Oxen Moving a Mill

This picture shows an event that took place in 1797, when a windmill was moved from Brighton seafront to a new location. The watercolour was painted by Percy Macquoid and is a copy of an oil painting.

Use the controls to zoom in and view details of the watercolour. You can also download and re-use the image.

Below we’ve highlighted some features you can examine in the picture.

What can we see?

Oxen

Detail of watercolour showing groups of oxen

It took 86 oxen to move the windmill. The mill originally stood on Belle Vue field, which is where Regency Square is today, opposite the i360. It was transported to the top of Dyke Road.

That’s a journey of about two miles, and mostly uphill.

Windmill

Detail of watercolour showing windmill

Known as Streeter’s Smock Mill, the building was transported intact. We can see that it’s been mounted on boards like giant skis.

The sails of the windmill we can see here are an artistic embellishment by Macquoid. Drawings from the time indicate that these were removed before transport. Had they been left on, the additional wind resistance would have made it far too difficult to move.

Sightseers

Moving the mill was a spectacular event. Here we can see some local people enjoying the scene.

Detail of watercolour showing shepherd

The shepherd on the left reminds us that these hills were also used for sheep farming.

Author: Dan Robertson, Curator of Local History & Archaeology


3 thoughts on “Oxen Moving a Mill”

  1. Hello. It’s a common misconception that the mill stood on “Belle Vue Field”. Two reasons why this is incorrect.
    The mill stood on a plot at the western extremity of the West Laine Cliffe Butts. The site is at the bottom of Preston Street, where Astra House now stands.
    The mill was moved in 1797, about three years after Belle Vue House had been built next door.
    The owner of Belle Vue House bought several plots of land in the vicinity in the late 1790s, including the field on which most of Regency Square would eventually be built. But the official name of the field was The Furlong Heading The Cliffe Butts.
    “Belle Vue Field” was probably a short-lived, informal name for the site, during its association with the owner of Belle Vue House. But the mill was immediately west of Belle Vue House and Regency Square is immediately east of it.
    The main source of this information is ESRO document BH/G/2/1579, held at The Keep.
    The 1792 Plan of the Parish of Brighthelmstone (the ‘1792 Terrier’) and the 1815 map of Brighton, both held at The Keep, confirm the field names.

    1. Hello Gill. Thank you for your comment – very interesting. The Mills Archive Trust and others note that the mill was sited at Belle Vue Field. I’m sure they too will be grateful for this information. Many thanks. Dan

      1. My family were related by marraige to the Lashmar millers who were established in Brighthelmstone in the 17th Century.
        John Lashmar owned Jill which had been moved from Dyke Road in the 1860’s by oxen and carts on local tracks to Clayton, rather than over Downland.
        A young apprentice named Penfold was crushed to death in one of the other Clayton mill’s driving gear in 1808 when his smock became caught up in the machinery,as a result new “health and safety”guidelines advising the wearing of tighter fitting clothes was introduced.
        I think the Belle Vue mill was a post mill,looking at it’s construction.
        Interesting to see how many oxen were needed to move it.

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