All of this has happened before…

…and all of it will happen again, possibly. A little clarification on what I was referring to in the previous post, when I wrote “They were there in the past – they could come back again”. Windmills were on the heath from the 1600s:

The book that nobody in Blackheath should be without “Blackheath Village and Environs” by Neil Rhind, Volume 1 page 178 (emphasis is mine):

There were at least two windmills on or close to the Heath in the late 17th century: one close to the fence of Hollyheadge House, on the Heath towards Dartmouth Place, and another on Morden Hill.

Windmills were big business in the 18th century. A mill owner needed to be a rich man because the cost of construction was considerable. But once the investment was made the potential earning power was equally considerable. The owner might live well but the operator would have been a relatively menial character, suffering the dust and dangers that milling created, especially at the peak milling period after harvest. By 1770 Hollyhedge House, in the Dartmouth freehold, had been re-leased to Charles Newton and by then the mill had been pulled down. But there was still enough work for more than one windmill. The river Ravensbourne had sufficient speed of current to drive a number of grinding wheels but the farms of Kidbrooke and Lee, as well as the local demand for cattle and horse feed, would have been more than sufficient to keep a host of millers busy. Further, the Heath was an ideal site for a windmill, with wide sweeps of high open land which would allow the mill sails to catch even a slight breeze.

If it were possible to design a modern wind turbine that had all the rustic charm that we now associate with windmills (even though at the time, they were just another piece of agricultural machinery), perhaps it would be possible to harness the considerable might of the “heritage” mentality into the green cause. Unfortunately, mills require high torque, low power, which means lots of sails, whereas electricity generation requires high power low torque (three fins).

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Filed under blackheath, history

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