The Ugliest Windmill

There's a remnant of a windmill near Wandsworth Common today, but a couple of hundred years ago there were fully-functioning windmills right across the borough: Clapham Common, Nine Elms, even on a spur in the river.

One 1778 windmill in particular, however, stood out: a "horizontal air-mill" for grinding linseed, with the "appearance of a mammoth packing case surmounted by what might be mistaken for a lighthouse". It was 140 feet tall and very ugly indeed.

Some observers suggested that it didn't just look like a packing case - it really was a packing case. The story went that the Emperor of Russia, when visiting, grew very fond of the nearby Battersea Church, and wanted to take it home with him. He therefore had an enormous packing-case built - but the people of Battersea wouldn't let him take their church, so he abandoned the case sitting where it had been made.

Read more stories about the eighteenth century.

Read more stories about myths.

Read more stories about industry.

Read more stories about Battersea.

Read more stories about religious buildings.

Picture by Camilla Brueton
Story source: St Andrew's Review, July 1919, A.J. Fawley: Some London Windmills.