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Newsletter 139 Winter 2022  © Hampshire Mills Group


Barrow Mills


Sussex Bronze Age barrows used as windmill steads

Alex Vincent


A number of Bronze Age barrows were later reused as mill mounds or windmill steads mainly in the medieval period.  The roundness of barrows was adequate for a windmill to be placed upon them.  There are a number of examples throughout Britain, but the Bronze Age barrows at Mill Barrows at Beauworth in Hampshire (OS grid reference SU 572 243) may not have been associated with a windmill.  The name could have derived either from the Anglo-Saxon ‘mylen beorh’ (mill barrow) or an Anglo-Saxon name Maegla.  It seems that only the bowl barrows (the most numerous of their types) were used as windmill-steads.  These windmills would have been open trestle and sunken post mills.     

In the 18th and 19th centuries, during excavations of some barrows, stone foundations, and timber structure remains of post mills were found.  These were not identified as mill remains until the early 20th century.  Charles Monkman was one of the first to discuss some of these cruciform structures found in East Yorkshire.  L V Grinsell studied about 10,000 barrows during the 20th century and has stated which ones were later reused as windmill steads and some possible cases of re-use.          

Some examples of mill barrows in Sussex are at Houghton, Bury Hill, Parham, Glynde (2), Firle (3), Beddingham (2), Summer Down in Newtimber, Piddinghoe, Stoke Down at West Stoke, Plumpton, and on Rookery Hill at Bishopstone.  There is little information about most of these windmills as most of them went out of use centuries ago, but some of the later 18th and 19th century mills may have been built on the same site.  Below are a few of the barrows which later became windmill steads. 


Beddingham Hill  (OS grid reference TQ 453 060)

Two of the Bronze Age barrows on Beddingham Hill later became windmill steads.  A windmill was marked on the Spanish Armada map of 1587 as ‘Beringham mille’.  The mill was situated on the hill just north of the South Downs Way.  There are no records of the mill after 1813 and it probably fell out of use by then.  A mound where it once stood marks the site today.  This is marked on the modern OS Explorer maps as ‘Mill Mound’.  This may have been one of the windmills, which used a Bronze Age barrow for its base.


Bishopstone  (OS grid reference TQ 467 008)

A group of five bowl barrows exist on Rookery Hill, which date from about 1600 BC.  They form a south-east to north-west alignment.  The south-eastern barrow is the largest of them, measuring 18 metres in diameter and one metre in height.  A ditch surrounds it.  The second barrow going northwards was used as a windmill stead in the Middle Ages.  There is a wide hollow where the windmill once stood.  The medieval windmill at Bishopstone is one of the earliest recorded in Sussex.


Bury Hill  (OS grid reference TQ 002 122)

A Bronze Age barrow on Bury Hill later became a windmill stead, but this has since been completely ploughed out.  It is situated on the hill west of the A29 and north of the South Downs Way.  Medieval pottery was found on the site, which may be associated with the windmill.  There is a very slight dip on the site today.  A watermill and windmill are entered under Bury in Schedule 2 of the 1801 Defence Schedules.


Firle  (OS grid reference TQ 486 059

There were three Bronze Age barrows on the South Downs at Firle, which later became windmill steads.  The largest of these barrows where one of the windmills stood is situated on the summit of the hill at Firle Beacon.  The windmill is marked on maps from pre-1587 to 1783.  It is marked on Richard Budgeon’s map of 1724 as ‘Firle Windmill’.  This was also the site of a beacon for the Spanish Armada in 1588.  The barrow on the South Downs west of Firle Beacon may have been the site of one of the other windmills.  This barrow has a hollow at its centre.


Houghton, The Mill Ball  (OS grid reference TQ 002 114)

The Mill Ball at Houghton near Arundel in West Sussex was once a Bronze Age bowl barrow, which dates from the Middle to Late Bronze Age period.  It is situated on the crest of the South Downs just south of Bury Hill, east of a footpath and west of the A29 main road.  The site is represented by a slight mound and is a scheduled ancient monument.  This bowl barrow was later reused as a mound for a windmill.  Bronze Age, Roman and medieval pottery was found on the site.  The latter may have been associated with the windmill.  The site today is marked on some maps as ‘The Mill Ball’.



Stoke Down


Stoke Down, West Stoke  (OS grid reference SU 831 096)

The bowl barrow on Stoke Down is situated on the hill to the west of the Neolithic flint mines.  It is 18 metres in diameter and 0.8 metres in height.  It has a large hollow at its centre and traces of a surrounding ditch were visible in the 1930s.  This barrow was later used as a windmill stead in the Middle Ages.  It has been reported that the windmill was a three legged one.


Glynde  (OS grid reference TQ 447 097)

On Glynde Hill north of Mount Caburn are the sites of five barrows.  These have been ploughed out, but one is much disturbed with a hollow.  The latter barrow later became a windmill stead in medieval times.  A windmill was mentioned at Glynde in the Archbishop of Canterbury’s custumals of the Manor of South Malling 1285 to Roger atte Wyke Miller.  During investigations of these barrows in the 1980s, pottery dating from the 13th to 15th centuries and French burr millstone fragments have been found.  This revealed the site of the windmill referred to in a lease of 1576.


Summer Down, Newtimber  (OS grid reference TQ 269 110)

There are three Bronze Age barrows on Summer Down running in a north-east to south-west alignment.  The north-eastern and central barrows show a cruciform cross in their centres where windmills once stood.  The Knights Templar built a windmill at nearby Saddlescombe in the early 14th century.  The location of this mill is not known and it could well have been one of the barrow mills, possibly the central one.


Possible sites

There could be other windmills in Sussex, which may have used Bronze Age barrows for their bases.  Medieval windmills, which were erected on top of hills, may well have been built on barrows.  One such case could be Highdown north-west of Worthing where the 16th century windmill mound looks as if it may have once been a barrow.  The medieval windmills on Highdown may have also stood on the site.

It is possible that the medieval windmill at Chalton in Hampshire, which was recorded from 1289, may have been built on a barrow.  It was a sunken post mill and marked on 17th century maps.  The existing tower mill built in the early 19th century now occupies the site.  This is now a homely dwelling.  Other medieval Hampshire windmills may also have used ancient barrows for their bases.  



Allcroft A H,  Earthwork of England.  Macmillan and Co Ltd, 1908.

Grinsell L V,  Sussex Barrows.  Sussex Archaeological Collections (SAC) Vol 75 pp 216-217, 1934.

Grinsell L V,  The Ancient Burial Mounds of England.  Methuen and Co Ltd,1936.

Watts M,  The Archaeology of Mills and Milling.  Tempus Publishing, 2002.


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