History, tourist information, and nearby accommodation
HERITAGE HIGHLIGHTS: The only working windmill in Wessex
Wilton Windmill is a landmark in the pretty Vale of Pewsey, and is the only working windmill in Wessex. The five-storey tower mill was erected in 1821 and remained in service for over a century until competition from steam roller mills forced it to close in the 1920s. The windmill was restored by the Wiltshire Historic Buildings Trust in 1972 and has been milling flour regularly since 1976.
Wilton Windmill owes its existence to the Kennet and Avon Canal. Before the canal was built to connect the River Kennet to the River Avon, there were five watermills along this stretch of the Vale of Pewsey. The Canal diverted the water supply and lowered the river levels, leaving the mills literally powerless to grind grain. The Wilton Windmill replaced all five of the water-powered mills.
The mill is five storeys high and is made of brick, with a fantail to turn the windmill's cap into the wind. The gears and drive shafts were made of cast iron. Curiously, it was built with two patent sails and two common sails, for a total of four. Common sails are just a frame to stretch canvas over, and take time to set manually, while patent sails are made with louvres that can be activated as needed.
An automatic governor controlled the gap between the upper and lower grindstones. The mil suffered after the railway reached the Vale of Pewsey, and as the Industrial Revolution [literally] gathered steam it had difficulty competing with steam-powered mills.
The mill originally ground wheat, barley, oats, and rye as well as beans and peas. The original stones have been laid on the grass outside the mill.
On display inside the windmill is a collection of historical farm tools from the Lackham College Museum. When the museum closed in 2016 the tools were given to the Wilton Windmill Society.
In the windmill grounds is a beautifully-restored Victorian granary that originally stood on the Longleat Estate. The granary was built in the 1850s with an oak timber frame infilled with bricks, under a thatched roof of long straw. The granary was moved first to Lackham College and in 2018 was re-erected beside Wilton Windmill.
The granary is raised off the ground on nine staddle stones. These stones serve a dual purpose; their overhanging capstones make it hard for rodents to climb into the grain store, and by raising the building off the ground you allow better air circulation, which helps the grain to dry more quickly and thoroughly.
Wilton Windmill is on a minor road just east of Wilton village, off the A338 about six miles south-east of Marlborough. The mill is within easy walking distance of the Crofton Beam Engines and the Kennet and Avon Canal.
The windmill is open regularly for tours during the spring and summer. Visitors are also welcome to explore the mill exterior even when the interior is closed. We came on a sunny afternoon after the windmill had closed for the season, and even though we didn't get a chance to explore the mill interior we still enjoyed seeing it from the outside and enjoying the restored granary.
Most photos are available for licensing, please contact Britain Express image library.
About Wilton Windmill
Address: Wilton Hill, Wilton, Marlborough, Wiltshire, England, SN8 3SW
Attraction Type: Historic Building - Windmill
Location: On a minor road just east of Wilton village, off the A338. When the mil is closed to tours you can still park in the layby opposite the entrance.
Website: Wilton Windmill
Photo Credit: David Ross and Britain Express
NEARBY HISTORIC ATTRACTIONS
Heritage Rated from 1- 5 (low to exceptional) on historic interest
Crofton Beam Engines - 1 miles (Museum)
East Grafton, St Nicholas Church - 1.4 miles (Historic Church)
Great Bedwyn, St Mary's Church - 1.7 miles (Historic Church)
Chisbury Chapel - 2.6 miles (Historic Church)
Chisbury Camp - 2.7 miles (Prehistoric Site)
Little Bedwyn, St Michael's Church - 3 miles (Historic Church)
Savernake Forest - 4.5 miles (Countryside)
Littlecote Roman Villa - 5.8 miles (Roman Site)
Nearest Accommodation to Wilton Windmill: