July 25, 2016
Recorded in the Domesday Book as Putelei and known in the Middle Ages as Puttenhuthe, it apparently goes back to a Saxon named Puttan who lived in the area and the Old English word ‘hyp’, which means ‘landing place’. Hence, “Puttan’s landing place” (or Puttan’s wharf).
Putney has something of a storied history – it was the birthplace of Tudor heavyweight Thomas Cromwell, Georgian-era author Edward Gibbon and it was here, in the still-standing parish church of St Mary the Virgin (pictured), that the Putney Debates were held in 1647 among members of the New Model Army.
The first bridge was apparently built here in the first half of the 18th century and the present stone bridge in the 1880s.
Today a sought-after riverside residential district, Putney boasts a sizeable high street, great riverside pubs and eateries and is particularly popular every April when The Boat Race is held between Oxford and Cambridge universities thanks to the starting point being just upstream of Putney Bridge.
The area also is home to the 400 acre Putney Heath (which adjoins Wimbledon Common), a popular site for duels in the 18th century, and also home to a stone and brick obelisk, erected in 1770 to mark the 110th anniversary of the Great Fire of London (more on that in an upcoming post).
A tiny museum located in an 1817 windmill standing in the middle of Wimbledon Common, the Wimbledon Windmill Museum provides an interesting insight into the work and lives of the millers who once occupied it and the thousands of other windmills around the UK.
Displays are located over three levels – the last reached by a steep climb up a ladder – and range from the tools and machinery used by the millers to a room packed with models of different types of windmills (all of which turn when you press a button) through to a room set up as the mill was in the 1870s when it was divided into homes for six families.
As well as the more static displays, there’s also a chance for the kids to make their own flour and a video playing on a loop which goes into considerable detail on the history and function of windmills in the UK.
There are tearooms located next door (and, if you happen to visit when it’s snowing, there’s a great toboggan run located nearby!).
The windmill itself has some interesting historic connections – it was in the miller’s cottage behind the windmill (now much enlarged) that Scouts founder Robert Baden-Powell was staying when he wrote Scouting for Boys in 1907.
While this mill dates from 1817, there is a record of millers being on the common as far back as the 17th century. As well as making flour, the miller also served as the common’s constable.
This job entailed keeping an eye out for robbers operating on the common as well as illegal duelists (Wimbledon Common and Putney Heath were apparently popular spots for this).
Indeed, history records that Thomas Dann – the first miller about whom there is a record – and his wife witnessed an infamous duel between Lord Cardigan and Captain Tuckett from the windmill’s roof. Tuckett was wounded during the second round of shots and subsequently taken into the windmill for treatment of his injuries while Dann took Lord Cardigan into custody (he was eventually acquitted after a trial in the House of Lords).
This is certainly a small museum but, with an entry price of only a couple of pounds, well worth spending a little time to look through.
WHERE: The Wimbledon Windmill Museum, Wimbeldon Common (nearest Tube stations are Wimbledon, Wimbledon Park and Southfields); WHEN: 2pm to 5pm Saturdays, 11am to 5pm Sundays (and Bank Holiday Mondays) until October 30th; COST: £2 adults/£1 concessions and children/£5 families (two adults and up to four children); WEBSITE: www.wimbledonwindmill.org.uk.