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Page 9

Newsletter 125 Summer 2019   © Hampshire Mills Group

 

 

The Blue Mill Project

 

Ruth Andrews

Moulton Windmill in Lincolnshire has used Heritage Lottery funding to mount an exhibition about the local woad production industry.  They had recently held a dyeing class for local children, whose creations are illustrated on the left.

 

Woad, a plant that is part of the brassica family, has been grown in Britain as a blue dye for thousands of years.  The dye is extracted from the leaves, which were dried, fermented, and made into pulp by a circular crushing mill.  This was a very smelly process:  in 1601 Queen Elizabeth I issued a law that prohibited the building of woad mills within 5 miles of any royal residence.  The crushed and fermented woad was shaped into balls for storage.

 

The Parsonís Drove Woad Mill was one of the earliest types, a circular roundhouse with walls of mud, and operated like a horse gin.  It was demolished in 1914.  Skirbeck Woad Mill  initially had two large stones powered by a horse, but later used steam machinery.  Barrels of woad were taken to Boston station for distribution.

 

 

 

Algarkirk Woad Mill (also near Boston) worked from 1843 to 1927 and until 1880 used crushing wheels, producing 78-178 tons of woad per year.  Both Skirbeck (which closed in 1932) and Algarkirk supplied woad to the government to dye police and RAF uniforms.

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