Northfield (The Shade) Windmill

Shade Windmill 1958Soham has to its credit two beautiful windmills. Northfield Windmill, also known as Townsend or The Shade Windmill and is the one situated at the north end of Soham towards Ely. It was converted and moved to it's present location in 1830 and is one of the smallest mills in Cambridgeshire.

Originally it had four sails but for many years it was still working with two sails. By 1964 the Windmill had stood derelict for many years and in September of that year, one of the two remaining sails was blown off. In 1968 the remaining sail was removed. It has now been restored to its former glory, as a private project, by Mr Patrick Johnson and his family.

The Windmill is a small hexagonal smock Mill with a tarred-brick ground floor and 2 storey smock with vertical over horizontal boarding.

The cap has four Sails and a small Fantail. It has one pair of stones which are mainly timber driven. It was converted from a drainage-mill, and as such, one of the few full-size drainage mills left anywhere in the Fens.

Soham once had many more Windmills, most of which were relied on to lift water and maintain levels before the advent of the steam pumping engines in the late 19th century. Some of these windmills had been in existence since the early 18th century. They must have presented an inspiring view on the approach to Soham. The corn mills outlived their counterparts. Unfortunately, all but the remaining two had been demolished before the 1960's.

Hardfield Windmill, Soham 1934 (Now Demolished)
Hardfield Windmill, Soham 1934 (Now Demolished)
Long's Windmill, Soham 1934 (Now Demolished) 
Longs Windmill, Soham 1934 (Now Demolished)
 Mann's Windmill, Soham 1933 (Now Demolished)
Mann's Windmill, Soham 1933 (Now Demolished)
Shrubland House, Soham 1934 (Now Demolished)
Shrubland House, Soham 1934 (Now Demolished)

Thomas Hunt built a drainage mill on Soham Mere in the late 1860's to replace an earlier one, dating from about 1820, which was burnt down in a fire. Often, these fires were caused by friction at the neck bearing. In 1948 the mill stood derelict and, although enthusiasts tried to save it, it was declared too dangerous. Demolition men attempted to pull it over with a tractor, but failed. Gunpowder was then used, but failed. Finally, the Mere drainage mill, deemed so dangerous that it was likely to collapse, had to be blown up with eight charges of gelignite.

Black & White Photographs of Soham Windmills Courtesy of Kent University


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