Ashton windmill is a Tower mill in Chapel Allerton, Somerset. The earliest known reference to a windmill at Chapel Allerton is in 1317. The high ground here, known as the “Isle of Wedmore”, is an ideal place for a windmill as it catches the wind from many different directions.
By 1549 we know that the windmill was in a bad way, for an agreement was made with John Mawdeley, a wealthy clothier of Wells, to rebuild the mill and lease it for 50 years. In 1650 the windmill was still working, and held by Edward Bower of Wells. In 1705, John Paine junior, a notary of Wells, took the manor and the windmill on a lease that lasted until 1765. It was probably the Paine family who made the investment of building the present mill.
The windmill tower you see now was built sometime between 1760 and 1774. It is said to have been built on a former post mill mound, and to have used timbers from an earlier structure. Re-use of timbers was certainly common, and many of the Ashton beams show signs of previous use.
The tower is more than 7.5 metres (25 feet) high and has an external diameter of over 3.5 metres (12 feet). The stone walls are 60 centimetres (2 feet) thick. The sails are 13 metres (44 feet) across, and until 1900 were of plain canvas (what you see now are the bare sail frames to which the canvas was fixed at milling times). For the last 30 years of the Mill’s active life, two sails were replaced with spring sails for smoother operation. The cap was thatched until 1900. The mill was painted white at least in the last quarter of the nineteenth century, and the weathercock was a prominent feature, as in many Somerset tower mills. The last millstones used here were 1.2 metres (4 feet) in diameter, and made of a cement composition, although French Burr millstones were more commonly used. You can see earlier millstones set into the ground on each side of the mill.
The present structure was modernised in 1900 with machinery brought from the demolished Moorlinch mill, and iron hoops around the building being added. It was restored in 1967. The mill has been designated by English Heritage as a grade II* listed building. It is now preserved, having been given to Bristol City Museum in 1966 and is owned by Sedgemoor District Council, and maintained by volunteers.