Lytham Windmill has been described, erroneously, as the oldest of all the Fylde Windmills, the Daddy of them all.
There have been mills in Lytham dating back to the days of the Benedictine priory, founded in 1190 and dissolved in 1539. There was a mill within the manor in 1387 and records show that the Prior granted a “parcel of waste” land to John de Bradkirk and his wife for 4d per year on condition that all corn produced be ground at Lytham Mill. Ten years later it was leased to William Myner of Warton.
During the 17th Century, according to a rough sketch of Lytham township, a peg and post windmill stood between Lytham Hall and St Cuthbert’s Church. In 1786 two mills are marked in Lytham Hall Park on sites between the church and Fylde Rugby Ground.
In 1805 Richard Cookson sought and obtained a lease from the Squire for a plot of land on which to build a ‘windy milne’. Later, in 1860, when the prestigious houses in the area were being built the residents looked upon the Windmill as an “industrial nuisance”!
On account of its exposed situation the mill was solidly constructed, with a cellar and four storeys, millstones 5ft in diameter and walls 5ft thick at the base. Originally the sails were of canvas stretched over crude lattice frames and the constant battering by gales would necessitate frequent renewal.
A steel engraving, after W. H. Bartlett, gives an impression of Lytham mill in the mid-19th century, The sails were turned to the wind by means of a wheel worked by a rope from the ground. In later years canvas sails went out of fashion and huge wooden blades, slatted like blinds, took their place. The cap, by this time, was automatically adjusted to the wind by a small fantail spinner.
In 1909 a Manchester school-boy, over for the day, grabbed hold of a sail when it almost swept the ground and was hoisted high into the air. ” Hold on!”, called his teachers, but he lost his nerve and fell to his death.
For 113 years Lytham mill was as functional as it was decorative. The wooden machinery which turned the grindstones was rarely inactive. But then on the 2nd January 1919, a gale turned the sails despite the powerful brake, sparks ignited the woodwork and the windmill was ravaged by fire, the interior was entirely gutted. It remained derelict until 1921, when it was given by the Squire to the Lytham Urban District Council.
In 1989, the Windmill was restored by Fylde Borough Council, fitted with purely ornamental sails and opened to the public. Lytham Windmill is now run in partnership with Fylde Borough Council and Lytham Heritage Group, they have an excellent website at lythamwindmill.co.uk
Living almost opposite the Windmill on East Beach I know how windy it can be. In the 2011 storms two sails came off and were replaced. In October 2021 a sail came off and was found to be rotten inside, a second and third sail came off and the fourth was removed for safety. Normally Gilletts, a local firm, would replace in wood but carbon composite, which look like wood, is now being considered.
April 28th 2022 the sails have been replaced and they look good!
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Thanks to David Hoyle from the Lytham Heritage Group for his help in compiling this article.