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Ground to a halt: Campaigners bid to restart flour production at Brixton Windmill

Brixton Windmill stopped producing flour in 1934. Picture: Owen Llewellyn/Friends of Windmill Gardens/PA Wire Brixton Windmill stopped producing flour in 1934. Picture: Owen Llewellyn/Friends of Windmill Gardens/PA Wire

Sunday, June 30, 2013
11:11 AM

A 200-year-old, Grade II-listed windmill in south London could start grinding flour for the first time in nearly 80 years if a grassroots campaign is successful.

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People trying to raise a £20,000 “flour fund” want to get local restaurants and bakeries involved in using flour made at Brixton Windmill, which stopped making the staple 1934.

Campaigners want to produce the flour from grain grown as close to the site in SW2 as possible.

Jean Kerrigan, the chairwoman of the Friends of Windmill Gardens, which is behind the campaign, said they hoped to start making flour in time for the building’s 200th anniversary in 2016.

“We really want to secure the future of the building,” she said.

“It was derelict for too long.

“When people come to see it they always ask ‘why doesn’t it make flour? Can it make flour?”

Originally one of 12 windmills in the area, “Ashby’s Mill” as it was known was built in what was then countryside south of London in 1816 and was a working mill for 50 years.

But the expansion of London’s Victorian terraced housing doomed it, because the newly built streets blocked the wind that turned its sails.

In 1902 it was given a new lease of life with first steam and then gas powering the millstones. It closed for the last time in 1934.

Now owned by Lambeth Council, it received a £581,000 restoration after receiving £400,000 of Lottery cash in 2010.

The sails turned for the first time in more than 70 years in November 2012, powered by electricity. It currently open at weekends for tours and educational visits, which would continue if the campaign is successful.

If it did start working again, the mill would use the steam-powered millstones installed 100 years ago, Mrs Kerrigan said, as the same problems with the wind it faced in the 19th century would still prevent the sails from working.

The “flour fund” launched by the Friends of Windmill Gardens is looking to raise £20,000 in four tranches of £5,000 for a feasibility study to see if a good “local” supply of grain can be found and whether flour can profitably be ground, marketed and then sold.

The group is also looking to start a social project collecting local people’s memories of the mill.

More information is available at http://www.brixtonwindmill.org.

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