Drapers Mill set to welcome visitors for National Mills Weekend

Drapers Windmill open weekend

This year’s National Mills Weekend will take place on Saturday 11 and Sunday 12 May, with more than 100 traditional windmills and watermills opening their doors to the public.

The weekend is organised by the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings (SPAB) and its Mills Section.

Among those opening their doors are Drapers Mill in Margate and White Mill in Sandwich.

Drapers Mill

Drapers Mill be open on both the Saturday and Sunday, from noon until 4pm, free entry.

Drapers Mill was built in 1845 by John Holman, a millwright from Canterbury. There were originally three mills on the site, two to grind corn and one to pump water. Little Draper’s stood next door to the surviving mill and the Pumper was where the allotments to the rear of the mill now exist.

Photo Frank Leppard

The mill was worked by wind power until 1916 and then by a 20 horsepower gas engine until the late 1930s, with the sweeps and fantail being removed in 1927.

In 1965 the mills were threatened with demolition due to disrepair but then headmaster of Drapers Mills School, Mr Towes, helped establish the Drapers Windmill Trust and  secured the restoration and future of Drapers Mill.

In 1968 the Kent Education Committee acquired the mill, which was restored at a cost of over £2000. The fantail was replaced in 1970 with one pair of sweeps following in December 1971. The second pair of sweeps were fitted in the autumn of 1974.

Drapers Mill Photo Sinead Le Blond

Drapers Windmill Trust is responsible for the day to day running and restoration with larger projects financed by Kent County Council.

Windpower was returned to the mill following major restoration works during 2017-2019. A project to refurbish the cap and vane at Drapers Mill was completed in 2018.

The mill will be open both days from noon to 4pm and admission is free.

Picture: Frank Leppard

There will be guided tours and, weather permitting, the windmill’s sweeps will be turning and the 104 year old gas engine can be seen running. There will also be light refreshments and opportunities to buy souvenirs – including wholemeal stone ground flour produced in the mill.

Drapers Mill opens up to the public at weekends during the Summer. Volunteers are welcome.

Find Drapers Windmill at St Peter’s Footpath, Dane Valley, Margate CT9 2SP. Find out more on the Trust website here

White Mill

Photo White Mill

White Mill is undergoing extensive renovation to return it to working order. Visit to see the progress, talk to the skilled volunteers, and explore the fascinating Rural Heritage Museum. The gardens and barn will host craft stalls, food stalls and entertainment over the whole weekend, making this a fun family day out.

White Mill is a smock mill which retains its original wooden machinery and was restored between 1960 and 1961 by millwright Vincent Pargeter.

It is surrounded by the original outbuildings and millers cottage.

Visitors are able to go inside the windmill and view displays of agricultural machinery and equipment in the base, as well as seeing the actual mill machinery.

It will be open Saturday 11 and Sunday 12 May, 10am – 4pm. Free entry.

An uncertain future for Windmills

Polls show that windmills are the UK’s favourite structures, yet with local authorities under financial pressure, many publicly-owned mills face being sold off – meaning the public may no longer be able to visit them and see their historic machinery in action.

Last year Kent County Council (KCC) opened consultation on proposals for eight public windmills, including Drapers Mill in Margate, to find alternative arrangements for the ownership, including transfer of the financial responsibility, in a bid to save the authority money.

KCC currently owns the freehold of eight mills which are all listed buildings of high grade and were acquired by KCC between the late 1950s and the mid-1980s.

Drapers Windmill ‘s day to day operations are looked after by the Drapers Windmill Trust.

The consultation closed this January and the responses are being reviewed. A report is due to be published and this will go to the county council’s Environment and Transport Cabinet Committee before a decision is made by the Cabinet Member for Environment.

8 Comments

  1. I will be voting on the environment committee of Kent County council OPEN. A part of margate cultural history

    • Showing your age! Miss Hart ran the tuck shop, you almost got change from a farthing (if that had been possible…)

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