Flour power sailing on in the spring sunshine

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Pictured here against a canvas of blue sky, Skidby Mill stands proudly defiant – a relic from a bygone age that has long since slipped from the memory.

For centuries windmills like this were the fulcrum of farming life in this country and responsible for providing flour 
to cities and villages alike. That was before they were overtaken by the relentless march of industry.

This Grade II* listed building, set in an acre of land looking out across the Wolds, is now the last working windmill in Yorkshire.

Located a few miles south of Beverley, in East Yorkshire, the mill is unusual in that it still has all its original outbuildings around the courtyard, some of which have been converted to form the Museum of East Riding Rural Life.

Skidby Mill has an interesting history. Built in 1821 by millwrights Norman and Smithson, from Hull, to replace an earlier post mill, it was owned by the Thompson family, who also owned a steam roller mill in Hull and a water mill at Welton.

Hundreds of mills went out of business at the end of the 19th century during the Great Agricultural Depression, but the one at Skidby survived. Benjamin Thompson liked to see himself as ‘The Miller of Skidby’ and he had the mill converted to produce animal foods by raising the mill tower, building additional outbuildings and installing new machines.

During the 1950s the sails were disconnected and electric machinery installed. In 1962 the Thompsons finally had to sell their business, although the mill itself was sold to Beverley Rural District Council for use as a museum.

A decade later it was restored to full working order using wind power that saw its giant sails whirl back into life.

Over the years the mill has undergone numerous conservation projects the latest of which was completed in 2010. Today, Skidby Mill continues to intrigue and delight in equal measure – testament not only to its own remarkable story, but that of all these extraordinary buildings that once graced our countryside.

Technical details: NikonD3s camera with a 24-70mm lens at 38mm with an ISO opf 200 and exposure of 1/6oth sec at f16.

Courtney Marie Andrews

Music interview: Courtney Marie Andrews