Windmills of Anglesey
Anglesey, being an island on the west coast of Britain, can sometimes be a very windy place. The effects of the strong westerly winds can be seen in the numerous windswept trees around the island that grow in a distinctly easterly direction.
The abundance of wind provided a useful source of energy and during the 18th and 19th century numerous windmills were built around the island. Almost 50 are known to have been built. Many of these are now in disrepair or have disappeared. However some have found new life. Llynon Mill has been restored to fully working order. Others have been converted to dwellings and one has been reconstructed to house a mobile phone base station and mast.
The construction of Anglesey windmills
NEW! - See a list of all the other water and tidal powered mills on Anglesey
Many of the existing windmills were built during periods of drought in the 1740s when water mills were running at less than peak efficiency. The population of the island also increased at this time and the Corn Laws led to increase in grain prices, so more grain was grown and needed to be ground.
The late 18th and early 19th centuries were the boom times of windmill building. However, increasing imports of foreign grain in mid 19th century led to price decreases, so many farmers converted their land to pasture for cattle and pigs, thus reducing the amount of grain that needed to be ground. Steam-powered milling on an industrial scale in the large ports such as Holyhead and Liverpool put further pressure on the ability of the local mills to compete and continue working. By the early 20th centuries only a handful of mills were still limping along, many powered by more reliable diesel engines rather than wind. The last working mill, Melin y Gof, closed in 1936.
During their heyday the windmills were such a prominent part of life on the island that they were celebrated in verse:
|Melin Llynon sydd yn malu,
Pant y Gŵydd sy’n ateb iddi,
Cefn-Coch a Melin Adda,
Llanerch-y-medd sy’n malu ora.
|Llynon Mill is grinding,
Pant y Gŵydd is answering,
Cefn-Coch and Adda Mill,
Llanerch-y-medd grinds best of all.
Although all the current windmills were built from the mid 18th century onwards, there are records of earlier windmills that are long gone. The accounts of the Bailiff of Newborough state that a newly built windmill in Newborough began operation on 28 June 1303, after being built for £20, 12s 2½d (about £10,000 in today's money). In 1327 one was built on Mill Hill in Beaumaris, and another one was erected at an unknown location in 1495. In the 16th century the papers of the Baron Hill Estate around Beaumaris twice mention windmills. Also on John Speed's 1610 map of Anglesey the inset town plan of Beaumaris shows a windmill on the edge of the Menai Strait northeast from the castle. Whether this is one of the earlier mentioned mills is unclear, but it is unlikely to be the 1327 one as this isn't on a hill.
Current use of windmills
Out of the 32 windmills of which some of the structure still remains, 15 have been converted into dwellings or incorporated into a larger house. Ten of these have been converted or renovated since 2000, showing the great increase of interest in restoring historic buildings.
Of the remaining mills one has been fully restored to working order (Melin Llynon), one is a mobile phone mast (Melin Wynt y Craig), nine still stand to their full height (with three roofed), and six are partial towers or just the foundation. At least three of the empty towers have planning permission for future renovation.
As in the 18th and 19th century, our current age is also looking for new, alternative and sustainable sources of energy. We have again looked at the wind resources of Anglesey and found them very suitable, with the result that three wind farms have been built on the island. They are all in the northwest near the Irish Sea. Not only is it windy, but there is also a major existing power line in the area linking Wylfa nuclear power plant to the national grid.
The first to be built was Rhyd-y-Groes in 1992. It consists of 24 turbines, which produce 7.2MW of power, enough for around 4000 homes. In 1996 the Trysglwyn wind farm was opened with 14 turbines producing 5.6MW to power 3000 homes, followed closely in 1997 by the 34 turbines of the Llyn Alaw site, producing a massive 20.4MW for 11,000 homes.
The local council's "Energy Island" strategy aims to supplement these in the future with sustainable tidal power, biomass processors and possibly a replacement nuclear plant for Wylfa, which closed in 2015. Planning applications for a large number of wind turbines around the island have been submitted, but these are now facing considerable opposition by those worried about the effects on tourism and property prices.
Finally a note that not all that seems to be a converted windmill is actually a windmill. A house along the busy Pentraeth-Benllech road at Red Wharf Bay is often thought to be a windmill conversion. However, it is in fact a lime kiln. Locally quarried limestone was heated in kilns to produce lime for building, agricultural and industrial use. Lime kilns were built in a wide variety of building designs and this one was built as a tower similar to the windmill bases (perhaps calling on the skills of the local windmill builders). This one was converted in the 1950s by a prominent Liverpool architect and was recently listed for sale.
Further information on windmills
Much of the information on this site comes from the excellent book by Barry Guise and George Lees, Windmills of Anglesey (1992), supplemented by my own research. This book is full of valuable information about the history of windmills on the island, many old photos of the mills, and a detailed illustrated narrative of the restoration of Melin Llynon.
The original print run of the book sold out soon after its 1992 publication and it became very hard to find copies. Fortunately a new edition was published in March 2010. The text has been updated with some of the latest information about the mills, and the number of photos of the mills, both old and new, has been expanded. There is also a section of paintings of the mills by prominent artists, including Kyffin Williams and Charles Tunnicliffe.
The Windmills of Anglesey book is available from Amazon.co.uk, the Oriel Ynys Mon shop and the shop at Llynon Mill, as well as a number of other tourist sites in and around Anglesey (e.g. Maritime Museum and Ucheldre Centre in Holyhead, RNLI shop in Trearddur, Anglesey Sea Zoo, Stone Science, Plas Newydd and Amlwch Heritage Centre). See the article about the republication in the Holyhead and Anglesey Mail.
