A map from 1884 showing the
Old Windmill Inn, well away from
the future site of the resevoir
At the time of the First World War the village consisted of the school, the Windmill public house, the post office and general store, the blacksmith's forge and the parish church of St Peter. 'Bearmains', the big house, was lived in by Mr and Mrs Gray, employing many servants and gardeners and there was a scattering of cottages mainly occupied by the farmers and their families.
The post office and general stores were run by the Clarence family. You could always purchase lovely hand-cut bacon and cheese, and all perishable goods were kept in a back room with a brick floor, slate shelves and no heat. The blacksmith's forge was run by the two Smith brothers who were kept busy with the farm horses. When anyone wanted the doctor to call from Wickford, a white flag was placed on the smithy's wall and the doctor on his motor-bike used to call there to see where he was wanted (there were no phones in the village until the 1930s).
The Old Windmill was built in 1702, and has been a public house at least from 1799, when records show that Joshua Appleton, Licensed Victualler, held the lease for 14 years.
From 1848, William Hunt, described in a census as a Licensed Victualler and Farmer, had the pub. His family took the Windmill on after him and ran it until at least 1933. It is described at that time as a small country pub with a tap room, the floor of which was covered in sawdust, and was run by Tom Hunt and his sister Peg, together with a housekeeper Mrs Aspin. All three by all accounts were very deaf, but managed to keep the locals happy, especially in wintertime with a large fire in the tap room which had seats built in the side of the fireplace.
Since then, the pub has seen a few changes, and legend had it that the pub was demolished in 1954 and rebuilt in a different location to facilitate the building of Hanningfield reservoir. However, the 1884 Ordnance Survey Map below clearly shows the Old Windmill Inn in its current location, well away from the waters of the new reservoir.
It has since undergone much extension work, but the old charm of the building remains.