The history of Bourn Mill
Bourn Windmill dates from 1636 – at least that is the earliest record which we have. This style of mill however has barely changed from the C13th so it may be much older. The machinery dates from the 19th century and the trestle itself was renewed using oak in 1874.
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, and arrived by packhorse and cart along the track through ‘Mill Field’. In 1806 the open fields were enclosed, and a new landscape of small hedged fields was created. Changes continue today, with the new community of Cambourne taking its place within the historic landscape of Bourn Mill and linked to the mill by footpath.
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. The family owned several mills in the area. In 1741 his grandson, Richard Bishop, was killed when one of the mills blew down as he struggled to turn the sails out of high winds.
In violent storms the miller has to carefully judge the position of the sails to prevent them pulling on the wooden gears and brakes, which might lead to fire through friction. Fire is a big risk in wooden mills. Despite this accident our mill stayed linked to the Bishop family until 1875, and you can see the initials of some Bishop family members carved into the side timber of the interior of the mill.
The last miller
The last miller at Bourn was George Papworth, whose father was the landlord at ‘The Fox’ in Bourn. In 1926 the introduction of a paraffin engine in the barn made the mill redundant, and it was sold for £45, before passing into the care of Cambridge Preservation Society in 1932.
Repairing the mill
Traditionally millers spent the absolute minimum necessary to continue the operation of their mill, often resorting to straps and plates which were more in the nature of bandages than cures for ailments. As a result inside the mill much of the fascinating historic fabric is there for us to see today.
Repairs to the mill are undertaken as necessary. Repairs were carried out to the trestle timbers and the exterior repainted in 2008/09. The stocks and sails were last replaced in 2003 with grant aid from a number of funders. In 2016 we carried out repairs to the wooden pads which sit on the brick plinths and in 2017 the sails were painted.