Darlaston and many of the neighbouring Black County towns started life as a small hamlet, on top of a hill. It seems that our Anglo Saxon ancestors preferred the high ground, presumably because it was easily defendable, and had suitable land for their cattle and crops.

Since those early times, bread has been an important part of the diet, and flour was a necessity. The earliest powered flour mills in the country were watermills. There was one in the James Bridge area of Darlaston, close to Bentley Mill Way, which is named after it. In 1239 Thomas de Darlaston granted William de Bentley the right to establish a mill and mill pond, and divert all of the local waters for the purpose.

Windmills started to be built in England in the later part of the 12th century. Darlaston was an ideal location for a windmill, particularly above the western slope of the hill, facing into the prevailing wind. There were two windmills in the area, the largest being Darlaston Mill, which stood on the brow of the hill near to where Dorsett Road is today. The large tower mill is marked on Morden's map of 1695, and one hundred years later was advertised in the 'Staffordshire Advertiser' by Mr. J. Gough as 'a capital brick-built windmill'.

It was purchased by George Smith who ran the mill for around 40 years. He owned a large area of land behind the mill, and erected a street there, which he called Smith Street. He sold building plots on either side, and the street soon filled with houses. It ran westwards from The Leys (opposite the end of New Street) to School Street and Old Church C.E. Primary School. The street and houses were demolished in the early 1970s when the 15 storey blocks of flats were built on the Leys.

The mill is listed in Pigot & Company's 1842 Staffordshire Directory. The miller was Samuel Smith, possibly George's son. Within a few years it was acquired by John Silvester, and continued in use until about 1860. On the 1886 Ordnance Survey map it is marked as disused, but does not appear on later editions.

Darlaston Mill by Bev Parker. A view of the windmill as it may have looked in the mid 1830s. The dirt track on the left is now Dorsett Road, and the dirt track in the right foreground is now Dorsett Road Terrace. To the right of the windmill is Mill House, with Cock Street in the background. The houses behind the windmill were in Smith Street.

The mill stood next to a dirt track that ran from Cock Street to Wolverhampton Street across an open area of land called 'Bonfire Piece'. The land was owned by the Dorsett family, and when developed became the area of housing around Dorsett Road and Charles Foster Street. When the mill was in operation there were coal mines near to where Charles Foster Street is today, which were owned by Joseph Davis. Dorsett Road Terrace was a dirt track leading to Mill Lane, Globe nut and bolt works, and Mill Colliery.

Mill House stood near to the windmill, and is still there today, roughly opposite the junction of Dorsett Road and Dorsett Road Terrace. It is likely that the Smith family lived there. A later occupant was Simeon Partridge and his family. He was a grocer with a shop at 28 Pinfold Street, who began to make tallow candles. He opened a small candle factory on the corner of Walsall Road and Crescent Road, which burned down in 1900. The business later moved to Heath Road.

The Partridge family outside Mill House. From the collection of the late Howard Madeley.

The location of the windmill can be seen from the map above. The windmill, Mill House, and the Dartmouth Arms pub are superimposed on top of a modern map which shows today s houses, gardens, and Dorsett Road.

Mill House, as it is today.

Darlaston's second windmill stood near the junction of Mill Street and Birmingham Street and was known as King's Hill Windmill. Unlike Darlaston Windmill it was a post mill, made of wood, mounted on a central pole. The whole building would have been turned into the wind so that the sails could rotate. It is listed in Plot's 'History of Staffordshire' published in 1682, and seems to have remained in use until the end of the 18th century.

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