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Portland's Windmills

Portland, Dorset

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This area covers mainly Perryfields Quarry to the west of Wakeham.

Although most of this area is rather bland - fields and quarries - it contains a couple of Portland's finest gems; its two medieval windmills.

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The stump of a crane used to load stone blocks onto railway trucks at Perryfields Works opposite Pennsylvania Castle. 

This lonely pillar is now hidden behind stone blocks. 

The railway track used to run from the main line at Easton across the road by the present caravan park next to the Castle and then along the seaward- side of the road to Southwell for a short distance as shown on the old map below.

On the map the location of the crane on the railway spur is shown by an embankment at right-angles to the track. 

During very wet weather in 1995 a length of railway track became visible in a deep rut - clearly some of the track still exists buried under stone waste and dust.


Quarry tramways formed a huge, frequently-changing network over Tophill. There is now very little evidence left apart from pathways where the rails were one laid and bridges associated with the Merchants Railway.

However, after severe storms artefacts come briefly to light like this lever used to switch the points of a tramway that ran about 50 metres to the east of the northern windmill. 

Within days of being exposed, heavy lorries filling the adjacent quarry had broken and buried this reminder of an active railway past. 

Portland's windmills - the two great remaining ancient buildings in the Royal Manor. These windmills were first recorded in the Land Revenue Accounts of 1608 but they were probably over a century old by then.

They were owned by the Pearce family from the 1600s to the 1899.

According the historian Richard Crumbleholme relief was given to the millers in the early 1700s for earthquake damage.

By the 1960s no attempt had been made to preserve these shells and the main shaft of one was still in tact. This is now in Portland's museum.

For two old pictures of the windmills please click here and here.


The left-hand pictures above are views out of the top and out of a window of the windmill above. The pictures before show how badly the windmills have become overgrown. Vandals can easily get inside and both shells are badly damaged by fires being lit inside and much evidence of parties being held in them. This wilful neglect of Portland's medieval past is all very sad.


Pictures taken in 2000 when a little effort was being made to protect the windmill shells.

This map of 1710 shows the two windmills as prominent landmarks.

The windmills are seen in Google Earth satellite images by clicking here and here.

In the late 1980s the local quarry company announced plans to demolish the southern windmill to gain access to the stone beneath it.

This caused such an outcry amongst the previously apathetic population that the powers of the local quarry owners were reigned back and more severe planning restrictions were imposed on them.

Instead, the field was quarried right up to the foundation of the medieval windmill as seen in this picture.

A deep quarry existed at the centre of the Google Earth image seen by clicking here but this was in-filled in the late 1980s and it now a rough area of brambles and stone waste. 

A photograph was taken in 1989 by climbing into the deep quarry at dusk and capturing this image with a 200 mm lens.

This quarry was filled in soon afterwards so this picture is now impossible to repeat.

This photo from 1990 shows the quarry being filled in.

The point from which I took the above picture  has already been buried by rubble.

By 2010 this area was a fairly large hill covered in scrub and giving no hint of its origin.

It may now seem incredible that there was ever any intention of demolishing the ancient southern windmill just to get at the stone beneath it but the stone and quarrying industries were given almost unlimited rights just after World War 2 to help rebuild the war damaged buildings.

They were allowed to dig up National Parks, destroy Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) and generally do what they wanted free from almost all planning restrictions imposed on the rest of the population.

These powers were largely removed in the 1990. 

However, in March 2008 a local quarry company stated that it intended to revive planning permission granted in 1951 to open up a large area south of Southwell.

Despite this, severe curbs on future quarrying operations on Portland were announced in September 2007, please click here.


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