Thomas Stanley. The name might call to mind many things for British history buffs—stepfather of King Henry VII, accessory to the murder of Edward V and Prince Richard, 1st Earl of Derby. But if you know your history of milling in Kent, England, it might call to mind another Thomas Stanley.
This Thomas Stanley was by no means the first miller at the White Mill, the last surviving windmill in Sandwich, but he was the first of the Stanleys to run it. Stanley purchased the mill in 1878, and his family operated it until the 1950s. The mill had been built in 1760, with several outbuildings added later. The mill is no longer in use and is now part of the White Mill Rural Heritage Centre.
Open to visitors are outbuildings such as the miller’s office and cottage, granary, engine house, forge, and workshops. And, of course, the windmill itself. The windmill is an octagonal four-sailed smock mill, so-called because the shape is thought to resemble that of a person wearing a smock. Inside, three millstones used to grind corn. Much of the machinery on display today is original.
The heritage center is run completely by volunteers. From acting as docents to running the gift shop to managing finances to marketing, every aspect of the operation relies on volunteer hours. Restoration work, too, relies on the efforts of volunteers. The windmill was restored between 1960 and 1981, the sails between 2012 and 2014, and the Engine House in 1995.
The White Mill is actively recruiting volunteers who are interested in helping with administrative tasks, collections management, restoration projects, and other tasks. Visit www.whitemillheritagecentre.org.uk to learn more about the museum, or check them out on Twitter!
The White Mill is one of many historic sites around the world managed and operated by volunteers. On the occasion of International Volunteer Day (December 5), Adventures in Preservation salutes, and thanks, all of them.