At the beginning of April I went to an open day at Upminster windmill in East London. It is one of the few surviving smock windmills, so named because its tapered shape resembles a white shepherd’s smock garment, wide and full at the base, and gathered in at the top. The mill was built in 1803 by John Noakes and was used for grinding flour* until 1910, and then it produced animal feed until 1934. The mill became derelict until about 1960 when it was repaired and then opened to the public in 1967, staffed by volunteers. We had visited in January and having walked around it several times to get good photos, we were left wondering what was inside, which had to wait until we returned home to look it up on their website. As might be expected, the name Upminster means church on the hill, just the right place for a windmill, and we certainly felt the chilly breezes on that January day.
* The outline for "flower" has a triphthong, as it is considered to be two syllables. It is a useful distinction to make for the shorthand writer, although not always discernible in ordinary speech.
It was much warmer and more pleasant on our recent visit. The weather was overcast but mild, and on arrival we saw cars pulling up onto the large grassy area at the front. Tours were being conducted in groups of about 8 people. The tour started outside with a description of the former cottages, bakery and steam mill, which are now just foundations and excavated areas. We then entered the mill and were taken straight to the top. We climbed several sets of steep narrow wooden steps, although ladders* would be a more accurate term. Our guide described the operation of all the items of equipment on each floor. Just seeing all the gear was interesting in itself, but it came alive with our guide’s knowledgeable* and comprehensive explanations of how everything worked. The view from a small open window at the top seemed much higher than the windmill had appeared from the ground and the chinks of light coming through odd places in the timber walls made it obvious that the mill interior must have been* a draughty place to work.
* L stroke is not doubled for "-der" unless it is part of a longer outline such as "stepladder".
* knowledgeable" is same outline as an unvocalised "enjoyable", this latter should have the diphthong written in, to distinguish.
* Omission phrase "must (have) been"
|Loose cog tooth lying on top|
* "gingerly" An alternative outline that omits the N stroke
* Keep the T full length, as "separated" would also make sense here
* Always insert the vowel in amaze/amuse and derivatives
* "descriptions" The singular is a contraction (see para 2) but the plural is given in dictionaries as full outline. One possible explanation is to differentiate it from "discourse" which has a similar meaning.
* "wheel" is written with two strokes here, in order to be able to join.
* "generation" optional contraction
|Grain chute and hoppers above the|
vat containing the millstones
A small transparent perspex model of the millstones, two circles showing the pattern of the grinding lines, illustrated how the rotation produces a scissoring effect that cuts the grain, as centrifugal force propels it towards the edges of the stones. Below is the Meal Floor containing devices for sifting the flour and removing bran, and bagging* up the various grades of products.
* "Stone Floor" Using initial capitals, to retain the sense of the floor name, rather than a "floor made of stone". These two versions would be pronounced with the emphasis on different syllables, and shorthand needs to reflect that.
* "feed" Vowel added, as "fed" would also make sense.
* "stationary" The Shun hook written on this side in order to join the R. "Station" on its own has the hook on the other side, as per normal rules, as a means of keeping the stroke straight.
* "tentering" This outline also reads "tendering". If necessary, you could abandon the dictionary outline and write T + N + Tr + Dot Ing, to ensure a more accurate reading of an unusual term.
* "bagging" Keep clearly thick, as "packing" has a similar meaning.
All the while I was walking around, I tried to imagine what it would have been like when the mill was working. It would have been a health and safety officer’s nightmare, with giant pieces of unprotected spinning machinery* groaning and rumbling, and all the bins and hoppers rattling as the grain descended. The trap doors would be heard banging as the sacks of grain were hoisted up and the whole building would be vibrating and creaking. Flour dust would be everywhere, causing severe irritation to the lungs and often death from fibroid phthysis*, commonly called miller’s lung. The stone dressers also suffered this complaint from inhaling stone dust as they renewed the grinding surface pattern of the millstones. The miller would be shouting to his assistant, as no doubt normal speech would be inaudible above the din of the machinery.
* "mach(in)ery" Alternative faster outline that omits the N sound
* "phthysis" The PH is silent, so outline is similar to "thesis"
One might imagine that flour production came to a halt when there was no wind, but with the increasing prosperity of his business, in 1812 Noakes added a steam mill to the rear which operated a further two sets of millstones. The foundations of this are undergoing excavation at present. Finally we reached the ground floor, with displays of archaeological finds, model windmills in a glass case, a larger working model of the windmill, an old millstone, photographs, newspaper cuttings, flour containers and packaging bags throughout the years, as well as the necessary souvenirs and information table. I am sure my Upminster windmill pen and pencil are identical to those sold in other historic buildings but they are a reminder of a very informative and interesting day out, to see a treasured remnant of our industrial heritage and the remarkable skills and inventiveness of the craftsmen of the past. (1006 words)
|Now I can sail through my shorthand|
CGI animations: www.youtube.com/watch?v=bZ4JDV-v_4s Windmill workings and www.youtube.com/watch?v=AbV48rkXk2w Steam mill workings
www.youtube.com/watch?v=CFbwHVL5vms Aerial view from drone
|Every shorthand writer's nightmare - the big gap|