It’s Whitby’s history that makes it such an interesting place, and it may come as a surprise to some, that Whitby has had a number of windmills. When you consider Whitby’s location adjacent the windy north sea coast, it’s an obvious location to harness the natural resource of wind.
The earliest documented record of windmills in England are within a survey by the Knights Templar’s dated 1185. The earliest surviving windmills today date from the 17th C, mainly due to the fact that windmills were designed to be removable and were often damaged by wind. The majority of traditional windmills have 5 sails, some 6 and some have more. There are 2 principle types of windmills, Post Mill and Tower Mill. The post mill rotates on a central post and allows the entire mill to turn on the spot (to face the wind). The Tower mill has only the top section rotating, a turret, the rest of building is stationary.
There have been a few windmills at Whitby although none survive today. The earliest record in Whitby is that connected with the Abbey dated 1316. The name given to this land was windmill flatt. Records also show two windmills around 1666 and 1674. Around 1778 a windmill (or two) was located at Stakesby. The windmill at Stakesby has had a few different owners and hence a few different names, Andersons Mill, Arundel Mill and Fletchers Mill. This same mill is noted in the Whitby Gazette on the 27th March 1869 and is offered for rent. There was also a windmill at Newholme, west of Whitby.
Stainsacre mill near whitby was a wind corn mill – a 5-storey, stone-built, tower mill with four sails and a fantail. It was situated on the hill to the south of the inn [“Windmill Inn”]. It was built in 1816 by William Henderson, who became the first miller there. Trade directories for Whitby in 1834 and 1858 incorrectly listed William Henderson as a miller at Hawsker. William Henderson sold the mill to William Appleton, who also ran Newholme mill. William died at Stainsacre in 1869. The mill was demolished in c1920.
Bagdale Mill, also known throughout it’s existence as Burnett’s Mill, Noble’s Mill and Wren’s Mill was demolished in 1862.
The most well documented mill is Union Mill. Union Mill was on upgang road, a site now occupied by the controversial apartment development by the same name (Union Mill Apartments) the site was previously occupied by Harrisons Showroom Garage. The idea to build a mill came about in March 1800 when a group of concerned local businessmen held a meeting at The White Horse and Griffin Inn. In the late 18th C the yields for grain crops varied considerably. In the last decade there were a series of poor harvests and as bread was a staple food, the poor were the first to suffer. The group formed Union Mill Society, which later became incorporated into Whitby Union Mill Industrial and Provident Society Ltd, the papers and minutes of meetings are currently held by Whitby Literary and Philosophical Society. The mill provided reduced cost grain for local poor people and at cost for members/shareholder of the union. Each member had their own ticket which was punched on each batch of grain received. The foundation stone for union mill was laid by T. Fishburn and T. Broderick in June 1800. The mill suffered storm damage in Oct 1880 and again on July 1888, it was demolished or taken down to ground floor level in 1923. There are a number of pictures taken by Frank Sutcliffe of Union Mill showing it’s location on the west cliff. When the mill was built there was very few other buildings on the west cliff, and the mill was a prominent land mark in it’s day, long before the B&B’s were built. The union society lasted until 11 july 1888, when it was wound up and the mill finally ceased operation. For the last ten years of it’s life, the old mill was used by the TA for stables and armoury.