Oxen Moving a Mill, 1797

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.

Oxen Moving a Mill
Oxen Moving a Mill

What can we see?

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

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.

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

Dan Robertson, Curator of Local History & Archaeology

  1. Giles Yates

    From ‘Isaac Sharp – Appostle of the Nineteenth Century’ by Frances Anne Budge, p. 10.

    Of his mother’s grandfather, Matthew Bourne, Isaac Sharp would tell some curious stories. He was a miller, and in course of time his mill – built of wood, as was the fashion in those days – had to be removed to another site. This was accomplished by the aid of more than four score Sussex oxen, all yoked and pulling together, a very practical illustration of that old adage ‘Union is Strength’. A painting was made in oils to commemorate the wonderful enterprise. In a letter written in 1891, from the Sea of Japan, Isaac Sharp tells his namesake nephew that he has a photograph of this picture, adding, “And behold of the said Matthew Bourne thou art the great, great grandson”

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