There are several sites on the Internet that provide a wide range of information about wind and water mills in general. They are:
You can also view a series of paintings of Anglesey Windmills that I curated on the ArtUK web site.
Click on the name of the mill to see more information, or on the Ordnance Survey coordinates (beginning with "SH") to find the mill on the 1899 OS map. Note you can see the modern map by changing the "Transparency of Overlay" setting in the lower left when viewing the map.
Existing grist windmills
- Amlwch - Melin Adda (Pentrefelin) - SH 43977 92147
- Amlwch - Melin y Borth (Mona Mill) - SH 44848 93474
- Amlwch - Melin y Pant, Porth Llechog - SH 41641 94277
- Bodffordd - Melin Frogwy - SH 42681 77256
- Bodffordd - Melin Manaw - SH 35897 79570
- Bodffordd - Melin Newydd, Tre’rddol - SH 39013 80286
- Bodorgan - Melin Hermon - SH 38999 68995
- Cwm Cadnant - Melin Llandegfan - SH 56601 74018
- Cwlch y Garn - Melin Drylliau (Caerau Mill), Church Bay - SH 30532 88733
- Holyhead - Melin yr Ogof (George’s Mill), Kingsland - SH 24848 81079
- Llanbadrig - Melin Cemaes - SH 36628 92641
- Llanddyfnan - Melin Llanddyfnan (Pen y Fan) - SH 48375 78613
- Capel Coch - Melin Llidiart, Capel Coch - SH 45782 82007
- Llanerchymedd - Melin Gallt y Benddu - SH 42537 83789
- Llanfaelog - Melin Maelgwyn (Melin Uchaf), Bryndu - SH 34200 72795
- Llanfaelog - Melin y Bont (Melin Isaf), Bryndu - SH 34569 72570
- Llanfair Mathafarn Eithaf - Melin Rhos Fawr, Brynteg - SH 49678 82878
- Llanfihangel Ysgeifiog - Melin Berw, Pentre Berw - SH 47387 72291
- Llanfihangel Ysgeifiog - Melin Maengwyn, Gaerwen - SH 48564 71989
- Llanfihangel Ysgeifiog - Melin Sguthan (Union Mill), Gaerwen - SH 47820 72116
- Llangefni - Melin Wynt y Craig - SH 46478 75773
- Llangefni - Melin Penrhiw - SH 43924 74732
- Llangoed - Melin Llangoed (Tros y Marian) - SH 60822 81166
- Llanfechell - Melin Cefn Coch - SH 34232 91438
- Mechell - Melin Mechell (Melin Minffordd) - SH 36199 90140
- Mechell - Melin Pant y Gwydd - SH 36557 88769
- Pentraeth - Melin Orsedd, Rhoscefnhir - SH 52315 76300
- Trearddur - Melin y Gof (Stanley Mill), Trearddur Bay - SH 26604 78885
- Tref Alaw - Melin Geirn - SH 38256 81885
- Tref Alaw - Melin Llynon, Llanddeusant - SH 34053 85236
- Trewalchmai - Melin Gwalchmai - SH 38479 75883
Sites of demolished windmills
The gird reference is followed by links to on-line descriptions of them, in the Coflein and Archwilio online catalogues of archaeology, buildings, industrial and maritime heritage in Wales (produced by the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales and the Gwynedd Archaeological Trust), as well as the Mills Archive Trust database.
- Aberffraw - Fferam - SH 36199 73631, Mills Archive
- Amlwch - St. Eilian Colour Works - SH 44945 91350 - Coflein, Archwilio, Mills Archive
- Beaumaris - Old Post Mill - SH 60903 76422 - Archwilio
- Bryngwran - Treban Meirig - SH 36709 77066 (see photo from 1936) - Coflein, Archwilio, Mills Archive
- Cylch y Garn - Rhydwyn - SH 31501 88821 (see photo from 1936) - Coflein, Archwilio, Mills Archive
- Holyhead - Llanfawr - SH 25656 81707 - Coflein, Mills Archive
- Holyhead - Tan yr Efail (Kingsland Saw Mill) - SH 24822 81542 - Coflein, Mills Archive
- Holyhead - Ucheldre - SH 24279 82348 - Coflein, Archwilio, Mills Archive
- Llanddona - Llanddona - SH 57795 79705 (see photo from 1939, front and side) - Coflein, Mills Archive
- Llaneilian - Llanwenllwyfo - SH 47646 89357 - Coflein, Archwilio, Mills Archive
- Llaneilian, Melin Newydd (possible site of) - SH 4758 9220 - Archwilio
- Llanerchymedd - Rhodogeidio - SH 410 851, Mills Archive
- Llanfachraeth - Llanfachraeth - SH 31325 82834 - Coflein, Mills Archive
- Llanfair yn Neubwll - Caergeiliog - SH 30722 78406 - Coflein, Mills Archive
- Llanfihangel Ysgeifiog - Possible Mill Tower, Berw Ucaf - SH 46158 70761 - Archwilio
- Llangristiolus - Capel Mawr - SH 41424 71732 (see photo from 1936) - Coflein, Archwilio, Mills Archive
- Llanidan - Brynsiencyn - SH 48235 67240 (see photo from 1936) - Coflein, Mills Archive
- Mechell - Felin Nant - SH 39205 90013 - Archwilio, Mills Archive
- Rhosyr - Dwyran - SH 44482 65363 - Coflein, Mills Archive
- Rhosyr - Melin Rhosyr or Melin Bryn (possible site) - SH 41864 66150 - Archwilio