Articles on the History of Essex, Researching your Ancestors, and British History

Toot Hill windmill struck by lightning.

A miller's brush with death.

Toot Hill, Standford Rivers, once had a windmill. In 1829 it was struck by lightning and the miller seriously injured.

On Thursday 18th June 1829, a terrible thunderstorm raged over the area of Ongar and Stanford Rivers. As the thunder clouds hovered over Toot Hill windmill there was a "hissing noise and sound like artillery" and then the smell of sulphur. Mrs Rayner, the miller's wife, was in her cottage when she heard the shrieks of her husband in the mill. She rushed outside to see the mill had been struck by lightning.

Mr Rayner's newphew and others came to the rescue and the miller was found on the second floor of the mill. His hair was singed, he had facial injuries, and his right leg was almost separated from the rest of his body.

Mr Potter, the Ongar surgeon, was called for and quickly arrived. He immediately amputated the leg.

It appears that the miller survived the ordeal and a print of the mill's destruction was sold locally to raise funds for the miller and his family as, no doubt, he was unable to work. A copy of the print can be seen in the Victoria County History Publication: A History of the County of Essex: Volume 4

As for the mill, it had been struck on the sails cutting two of them off. The lightning then entered the mill demolishing the interior, thrusting two half-hundred weights out through the side of the mill. The roof was blown off, as was the weather boarding on it sides. It was left like a skeleton with its machinery exposed. The mill was repaired and operated until about 1900. It was demolished in 1935.

Place links: Stanford Rivers

Times 24 June 1829
Victoria County History Publication: A History of the County of Essex: Volume 4

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