Grand reopening at Jill Windmill in Clayton as she celebrates 200 years

Jill Windmill celebrates 200 years with her grand reopening this weekend (June 19-20) in Mill Lane, Clayton.

Wednesday, 16th June 2021, 3:17 pm
Updated Thursday, 17th June 2021, 9:04 am

Jill, a post mill owned by Mid Sussex District Council, will finally open her doors to the public once again after having to shut in March 2020 because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“We’ve been open to visitors since the mid 1980s,” said Simon Potter, trustee and founder member of Jack and Jill Windmill Society.

“But this is our first open day in nearly a year and a half now,” he said, adding that before Covid they would open on most Sundays in summer.

Jill Windmill's 200 Years Celebration and reopening event takes place on Saturday and Sunday (June 19-20). Picture: Jack and Jill Windmills Society.
Jill Windmill's 200 Years Celebration and reopening event takes place on Saturday and Sunday (June 19-20). Picture: Jack and Jill Windmills Society.

Click here to see 11 great pictures of the iconic Jill windmill over the years.

Looking back at the mill’s records, Simon and his team realised that Jill was built in 1821 and that the reopening was the ideal way to celebrate her 200th birthday.

Simon said there will be tea and refreshments on sale, with store-bought cakes, as well as a small supply of flour that was ground at the mill a few weeks ago.

“If the wind is blowing then we can have the sweeps turning,” he said, adding that sails on windmills are known as ‘sweeps’ in Sussex.

Jill Windmill's 200 Years Celebration and reopening event takes place on Saturday and Sunday (June 19-20). Picture: Jack and Jill Windmills Society.

Visitors with face-coverings can also go inside the mill for Covid-safe tours to see her inner workings.

The team will not be making flour on the day though, said Simon, because it would not be possible with visitors inside.

“The sails will be free-wheeling so all the equipment will be turning except the millstones,” he said, adding that these will be disengaged.

But Simon said that Jill, like every windmill, is ‘at the mercy of the weather’, especially in summer.

“Through the winter months we have all the wind we want and no visitors,” he said.

“Commercial windmills only work on average one day in four, which is why you only have a windmill if you haven’t got a water supply,” he added.

Simon said all the work and maintenance at Jill has been carried out by unpaid volunteers in the Jack and Jill Windmill Society since 1979.

Their next major project, he said, will involve taking off the sweeps for routine refurbishment next month.

The windmills, he said, get a range of visitors with some people simply wanting to enjoy the ‘spectacular’ views across to Guildford, 36 miles away.

Other visitors are interested in the carpentry or the history of how this industrial building used to work.

There are many types of timber inside as well, said Simon, including, apple wood, holly, hornbeam, beech, elm and pine.

Children, meanwhile, tend to like watching the windmill in action, he said.

Simon added that some people turn up with old photos and some say they have an ancestor who was involved with the mill.

“It’s always amazing the people who turn up with information and the questions they ask are always interesting,” said Simon.

Simon, who is now retired and lives in Hassocks, said he has been helping with the maintenance of the windmill virtually every Saturday since 1979 and helps out with the open days.

He said one of his favourite things about Jill is that she weighs 23 tonnes and rotates.

“I cannot tell you what direction Jill’s sweeps are pointing, because automatically, every time the wind changes, 23 tonnes of that building moves itself to face the wind,” he said.

“It’s like a huge weather vane,” he added, saying that many visitors cannot believe that fact when they hear it.

Jill Windmill is located just off the South Downs Way and people do not need to pre-book.

The car park is free and so is admission to the mill, but face coverings are required.

Donations are welcome and people can help out with gift aid, which results in more money for the windmills, said Simon.

Jill was built 1821 in Brighton and moved to Clayton in 1852, while Jack was built in 1866 next to the remains of Duncton Post Mill, which dates from 1765.

Both Jack and Jill stopped commercial milling in 1906. Jack is a Tower Mill and is privately owned.

Restoration work began on Jill in 1979 and she started to grind flour again in May 1986 for the first time in 80 years.