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Lower Dean Windmill

Lower Dean windmill in 1933 [X504/1]
Lower Dean windmill in 1933 [X504/1]

Lower Dean windmill was demolished in the second half of the 20th century. It stood on the east side of the road leading from the B465 to the road from Shelton to Lower Dean.

Bedfordshire Historical Record Society published a volume of miscellaneous pieces in 1931 (Volume XIV), one of which was a survey of Bedfordshire windmills by J. Steele Elliott. He noted the Lord of the Manor of Lower Dean, John Neal, conveyed the mill to Philip Sikes of Nether Dean, miller, in 1695. The windmill is shown on a map of Bedfordshire by Thomas Jefferys from 1765 [R1/107].

J. Steele Elliot wrote: "The mills at Dean are in the centre of a remote part of the county; the one at Lower Dean, which stands at the 250 feet contour, is now a pathetic monument to its bygone days; its wind-swept skeleton, with shattered sails and fan, can but adorn the landscape a very few years longer. The day is long since past when nine other windmills were said to have been working from this one".

He also noted: "there is an inset stone with an angular capping above, let into the base of the present mill, lettered S. B. (Sarah Bradshaw) and dated 1834. This date was probably to record the addition of the stone-built round-house to enclose what had previously been open below [see photograph above], rather than a replacement or reconstruction of the entire mill. This wooden mill, with its sloping roof, stands above the circular, stone-built ground floor, 20 feet 6 inches across, of 24-inch masonry; this incorporates the former brick pillars, which it overlaps with weathering boards and frill. The upper mill structure was not only turned by man-power with a tail-pole [to catch the wind], but ran on a circular cogged rack around the top of the round-house, apparently worked by an ingenious arrangement from a fan above with crank adjustment to the cogged rack below. There is a massive 22 inch square vertical main-post, resting on the two cross-beams and supported by curved struts. The mill is supported by inside set-off brick pillars built into the walls of the stone base-floor. The crown-beam is 20 inches square. The brake-wheel is seven feet across, with 15 inch chamfered oak shaft, and another cogwheel of similar size is fixed at the reverse end. The double shutter sails are 45 feet across. It ran two pairs of 5 foot stones. The tail-pole and part of the steps are still intact. On the main-post, floor, and other timberings within this mill, there is evidence in its ruins of a past generation of millers: I. + A. 1762, I. C. 1763, W. H. J. R., and fragments of a "Band of Hope" calendar, dated 1863, which quotes many a helpful text to a thoughtful miller. There is a story that in the days of Peter Bradshaw, the younger son of William and Sarah, the place was haunted by his witch-craft: bells could be made to ring in Lower Dean, and carts be made to break down during their journeys in the vicinity of the mill. Also he is credited with making a special journey to the Continent upon hearing that an improved sail invention was in use there, bringing back particulars and being the first in this country to adopt it; possibly this was the self-winding apparatus already described. Sarah Bradshaw held this property, which included the house and two small fields, after her husband died in 1827. It is recorded on a tomb-stone in Dean Churchyard of Benjamin Bradshaw, who was the miller in 1848, the son of the above Sarah and William Philip Bradshaw, that he was born in 1811 at Upper Dean Mill, so we can infer that his father was the tenant miller there at the time. Lower Dean Mill subsequently passed into the possession of William Poole in 1869; and Isaac Shadbolt owned and worked it until closed down in 1918. Albert Rands of Raunds is the present owner".

Peter Bradshaw, the so-called witch, was buried in Dean churchyard on 9th February 1892 aged 87. The parish register records that he resided at Castle Ashby [Northamptonshire] at the time of his death. Sadly directories to not record whether he was miller in 1863 and so responsible for the Band of Hope calendar, which would seem an odd juxtaposition!

Bedfordshire and Luton Archives and Records Service has a number of directories for the county dating from 1839 to 1940. These give some details of names and addresses of prominent people in each parish. The following list has been compiled for millers at Lower Dean. County directories were only published every few years and so the dates in the list simply include the first and last reference to a particular individual residing at a property.

  • 1847: Benjamin Bradshaw;
  • 1854: Sarah Bradshaw;
  • 1864-1869: Thomas Eaton;
  • 1869: William Poole;
  • 1871-1910: Isaac Shadbolt