Standing on the eastern banks of the river Sow, this 200 year old Broad Eye windmill is one of Stafford's more distinctive buildings. Built in 1796 using stone reclaimed from the early Shire Hall, this romantic windmill has seen many changes in it's history.
Operating as a mill for exactly 100 years, it's sails were removed in 1897. Over the next 100 or so years, numerous businesses operated from the Broad Eye Windmill, including a butcher, greengrocer, aerated mineral water producer, cobbler and more! (Read a fascinating detailed history here)
The patron of the Broad Eye Windmill is actor, TV presenter and historian Tony Robinson
Despite the town having three water mills, not enough flour could be produced to feed the poor of Stafford, as large amounts were being shipped to Birmingham via the Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal. Furthermore, high prices were being charged by the water mills, as a result of the corn laws which allowed farmers and millers to charge high prices for grain and flour. This meant local people went hungry, and, to get around this problem, work started on the Broad Eye Windmill in 1796, which was completed in the early 1800s. Allotment land was made available at Broad Eye for the project, which is one of the lowest lying areas of Stafford Borough, sited next to the River Sow.
At a height of sixty three feet, the windmill was the highest in the Midlands and originally had a conical cap and seven floors, of which only the upper four floors were used for flour production.
In 1835, to keep up with demand, a steam engine was placed in the lower floors to keep up production when the wind wasn't blowing. However, this only partly rectified the situation, as when the mainline railway arrived in 1837, flour production could not keep up with local demand - Stafford was growing so quickly, and with new rail links, it was possible to bring in cheap flour, which meant the mill could not compete. Furthermore, due to the demand for finer, white flour which could not be produced at the Broad Eye Windmill, by 1896, the mill reached the end of its life in its intended form, and in the following year, in 1897, the sails and winding gear were removed.
In 1919, the lower part of the windmill was converted into a shop, and, from the early 1920s until 1931, was trading as a butcher’s shop. Photographs of the windmill's time as a shop still remain. American troops used the mill as a wartime store place but it later fell derelict, before being declared a Grade II listed building in 1951
In 1966, the 'Friends of Broad Eye Windmill' was created to look after the mill with the idea of returning it to its former glory, whilst establishing a heritage and education centre within. The long term aim is to renew damaged oak support beams, joists and floorboards so the next storey can be used as a museum and heritage centre. Inside the windmill lie artifacts and photographs relating to the Windmill and Stafford's industrial past. Currently, only the ground floor and basement are accessible.
The Friends of Broad Eye Windmill hold occasional open days throughout the summer, giving people an idea of the Mill's interior, and raising awareness of the renovation project. Donations towards the Windmill are always welcomed - going towards the renovation and preservation of the Broad Eye Windmill.
In 2016, Windmill Broadcasting, a local community radio station, started broadcasting from the Broad Eye Windmill. As well as being based in the Mill, the station works with the windmill members to assist fundraising and renovation, and to help promote the windmill.
History source: Wikipedia
Read a more detailed history of the windmill here