Bourn Mill

25th Apr 2016Bourn MillHistoric buildingsHistory

1966, Bourn mill

In 1932 this remarkable building, one of the oldest surviving mills in the country, was given to CambridgePPF, then Cambridge Preservation Society. The Mill has undergone many repairs and rebuilds during it’s working life and is now a scheduled ancient monument.


It has inspired people over the years, even the work of our most eminent contemporary architect, Lord Foster, OM. who prepared some drawings of the elevations of the building whilst a student at Manchester University. Lord Foster lists Bourn Mill as one of his top nine buildings on the website He designed the Cambridge University Faculty of Law building, the terminal building at Stansted Airport and the American Air Museum at the Imperial War Museum at Duxford. One of his most famous building designs is The Gherkin in London (or 30 St Mary Axe).

Drawing of Longitudinal section of Bourn Mill by Lord Norman Foster while at Manchester University

The earliest record we have of the mill is from 1636, but it may be much earlier as this type of windmill has hardly changed since the 13th century. Over the centuries, the mill has looked out over a changing landscape. The first grain to be brought here would have been grown in medieval open fields, arriving by packhorse and cart along a track. In 1806 the open fields were enclosed, and a new landscape of small hedged fields was created. Changes continue today, with the community of Cambourne taking its place within the historic landscape surrounding Bourn Mill.

The mill at Bourn has changed hands many times over the last four centuries. The first recorded owner was John Cook, who sold the mill in 1636 to Thomas Cook of Longstowe. By 1701 the mill was owned by John Bishop, a baker, grinding grain for his own bakery. In 1741 his grandson, Richard Bishop, was killed when part of the mill blew down as he struggled to turn the sails out of high winds. Despite this tragedy the mill stayed linked to the Bishop family until 1875. The initials of some of the Bishop family are carved into the side timber of the mill. The last miller at Bourn Mill was George Papworth, whose father was the landlord at ‘The Fox’ in Bourn. In 1926 the introduction of the paraffin engine made the mill redundant, and it was sold for £45.

The charity Cambridge Past, Present & Future now cares for and protects the mill with the help of a team of volunteers. The Mill is open some Sundays over the summer months. This year open days are: 15 May, which is National Mills Weekend, 26 June, 24 July, 14 August and 11 September, 2.00pm to 4.00pm. Entry is free to CambridgePPF members, or £3 per adult and £1 per child for non-members. All donations are very welcome to help support the upkeep of the mill. This year there will be teas available at every open day.

More details can be found on the Bourn Mill page. Details of Hinxton watermill, which CambridgePPF also protect and care for can also be found on the webpage.

Volunteers are needed to enable Bourn Mill open days to continue and to help care for this historic building. If you have an interest or experience in heritage buildings and would like to help with regular maintenance of the mill or would like to become a volunteer guide or help with teas on open days, we would love to hear from you. Please contact Kate Armstrong: or 01954 719745.


Cambridge Past, Present & Future are pleased to be working with Cambridge web designers ibe, who kindly donated the design of this site.

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