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.

In 2016, the Friends of Bidston Hill open the Windmill to the public on the first Saturday of every month from April to September inclusive. It will also open for National Mills Weekend on Saturday 14th May. Opening hours are 10 am to 12 noon (last entry at 11:45). Height restrictions apply. During the winter months, when hibernating bats are in residence, the windmill is closed.

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

8 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

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