Bidston Windmill

Focus Point 5 on the Heritage Trail

Bidston Windmill on May Day, 2013

Bidston Windmill on May Day, 2013

The windmill on Bidston Hill is mentioned in an early manuscript dated 1609 and may have been there as early as 1596. It is next mentioned in the Kingston map of 1665.

The mill of 1665 was a “peg mill”.  It was destroyed in 1791 during a gale. In the high winds, the sails revolved so fast that the friction caused the machinery to ignite!

In 1800, a new “tower mill” was built from brick to replace the peg mill.  The tower mill ground corn to flour for 75 years. Situated on top of Bidston Hill, it was ideally placed to catch the wind, but getting to and from the mill caused no end of problems for cart drivers. The windmill could produce 122 lb (about 51 kg ) of flour every 3 to 5 minutes (depending on the wind speed).

In this style of mill the top or ‘cap’ can be rotated through 360°, so that sails can follow the direction of the wind. On the back of the mill you can see the large wooden chain-wheel, which was used to turn the roof slowly around using a rack and gear system.

The last miller to work the mill was Mr Youds. Although safety concerns were not as important in the 1800s as they are today, the windmill did have one important safety feature: an extra door! One of the doors would always be clear of the rapidly turning sails, which could reach speeds of 60 miles an hour on a windy day. Unfortunately one of  Youds’ predecessors forgot which door to use, and went out through the wrong one. He was struck by one of the four heavy sails and was killed.

During the 1890s, Bidston Hill was purchased by the Bidston Hill Committee from Lord Vyner for public use and in 1894 the windmill was restored by a Mr R. S. Hudson. The Metropolitan Borough of Wirral carried out more remedial work over the years until 2004, when the windmill was closed for renovations. The roof was repaired in February 2006. The windmill is now an educational resource.

See our events page for the latest information about windmill openings and other events on Bidston Hill.

Bidston Windmill by Joseph Owen, oil on canvas. From the collection of Dick Bradshaw.

Bidston Windmill by Joseph Owen, oil on canvas. From the collection of Dick Bradshaw.

Next: Flagpoles and Semaphore Station Previous: Vyner Road Up: Heritage Trail

23 Responses to Bidston Windmill

  1. I have an old-ish oil painting by artist Joseph Owen which I believe to be Bidstone, would you like a picture of it for your site?

  2. admin says:

    The Windmill will also open from 2pm to 4pm on Saturday 9th May 2015 for the National Mills Weekend. See our events page for more details.

  3. Karla says:

    I am intrigued by Bidston hill after recently enjoying a walk there, being new to the area. I would like to know, is this land council owned? The plaque on the side of the windmill indicated to me that the land was owned by the community?

    • admin says:

      The funds for the purchase of Bidston Hill were raised by public conscription and matched by the Birkenhead Corporation. Today, the land is owned by Wirral Borough Council, the successors of the Birkenhead Corporation, and maintained by the council for the benefit of the public.

      These are the words on the tablet on the side of the windmill.

      The land, including the woods
      surrounding this windmill, containing
      (with the adjacent piece of land known
      as Thermopylae) about 90 acres was
      purchased from R. C. de Grey Vyner
      during the years 1894 to 1908
      at a cost of £30,310. Of this sum
      the Corporation of Birkenhead
      contributed £14,625 and £15,685 was
      raised by public subscription.
      A portion of the land, viz:- the eastern
      wood, containing 22 acres, was
      purchased as a memorial to the late
      Edmund Taylor, of Oxton, in recognition
      of his great services in connection
      with the acquisition of Bidston Hill
      for the benefit of the public.
      The land belongs to and is maintained
      at the expense of the Corporation of
      Birkenhead, but according to the deeds
      of conveyance it must always be used
      as an open space and place of public
      recreation, and must be preserved and
      maintained as far as possible in
      its present wild and natural condition,
      special care being given to the
      preservation of the trees, gorse, heath
      and heather and also of this windmill.
      Bye-laws have been made
      and a keeper and assistant appointed
      to see that they are observed.
      The public, for whose enjoyment alone
      the land was secured, are invited to aid
      in preserving it from fire and damage.
      A.D. MCMIX.

  4. jim says:

    may I please ask who now owns the mill, and who (or, if an organisation, which body) has final responsibility for any permission for ‘out of hours’ access to the property ?

  5. JACKIE WHITE says:

    Reading this and looking at pictures of Bidston Windmill bring back fond menories for me. I lived in Worcester Road from 1944 when I was borne with my grandmother. When my parents moved away a couple of years later to Rock Ferry in 1946, I went to stay with my Grandmother for the duration of the summer. They were the days when a 5 year old could go out for the day to the Windmill with some “Jam Butties” and a bottle (glass I might add) of Pop – which was sherbert in water. We would be out all day, and one of our hobbies was to collect silver paper from inside cigarette packets to give to the blind charity. We actually rolled it into a ball and eventually it was the size of a football and too heavy for us kids to lift it. My Uncle Harry (Gould who used to play footbhall for Tranmere Rovers) had to take it to the Blind Charity for us. We lived near Mr. Shakeshaft who was blind and I believe Lord Mayor of Birkenhead at one time. I left the Wirral in 1974 I now live in Peterborough, but you know I still love to come back and walk up to the conservatory, through the trees at the back and retrace those old steps to the Windmill. All of that land and also across Vyner Road which we called the Pine Woods, and then at the back of Brow Road was the Rhodendum gardens. Such an amazing childhood. How fortunate I was to have experienced it all, and still am fortunate today. Thank you for taking the time to read my wonderful memories. Jackie White Formerly Harris.

