Tucked away on a side street just off Moor Lane near the centre of Preston is a Grade II listed windmill. Built out of red brick in 1760, it would capture the energy of the prevailing wind blowing across from the Fylde. After the sails were removed in the 1880s and its flour grinding days were over it was put to a whole range of different uses. It has been an overflow prison, piano workshop, garage, cinema (during the second world war) and a merchant’s storage warehouse. (There are also claims it was used as a shot tower – molten lead being dropped from on high , forming spherical gun shot on the way down before hitting the water below. This claim is disputed though, with some commentators pointing out that it simply isn’t high enough for the process to work. The nearest definite shot tower we have in our region is to be found still standing in Chester.)
In the 1960s the building was under threat of demolition as the North Western Electricity Board was looking to develop the area. Fortunately, the value of the mill was recognized and it was saved and given a Grade II listing. In the early 2000s the plan was to turn the building into modern office space and make it a local landmark lit up by night, but this didn’t happen. The owner then decided to convert it into luxury flats, but that didn’t happen either. At the time of writing (2018) it is currently for sale.
If you pay a visit today you will find the windmill nestled amongst other buildings on the narrow street of Craggs Row. The first thing that strikes you is the very large three stage ‘slot’ that runs down the middle of the tower, facing into the street. At the top of the slot is the remnants of a winch presumably to load up the sacks of grain, or haul out the bags of flour. The lowest door in the slot is a modern metal security door, the middle one above is boarded up, but the top stage still has a proper two part wooden door. This has two metal handles fixed either side of the slot. Looking further up you can see three small square windows and the flat cap above them is a modern one.
At the side of the tower is a connected two story building with a pitched roof. It has a modern garage-style door (obviously a later addition- see the photograph below). This structure could well have been the grain drying kiln, and a similar building can be seen at the well preserved Marsh Mill windmill at Thornton on the Fylde.
Access The site is open access. Craggs Row is just off Moor Lane in Preston. There is parking on Moor Lane by the row of shops. Cross over Moor Lane and head up Craggs Row to see the windmill tower (no parking on this street- it’s all double yellow lines).
Site visited by A. and S. Bowden 2018