A celebration of Brixton’s architecture could not be without a mention of the Brixton Windmill. Standing since 1816, when it was built by John Muggeridge and Sons, the mill was originally wind powered and then converted to steam. New buildings blocked the mill from the strong winds needed to turn the sails, which were removed in 1864 and apparently burned for firewood.
The mill survived until the 1930s, when the demand for locally milled wholemeal flour dropped off, though even in the 20s the Brixton Windmill was considered something of a curiosity. Few knew that it existed, let alone was operational. In 1936, it was decided, on the back of a report from the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings, that the mill could be cleaned up for the princely sum of £25. The Borough of Lambeth was considering the idea, when World War II put a stop to the plans. After the war, the London County Council acquired the mill and surrounding buildings, with the windmill itself receiving Grade II listing in 1951.
What followed was decades of ruin and repairs, with an attack by vandals in 1981 leaving the windmill severely damaged and languishing on the Buildings at Risk Register. However, a local group, the Friends of Brixton Windmill, petitioned for a massive restoration project. In 2007, its restoration began thanks to a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund.
Speaking to the Bugle arts team, Camila Cardenosa, one of the leading lights behind the new community mural in the Windmill Gardens described the windmill as a “magical place” revealing both the agricultural past of the area and continuing to make history as a central gathering point for the community: “I see it as a magnet that has always brought people together for different reasons. Food, culture, fun…”
“Hopefully in the future it will start producing flour again and continue gathering people of all ages around it to celebrate it existence.”