Built upon a prominent outcrop near Oswald’s Gate, the Castle Windmill stands as the highest structure within Bamburgh’s West Ward. Up until fairly recently popular opinion held that the windmill was built under the leadership of Dr. John Sharp. As it turns out, due to the research of Carol Griffiths, it has been determined that the Castle Windmill was not constructed until after his death.
Background on Dr. John Sharp (1722-1792): With the death of his father, Thomas, Dr. Sharp was made head of the Lord Crewe’s Trustees in 1758. Fronting the money for many of the original fees, Dr. Sharp planned to create a welfare state centered at Bamburgh Castle. Throughout the latter half of the eighteenth century he is responsible for developing several charitable programs within the village, included the creation of a school at the castle, aiding in ship repairs, installing a signal gun, providing free admittance to a surgeon and, in 1786, implementing life boat services. On many occasions the Trustees also purchased large quantities of corn that would have been ground down and sold, along with other goods, at a reduced rate to impoverished members of the community (Source: Lord Crewe’s Charity).
This is where the confusion on the windmill’s original construction date comes into play. The fact that corn was being ground down and stored within the castle and the village while Dr. Sharp was the head of the trustees led to the general belief that the windmill was built during his lifetime. In fact, according to Carol Griffith, there is no mention of the use of a windmill in any of the documentation correlated with the purchase of corn throughout the late eighteenth century. Within the medieval records there is mention of a horse mill. Director Graeme Young believes it is possible that the purchased corn was being ground in a similar manner until the building of the Castle Windmill.
In truth, documentation shows that the Trustees ordered the construction of the Windmill on the 20 of March 1800. This would have been eight years after Dr. Sharp’s death. Although he was not around to witness its construction, the Castle Windmill still stands as a symbol of his legacy.
Today: For the past several years the Windmill has been used by The Bamburgh Research Project as staff offices and as a storage facility for all of the finds being discovered within the castle. Since its creation in 1996, the BRP has uncovered over seven thousand finds from inside Bamburgh’s walls.
If you want to learn more about Bamburgh in the 18th century you can find more information about Carol Griffith’s book, Bamburgh ‘Ghosts’-Voices from the 18th Century, by clicking here.