there will be refreshments and gifts available to purchase from the windmill’s shop. The windmill, off Upper Shirley Road, is easily reached by public transport, with the 130 bus from Addiscombe Tram stop, or the 466 from East Croydon.
You might even manage to combine a visit to the windmill with taking part in the Rotarians’ Fun Walk taking place nearby on the same afternoon.
On Sunday, the final guided tour of the Shirley Windmill begins at 4.15pm, but there are further open days throughout the summer, the next being on June 5, July 3 and August 7.
- Weekend rambles: Addington Hills charity walk, May 15 (insidecroydon.wordpress.com)
- Historic mill to reopen to public (bbc.co.uk)
- Working windmill brings rural life to … Brixton (independent.co.uk)