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A history of Brixton Windmill in 16 objects

In 2016 the Friends of Windmill Gardens celebrate the 200th anniversary of Brixton Windmill.

1816 was a momentous year in many ways. The victory at Waterloo in the previous year, and with it the end of the Napoleonic Wars, appeared to herald the start of an era of peace and prosperity.

Image: Weathercote Cave by JMW Turner (copyright British Museum)

But at the same time the paintings of JMW Turner, among others, show the effects of the 'year without a summer'. This was the catastrophic outcome of the explosion of Mount Tambora - the largest recorded eruption in history - which gradually spread a dark cloud of volcanic dust from the tiny Indonesian island of Sumbawa right across the globe, causing freezing weather and floods wherever it went, and devastating harvests.

It was in this inauspicious year that John Ashby became the founder of the dynasty of millers who - through all its trials and tribulations - ensured the survival and success of Brixton Windmill.

In this series of articles, to be published throughout our bicentenary year, we focus on 16 objects associated with the mill (commemorating our 1816-2016 anniversary) to explore the story of Ashby's Mill, of family and local life, and the ways in which the development of mills and windpower have relevance for us today.

We begin with the tale of a humble ear of wheat, grown last year in Windmill Gardens.