Windmill Hill Horticultural Society
Windmill Hill was so named as early as 1527 which suggests that there was a windmill here in the early 16th century. The earliest surviving map on which a windmill appears in Herstmonceux is from 1783; that mill stood on the north side of the lane leading from Flowers Green to Golden Cross. There are also records of mills on other sites in the late 1700s and early 1800s.
An entry in the Sussex Weekly Advertiser of 20th January 1823 reads - 'To Millers and others. To be sold by auction by Thomas and Son, on Thursday 13th Feb. 1823, at the Woolpack Inn at Gardner Street. A large well-built Post Windmill, in good repair, with a good Trade of Business to the same…. Situate at Herstmonceux, adjoining the Lewes Turnpike road. The mill was built in 1814….late in the occupation of Mr. Richard Pocock, Deceased'.
In 1832 Edward Beeny is reported as being the owner of the mill. The Beeny family were associated with the mill until 1872 and their family name can still be seen carved into the mill’s interior woodwork. The Hammond brothers owned the mill at the end of the 19th century and Charles Hammond’s new sweep governor was installed to control the shutters and sweeps. By the 1890s the mill’s upper structure had become unsound and so, in 1893 the sweeps were taken down and milling continued using a steam engine until about 1913.
The windmill was allowed to decay through the 20th century. Remarkably surviving the hurricane of 1987, it was not until 1993 that new owners Paul and Bee Frost started work to halt its decline.
In 1996 the Windmill Hill Windmill Trust was formed with the aim of restoring and maintaining the mill — starting with fund-raising. In 1997 the Heritage Lottery Fund agreed an award subject to a fully costed proposal. In 1999 scaffolding went up to protect the mill. An assessment of the mill’s condition was made in 2000 and was far from encouraging. The mill had to be completely dismantled if it was to be fully restored. But there was good news in December 2001 when the Heritage Lottery Fund awarded a grant of over £570,000 towards the project.
The WHWT raised the additional funding of £200,000 and finally in 2003 the restoration work began. Over the next three years every part of the mill was repaired or re-made and refitted — and the windmill opened to the public in 2006. More recently a second grant was awarded to restore the milling machinery and this was completed in 2016.
The restoration of the windmill at Windmill Hill has been a real community project and the WHWT trustees want the windmill to continue to make a real contribution to local life. Volunteers are always needed and the windmill welcomes local people and local schools, clubs, societies and groups as visitors.