The Kibworth Harcourt Windmill, situated on the Langton Road, is an early 18th century postmill. It is a Grade 2* listed building and is also a Scheduled Ancient Monument. The mill is the last survivor of 211 postmills that were once used in Leicestershire.
The main feature of a post mill is that the whole body of the mill which houses the machinery is mounted on a single vertical post, around which it can be turned to bring the sails into the wind.
The post (trestle) that the mill turns on
The central trestle is from an earlier mill on another site and is dated from the 14th century.
View of first floor showing the tressle
There are a number of carvings inside the mill, the earliest is on the tressle.
Carvings on the trestle, "DANIEL HUTCHINSON MILLER 1711”
Another carving, 'T SMITH MILLER OCTOR 1837”
The mill had two cloth (common) sails) and two spring sails (a spring sail has a number of shutters controlled by a bar and a spring which adjusts to the force of the wind). The miller turned the mill into the wind by hand using the rotation beam.
Rotation beam used by the miller to turn the mill
The mill has two pairs of millstones, one of French Burr, the other of Derbyshire Peak Stone. One was used for animal feed and the other for flour. The top stone of the pair is called the runner stone, the lower stone is called the bed stone.
Flour Stones, the finer stones are for flour grinding
The stones are turned by a large wheel which runs the stone nut (a small gear). Once through the grinding process the ground grain passes through a flour dresser which separated the flour from the other pieces of the grain. A 19th century addition to the mill was iron governors which regulate the coarseness of the flour.
It was a working mill until 1912 but from then its condition began to decline. By the 1930s the mill was in very poor condition and the owners, Merton College, had the mill inspected by the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings (SPAB). The inspection concluded that repairs would cost £100.00.
In 1936 Merton College transferred ownership of the mill to the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings (SPAB) who carried remedial work on the mill in 1936 and again in 1970.
On 8th August 2017 during an inspection of the mill one of the sails collapsed and fell to the ground. This caused the opposite sail to swing violently and it was badly damaged when it hit the ground.
For safety reasons the remaining sails were removed.
Postmill with sails removed
The Mills Section of the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings (SPAB) has decided that a major overhaul of the mill is required and when completed will return the mill to a working condition. The overhaul will involve repair of the trestle and work to the roundhouse. Four new sails will be made, two common and two spring and a new tailpole and ladder. It is anticipated that the work will commence 2020.
Who Were The Beaker People?
The Bell-Beaker culture, sometimes shortened to Beaker culture, Beaker people, or Beaker folk, c. 2900 – 1800 BC is the term for a widely scattered archaeological culture' of prehistoric western Europe starting in the late Neolithic or Chalcolithic and running into the early Bronze Age. They were called Beaker because of the shape of their pottery vessels.
The Beaker People were farmers and archers were also the first metalsmiths in Britain, working first in copper and gold, and later in bronze, given its name to the Bronze Age.
The Burial Ground.
A burial ground of Beaker People was found in 1975 situated to the south west of Smeeton Westerby on Smeeton Hill The hill is 500 feet high and on the west side of the hill lies the Beaker Burial Ground. No trace of a burial mound is visible on the ground but the situation would be ideal for one.
The site was discovered during drainage excavations work when at one point the contractor had to excavate a hole by hand to replace a broken section of pipe. It was during this work that the burial site was discovered and human bones and pottery were unearthed. The drainage work carried on and the burial site continued to be disturbed and some artefacts were removed although the majority were subsequently recovered.
Leicestershire Museums were notified and on 3rd September 1975 a team from the museum attended the site. They enlarged the hole and discovered a crouched burial. A crouched burial was a new form of burial rite, called the Beaker burial which began to appear around 4700 years ago, the burial is crouched inhumation where the body is interred, usually on its side with the hip and knee joints bent through an angle of more than 90 degrees, accompanied by a particular pottery known as a beaker. The burial was removed to Leicester Museum;
Beaker Close in Smeeton Westerby is a reminder of this important archaeological find.
Written by David Adams
R A Rutland, ‘A Beaker Burial at Smeeton Westerby, Leicestershire 1875’
This map, from the first decade of the 17 century, illustrated Kibworth Harcourt on the eve of the agricultural revolution, just prior to the enclosure movement that would wipe out the Medieval strip farming.
This map is of particular interest for several reasons. More generally it displays the advancement in cartography.
More specifically to Harcourt, it shows the impact of the enclosure movement and the development of more modern land holdings and agricultural practices.