Chailey Windmill is a Grade II listed Smock Mill and stands on an historic site beside the yew tree said to mark the centre of Sussex. Records show that mills have stood here since at least 1590.
Although the site was originally occupied by a post mill, the present windmill is a smock mill with a cap sitting on a spindle and sweeps which are turned into the wind by a fantail. She was erected by Thomas Beard of Chailey in 1864.
Known as Heritage Mill, the present mill was originally built in 1830 at Highbrook, West Hoathly, where she was known as Hammingden Mill. In 1844 she was moved to Newhaven, replacing a mill that had burnt down, where she served as a navigation mark for sailors. Twenty years later, she was made redundant by the erection of a steam mill and was moved again, by bullock carts, to her current location at Chailey, replacing a post mill. This second move was carried out by Medhurst, the Lewes millwright.
Heritage Mill was working by wind and producing flour until 1911. In the great gale of January 5th, 1928 the mill was tailwinded, and the cap and sails were blown off. The mill was restored by public subscription and re-opened by Princess Alice of Athlone on October 4th, 1933. The work was done by Neve's, the Heathfield millwrights. Unfortunately, only two years later, the sails ran away in a high wind, and this time the windshaft snapped between the Brake Wheel and canister. Neve's installed the windshaft from Punnetts Town Windmill, which had been partly dismantled in 1935, but the machinery was dismantled and the interior gutted.
Since that time, the mill has been used as a tuck shop, emergency sleeping accommodation for nurses during the 2nd World War, when it was camouflaged, (see image here) and as headquarters for the Chailey Heritage Scout Troop. Eventually, the mill became the property of Chailey Heritage and hence came under the ownership of the Brighton Health Authority.
See historical photographs of the mill here.
In 1986, the Brighton Health Authority granted a 99 year lease to Chailey Parish Council. A volunteer group, the "Friends of Chailey Windmill", was formed and is still responsible for the day-to-day management. As a visitor attraction, the Friends created a Rural Life Museum exhibiting items of local interest and village life, including an extensive photographic collection of Chailey dating back to 1900, a display relating to military history and archaeology on Chailey Commons and a display documenting the results of a metal detector survey on Romany Ridge.
The mill museum is open to visitors regularly on the last Sunday of each month from April to September, 3-5 pm, plus special occasions by arrangement with the Friends, through the contact details below:
East Sussex, BN8 4DH
Telephone: 01825 723519.