Put the wind in your sails this weekend, as there's a chance to visit mills all around London — some of which are usually closed to visitors.
From the impressive four-storey Upminster Windmill, to the watermills in the east end and on the Wandle, National Mills Weekend on 8-9 May throws open doors to the public. Here's our guide to what's open in London this weekend:
The last surviving windmill in inner London, this five-storey mill was built in 1816, and is one of our favourite alternative family days out. Although tucked away, it's easy to get to from the station. For more information see the website. Usually open to the public a few times per month, this weekend it's open Saturday and Sunday, 1pm-5pm.
A little tricky to get to without a car, this rarely-open-to-the-public three century old landmark near Bromley is a Grade I listed post mill, and features machinery that's largely intact. It's only open by appointment, so if you're planning to make the trip, be sure to contact the owners first.
Built in 1860, Shirley Windmill was recently restored and is well worth heading the couple of miles out of Croydon town centre for. There are plenty of buses which stop nearby, which you can get on from East Croydon station. The 17m high building used to grind flour using machinery connected to its four sails and was a highlight of our recent weekend walk. It's open Sunday only noon-5pm.
A short walk from Upminster town centre, this is one of London's most impressive windmills. Constructed in 1803 it continued to grind out flour, bran and other products well into the 20th century. It’s now one of the few surviving smock mills with working sails, and is Grade II* listed. Open Saturday and Sunday 2pm-5pm. It's also open regularly throughout the year.
Wimbledon Windmill gives visitors a good insight into the history of milling, with a museum including artefacts and information on the construction of the buildings, as well as displays on local history. Once you've toured it, there's nearby Wimbledon Common to explore. Open Saturday 2pm-5pm, Sunday 11am-5pm, and at other times from Easter to October. See the website for more details.
The largest existing tidal mill in the world, this is a striking and photogenic example of former east end industry, which had four watermills. It ceased active duty in 1940 and was restored in the 80s. Normally only open infrequently and for guided tours only, this weekend you can look round on Saturday and Sunday 11am-4pm.
Watermill at the London Museum of Water & Steam
As anyone who's visited the museum will tell you, this 6m diameter wheel makes for an impressive sight. Built in 1902, it was used to pump water for the Duke of Somerset's estate from the river Frome in Somerset. Now, it's on display as a demonstration. The museum is open daily 11am-4pm.
Merton Abbey Mills
There used to be 100 mills on the river Wandle but today only four survive: Morden's Ravensbury Mill, Grove Mill Carshalton, The Snuff Mill and this fine example at Merton Abbey Mills is the only one which is in working order. Today a lively arts and craft village with shops and market stalls. And a fairly decent pub, named after William Morris. Open daily, but this weekend 10am-5pm.