In 2001, my parents bought a caravan here on Anglesey and from then until 2016, when we moved to the island, this was our holiday home.
Each year we visited several times, discovering new places to explore. On the way from the A55 and through Llanfwrog, we often saw a sign for Lynnon Mill and I was intrigued. So one day we set off to visit.
Lynnon Mill is in Llanddeusant and the mill is striking with its white walls and huge sails all set in beautiful green countryside. It’s only when you stand underneath can you appreciate its size.
On site, and to my delight, there a shop sold locally produced goods, the original granary now a cafe, and a pair or reconstructed iron age round houses made it a good trip out.
I chatted to Maldyn, who worked in the shop and he told me there used to be 54 other windmills on the island, and this was the only working one left. I wondered if the sails still turned and he told me they did, and had a full-time miller who produced flour.
On the shelf were bags of flour all lined up and as I was gazing at them, a lady bought a pack and was handed a recipe for Bara Brith bread. Some would say it is a cake and you can read more about the Welsh recipe here.
I noticed 1776 written on the flour bag, and wondered what that referred to. It couldn’t the date, could it? Maldyn, who had worked in the shop for six years, said it was, and that’s how long the windmill had been there.
That surprised and delighted me, as I love old buildings and paid my money to go inside. He offered me a piece of advice before I left the shop. “When you go up the windmill stairs, it is better to come down backwards.” I had no idea what he meant, but smiled and nodded.
Inside the tall white building, plenty of information boards greeted me to explains its history. I spotted an open plan steep wooden staircase, in fact it could only be described as a ladder, and certainly not for the faint hearted. Now I understand what Maldyn meant.
For history lovers is felt magical treading in the steps of the old millers. I imagined them looking out of the window at same view and in 300 years, it had probably changed little.
While there, a young boy came up the staircase. He had a quick scout around and went back down, much sprightlier than I could. When I eventually came out he was at the bottom with his mum and grandma, and as I passed, I overhead their conversation:
“No,” said grandma. “There are some that can and there are some that can’t. I can’t. I’m quite happy to sit here and watching you.”
Thinking of the ladders, I understood what she meant. Even if you couldn’t climb, there was plenty to do and see. Boards of information were on each floor, and you could take a tour of the Round Houses, eat in the café, buy the flour and other mementos in the shop.
The weather that day was exceptional. The white of the windmill against the clear sky made it stand out even more.
As I wandered around I saw that Prince Charles had unveiled a plaque here in 2007. Hallowed steps, as I followed royalty.
Anglesey has a mild equable climate where spring generally comes earlier than on the mainland. Therefore its exposed areas are ideally suited for windmills. I still have fun spotting them as I go around the island; most are in disrepair and some are just a few bricks in a circle, and inch off the ground.
Gradually the millers diminished as few wanted to take apprenticeships that didn’t have prospects. The windmills became difficult to repair and costly to maintain and many fell into disrepair, and most were demolished.
During the summer and autumn whenever there was a good wind to turn the sails, the miller would have been busy making his flour. His family would have helped with bagging up, which was then taken to market, and to local bakeries in large canvas sacks.
Herbert Jones built the mill in 1776 and the first miler was Thomas Jones, and by 1841, his son, also called Thomas, became the miller. He and his wife farmed the land that went with the mill, and by 1881, a cousin, William Prichard took over. It had stayed in one family for over 100 years, that’s an achievement in itself.
Sometime during the sixteenth century, a treatise was written in Welsh on milling, which gives a list of the miller’s duties. So should you ever consider applying, consider these first:-
- Being hardworking and careful
- You must be living in the mill at all times, or nearby, where you can see the door, apart from when you go to church, or if you have permission from your master to go elsewhere.’
You are not –
- to let the mill stand with grain in it
- let it grind empty
- leave the flour to stand
- leave the sacks open once filled
When working you
- be helpful and kind to those milling with you
- to answer the door when it is knocked the second time, whatever the time of day
- keep the flour of the mill orderly and clean at all times
However, in 1882 Robert Rowland, a popular and genial man became the last ever miller of Llynnon.
During the mid summer, Robert and his family provided a party for the local village children. A grand affair with a feast of food and games. One, was a Lucky Dip in which he filled a cask with bran and buried little gifts for them to find. Robert, described as a hardworking man found his days cut short in 1918 as a huge storm blew, and the sails would no longer turn.
The owner of the mill wouldn’t foot the bill, nor would he compensate Robert for the repairs he had already done. Sadly, the mill was forced to close. Although Robert continued to work the land at the farm until 1929 when he retired. Within a week of moving to his native village of Rhydwyn, his wife died.
Out of curiosity, I took a trip to Ryydwyn, visited the church and found his grave where he and his wife ware buried. A small cemetery sat in a picturesque village in the north of the island.
In 1953 Anglesey Council wanted to buy a windmill to restore and preserve for the future, and they chose Lynnon. It was estimated that it would cost almost £5,000 to bring it back to full working order, and another £3,000 to preserve it. But things didn’t go to plan as a storm the following year caused even more damage.
Nothing further was done until 1965 and by then the restoration costs had risen to almost £9,000. Further discussion followed and there were problems with the owner, and costs just continued to spiral.
In 1974 due to government changes, the Anglesey Council ceased to exist and the new Anglesey Borough Council took over and they spent £120,000 having it restored.
R. Thompson and Son, of Alford, Lincolnshire sent four millwrights to Llanddesant, and during the summer months of the restoration they lived with local families.
Negotiating the winding, narrow maze of country roads cause a bit of a problem for the millwrights. On one occasion they were returning to Lincolnshire and had been travelling for ten miles when they came across a sign that said – Lynnon Mill – 1½ miles!
It took a further three years to bring the mill back to its full working order and a full time miller was then employed.
As I went back to the car park after a pleasant afternoon, I found a pair of glasses lying on the gravel. So I took them to the shop and handed them to Maldyn.
He told me how he had almost got a full set as he already had a coat, a hat and a walking stick. Very soon, there would be a new shop assistant, but don’t ask him anything, as he’s likely to look right through you!
Since I wrote this article, the mill has changed hands. The new owner has introduced chocolate and gin to his list of goods. Visit them on Facebook for more details.