The centre will serve the local community with a range of educational activities for residents, school groups, adult learners and community groups. The popular site will also welcome visitors from further afield.
Heart of the community
Jean Kerrigan, Chair of the Friends of Windmill Gardens, said: “Brixton Windmill has been at the heart of Lambeth for over 200 years. The opening of the education building is a momentous occasion for us and will allow FoWG to continue serving the local community by providing vital space for workshops, classes and our flour production.
“I would like to thank architects, Squire and Partners, for their design, commitment and generous support for this project and Lambeth Council for recognising the role FoWG has played within our local community for the past 17 years and having the confidence in our volunteers’ ability to manage this wonderful new community space.”
The Friends group will also use the centre as a showcase for the historic mill, and to host open days and local festivals. The main space and cafe will be available to hire for events, including birthday parties and weddings, to help pay for the centre’s upkeep.
FoWG have re-started Brixton weekly tai chi and monthly gardening sessions under socially-distanced measures, and are aiming to resume open days from September, with a possibility of a limited opening for Open House weekend on September 19 and 20. Updates will be posted to the Brixton Windmill’s website.
Word from the Cabinet
Cllr Sonia Winifred, Lambeth’s Cabinet member for Equalities and Culture said: “I’m delighted that we have completed this project. The Windmill is such a valuable community asset and landmark for the borough.
“This new education centre will help people learn about the Windmill’s fascinating past and present, encourage more people to visit the site and create an important legacy for future generations.”
The Friends offer regular guided tours of the windmill and host a programme of events for the surrounding community, including the popular Beer & Bread festival and workshops for local schools. The charity also mills Brixton Windmill flour which is used by local bakeries, restaurants and retailers. FoWG plan to run community baking workshops in the new centre.
Tim Gledstone, from Brixton based architects Squire & Partners who undertook the project design work, said: “In its bicentenary year, Brixton Windmill’s cultural ambassadors Eley Kishimoto – along with Friends of Windmill Gardens and Lambeth Council – reached out to us to unlock a 10-year-stalled project to create an education and community centre.
“The new building offers a self-sustaining future for the working windmill, enabling it to be enjoyed for another 200 years. A flexible frame allows the centre to be incrementally opened up for a variety of community, education and fundraising events, whilst durable and timeless materials create an accelerated vernacular on the site of previous miller’s outbuildings.
“The centre supports the love and generosity of Friends of Windmill Gardens, and offers a symbol of hope for windmills everywhere – celebrating their sustainable role in communities.”
Brixton Windmill is a Grade II* listed structure built in 1816 as a working flour mill – locally known as Ashby’s Mill after the family of millers – set within Windmill Gardens at the end of Blenheim Gardens just off Brixton Hill.
The mill ceased production in 1934, and was first opened to the public in the 1960s when the land around it was laid out as a public park. Following intermittent periods of use and neglect the windmill was restored by Lambeth Council with Heritage Lottery funding and returned to public use in 2011. Since then FoWG volunteers have opened it to visitors.