When was the mill built?
The mill was not there on the 1799 Inclosure map but like many buildings was built after Inclosure in 1802 on what was once common land of the Green Field. A modern compilation map (shown to right) of earlier maps dated around 1805 shows a windmill symbol in the correct location but the accuracy of this depends on how the modern map was put together.
The windmill dates from at least 1823 as there are two plaques or braces attached with inscriptions R & W Foster 1823. This may be its true date or it may have been built earlier and the braces used later to hold together parts of the mill. Fosters themselves were millers who set up a bank (later Lloyds) in Cambridge, largely for mill workers, in 1904. They owned several mills, including the large one still remaining by Cambridge Station.
A tower windmill, with cottage, barns, etc
The original deeds describe the site as ‘ ground lying in the Parish of Harston in the said County of Cambridge in the Greenfield containing 2 acres 3 roods and 34 perches bounded on the north by an allotment to Thomas Samuel, on the East by an allotment to James Rayner, on the south by a public road and the west by an allotment to James Hardwick. The buildings being described as ‘all that tower windmill with the stones, gears and fixtures in and about the same. Also the cottage, stable, barn, shed and piggeries (buildings) belonging, standing and being in part or parts of the said allotment‘.
The windmill appears in 3 sale notices in Cambridge newspapers:
Valuable Estate in Harston. Elliot Smith & Sons have received instruction from the executors of the late Mr William Foster to offer for sale by auction at The Bull Inn, Cambridge, at the latter end of the present month a large brick-built windmill with lawn adjoining, situate in Harston. Cambridge Chronicle & Journal 9 September 1843
A desirable brick-built five storey tower windmill with patent sails carrying considerable power, driving four pair of French stones. It stands on an eminence & in an excellent neighbourhood for grist & adjoining is a Foreman’s cottage & a piece of arable land, the whole containing about 3 acres.The whole of the above valuable property stands in an excellent neighbourhood surrounded by corn markets & the late proprietor carried on a very large business in the flour, corn & seed trade.Early possession may be had & part of the money may remain on mortgage if sold. Cambridge Chronicle & Journal 14 October 1843
To Capitalists. Important sale of property situate in the Town & County of Cambridge.Lot 8. Harston. A very desirable & substantially brick-built five storey tower windmill with Patent sails & Fantail containing five pairs of stones & her machinery; also a cottage, barn, stable, & cart shed & a piece of fertile arable land, all annexed, the whole of which contains about 3 acres. Freehold & tithe free.The above is situate upon an eminence about ¼ mile from Harston Station on the Great Northern Railway & is in the occupation of Mr Willimott Cambridge Chronicle & Journal 21 May 1853
Owners & occupiers
However, the deeds show that the mill was in the hands of the Foster family with the freehold of the mill & land leased to William Willmott until 1873 when they sold it to Willmott. He had arranged a mortgage with Hannah Foster & William Sherman of Union Road Cambridge but in1895 he was given one week notice to quit by Hannah Foster. Later that year she sold to David Samuel Wisby (farmer) by auction.
In 1899 Agnes Eleanor Clarke of Barton (spinster) bought the mill. A 1965 WI scrapbook noted that the mill last worked in 1907 when it ground offal.
Agnes sold it in 1908 to Philip John Watson (from College Farm Haslingfield) when it was described as a disused mill and 2 acres 3 roods, 34 perches on Newton Hill Harston.
Changing use for a disused mill
The old barn could still be seen in some of the earlier photos, one taken from Sunbourn over the road in 1920s/30s. The barn is no longer there but would probably have been behind where the present garage is shown in the aerial photo.
In 1911 it changed hands again being sold to Stanley Rodgers (dealer) of Newton who owned it until 1971. In a WI 1965 scrapbook there is a sketch of the windmill in Dec 1965 with a note beneath saying that in front of the windmill had appeared a brand new aluminium caravan (seen in photo) and at the top the brickwork of the decrepit mill had been placed a TV aerial.
In 1971 it was sold to Mr & Mrs D Porteous as a derelict cottage and 2.97 acres. The cottage was unoccupied from 1971-1974.
In1975 Michael and Marion Hughes purchased & renovated the cottage, 76 years after Marion’s great-aunt Agnes Eleanor Clarke had purchased it