  6. Celia Gibson says:

    I have a very nice picture of Bidston Mill which was given by the artist (unknown) to my Grandfather in lieu of a debt probably sometime between 1900 and 1920(though possibly earlier) showing the lane below and steps up to the Mill, which at that time had only two sails.My Grandfather died in 1946 aged 86

  7. Sarah Finn says:

    What is the height restriction for entering the mill?

    • admin says:

      There is a minimum height restriction for access to the higher floors (1.06m). Children under 11 years old must be accompanied by an adult at all times.

      The webpage has been updated to include this information. Thanks for asking!

  8. Stevie Bond says:

    I love Biston, so much local history. The farm, the fault line, the carvings etc. I played there as a kid, mum and her 7 other brothers and sisters also asa child of course. Her family name was Bond back then and i believe it was observatory road they lived on. I was told a member of the family used to repair the vanes it was apparently a great grandad, well, great or great-great i am unsure of.

    Many a times i went to bidston with school and proudly reeled off local history, like a lil’ smartass. I heard that the hill is in need of some management care of late. Bidston hill/village is such an amazing place when you learn of its history. Great site xx

  9. karen mountford says:

    I to love Bidston Hill. My childhood revolved around the Hill as my Nanna and Grandy ran the shop and cafe Braehead Cottage. Alf and Elsie Sadler ran the cafe like a military operation. Grandy Alf could be a ferocious character, he was my Mum Jean Rigby and her brothers Harold and Rays step father and life at times was very hard. Saying that Grandy was kind to me. As we got older myself and my brothers Ian Trevor and Robert were allowed to serve in the shop. To me every day there seemed sunny. People were so kind in those days, the freedom that we had in comparison to children nowadays was unbelievable. everybody looked out for each other, we often joined in other peoples picnics. The only problems related to the Hill were the walk from Hoylake Road bus stop my little legs always got tired. The other one was the outside ‘lav’ it was up the side of the house. It seemed miles away from the house. I would have to be desperate to go. Leaves blew around your feet as the gap under the door was nearly as big as me. The loo paper…ripped up newspaper hung on a huge nail. I suppose it was quite educational I always read the small amount of news that I could, due to the size that it had ended up as. We had fun, we were happy, we went home to Pensby, dirty and tired. Oooh wonderful days and lovely memories, especially of my Mum. A true lady and a kind soul with lovely hair and a beautiful smile. Thanks for the memories.

  10. Gillian A Glover says:

    I am trying to find a painting of Bidston Windmill to buy for my brother . We grew up in Noctorum and had many wonderful walks with my dad up to the Windmill. My brother now lives in Australia and I would love to be able to send him a painting for his forthcoming 60th Birthday. Can anyone help? thank you

    • Ann Yates says:

      Hello,I’ve just read your request for a painting of Bidston Windmill. My Mother and Father have a oil painting of the Mill which they bought in 1971. It’s a nice painting, but regretfully a little cracked in places. ( probably due to the central heating). Would you be interested?

      • Geoff Stephens says:

        My father, Roy Stephens, was a local artist and often used Bidston Windmill as his subject. I would be interested to know the whereabouts of any such pictures.

  11. Joe says:

    Does it cost anything for the open days of the windmill?

    • admin says:

      There is no charge for admission to the windmill on open days. Donations are always welcome, and go towards supporting the work of the Friends of Bidston Hill.

  12. Graeme perks says:

    Lancaster Gazette – Saturday 08 December 1821

    The windmill, on Bidston Hill, at the southward of the signal poles, was discovered to be on fire, about one o’clock, supposed to be caused by the friction from the velocity with which the sails were carried round by the gale, and the whole Of the inside of the building was destroyed before the flumes were extinguished.

    Is this of interest ?

  13. Lorraine Smith-Lowther says:

    Hello, I was born in Gautby Road November 1947. Many wonderful happy days spent on Bidston Hill. I’ve lived in Kent for a long time now but always get to walk up there when I come ‘home’. Birkenhead will always be my home. Thank you to all the volunteers who work so hard to keep it and Flaybrick looking good.

  14. Alan Robson says:

    Hello, we are on Bidston Hill regularly with our 3 kids. Will the windmill be open next Saturday 1st April 2023, and if so what time? Thanks

    • admin says:

      The windmill cannot be re-opened until some important repairs have been made. These repairs have not yet been scheduled. We will update our events page as soon as we know when the windmill can be re-opened.

  15. Janey Castle says:

    Bidston windmill
    As a child
    I played up there
    When it was cold or mild
    In the woods we’d make a den
    Bits of old wood
    And carpet then
    Leftover stuff
    That we found
    Saved for the bonfire
    When the time came round
    The North End was the best
    We stole the wood
    From vyner Road
    And all the the rest
    The Woodchurch and the
    Had nothing on us
    We ruled it all
    Without a fuss
    The NEBB
    Was always best
    And we ruled
    All the rest
    If you have fear
    Don’t come round here
    We posted guards
    Every year.
    Janey Castle

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