The Museum

Museum entrance


The museum has exhibits for both the young and old, covering windmills and milling as well as local history and the Scouting movement. It was opened in 1976 on the first floor only, as the ground floor was still used as accommodation for the Wimbledon Common Rangers. However a Heritage Lottery Grant enabled the museum to be extended to both floors in 1999.

The ground floor exhibits relate mainly to the development and construction of windmills, whereas the first floor exhibits explain in more detail how the windmill worked and how grain was milled to produce flour.

On the first floor there are opportunities for children to try their hand at milling some flour of their own using methods from the past. There is a saddle stone, a mortar and a hand quern, and a supply of grain is provided for children to use.

At least one hour should be allowed to see all the exhibits.

Ground Floor

On entering the museum there is a Diorama illustrating the construction of the windmill using handtools of the time. All the timbers were sawn by hand from local trees, using a pit saw, and shaped with hand tools.

Complementing this display there is a magnificent collection of the tools of a Norfolk millwright, including many rare and antique tools ranging from the 15th Century to the present day.

In the centre of the ground floor is a reproduction of the Great Spur Wheel as it would have been when the mill was in operation. Also displayed are rural handtools that were used in the fields and at harvest time.

In the Video room there is a continuous film about the design, construction and operation of English windmills. Copies of the DVD are on sale in the shop.

Before entering the Model Room it is worth looking at the model watermill with the notes explaining why water was always preferred to wind as a source of power.

The collection of models chart the development of the windmill from its earliest form through to modern day wind turbines. These models, most of which are beautifully detailed models of actual mills, illustrate changes in mill technology including the development of sails and the fantail.

First Floor

Ahead of you on entering the first floor are the millstones and some examples of early methods of milling. A supply of grain is provided so that you can try your hand at the saddle stone, mortar and hand quern. There is also a commentary explaining how the millstones work, and the tools used for dressing millstones are shown in a case nearby.

Proceeding clockwise round the upper floor, there are examples of sieving and weighing machines and a display of the development of windmill sails.

The Victorian room shows one of the rooms as it would have been when the mill was converted to accommodation after the mill stopped working in 1864. Press the button to listen to the commentary. Can you hear the cat purring?

Continuing round there are exhibits of mill machinery and a magnificent model of the mill as it was in its working days.

In the central area there are displays of the types of grain used for breadmaking, and a cabinet of Scouting memorabilia to commemorate the writing of part of 'Scouting for Boys' by Robert Baden-Powell in the mill house in 1908.

From the central area upstairs you can see into the tower, and by climbing the ladder inspect the large cast iron brakewheel at the top of the tower. Originally this wheel turned the iron shaft which ran down the centre of the mill to the Great Spur Wheel on the ground floor.


The Shop

On leaving the museum, do spend some time in the shop. As well as souvenirs there are books on wind and water mills, local history, Scouting, and even Wombles (who of course live on Wimbledon Common). There are useful maps of the Common, postcards and greetings cards.

It is not necessary to pay for admission in order to visit the shop.

Outside the museum there are examples of English and French millstones and farm machinery.