“I CAN’T believe it. Last time I was there, it was there. Now it’s gone. They’ve taken it down, brick-by-brick. Unbelievable. They’re only re-building it in a – expletive deleted – museum.” What’s that then Steve? “The Vulcan, in Cardiff, it’s gone...” And to add salt to the wound: “They’ve put a – expletive deleted – car park in its – expletive deleted – place.”

Sometimes, life lets you down. Arriving in the Welsh capital and anticipating a fine pint of traditionally-pulled ale from a decent choice of draught suds at a hostelry which has been welcoming the discerning beer buff for more than 150 years is undoubtedly one of these occasions.

The Vulcan pub, as explained above, has been meticulously removed with every brick, timber and brass fitting having been individually numbered in anticipation – come the arrival of sufficient funds – of being reconstructed in its original form at Wales’ most popular attraction, St Fagan's National History Museum.

You have to admit, emotion aside, that it’s an interesting concept – one that immediately conjures the words ‘Abu Simbel.’ What a job that was!

Having been in situ even longer than The Vulcan – around 3,000 years give or take a century – Rameses II’s great gift to himself, Queen Nefertari and subsequently the world, was sliced out of the rock from whence it was carved during the late 1960s.

Some 10,000 numbered blocks were diligently re-erected on higher ground, thus saving this masterpiece of ancient Egyptian art and engineering from vanishing beneath the Aswan Dam.

London Bridge can be taken as another example. At least that’s what the Americans did. Took it all the way to Arizona where it today presides over Lake Havasu.

Amusingly, they apparently initially thought they were stumping-up £2 million for the somewhat more iconic Tower Bridge.

And Swindon too has its re-constructed marvel. Not, admittedly, in the same league as Abu Simbel, London Bridge or even The Vulcan. But it has become a well-known, undeniably attractive part of our built landscape.

It is the 19th century centrepiece at Windmill Hill Business Park near Junction 16 of the M4… Swindon’s only existing windmill.

Peeping above a cluster of trees, passing motorists could be forgiven for assuming that it had been there for at least a century.

It is actually a comparatively new arrival, having been erected in West Swindon just over 30 years ago.

This graceful structure, with its majestic sails, originally adorned the fields of Chiseldon around six miles away before its dramatic though not unproblematic rebirth.

Back in the early 1980s, when a gleaming new business park was planned for 80-acre Marsh Farm in the parish of Lydiard Tregoze, the company behind the £100 million scheme, Kuwaiti-owned St Martin’s Property Corporation, had already hit upon a catchy name for its showpiece development – Windmill Hill.

What better to set off the main building’s shiny, stylish, blue-tinted glass facade than an actual windmill: not a phoney, plastic, Disneyesque imitation but a genuine, old fashioned, heavy duty piece of work whose sails, vanes, gears and fantail once ground away for decades. The real deal.

Don Quixote in his heyday may have assailed several such towering, wind-driven giants with gusto. But three decades ago he’d have been hard-pressed to find such a fellow as hardly any working windmills had survived in the 20th Century.

The melancholy, weed-ravaged stumps of such structures, however, could occasionally be found rotting away in the countryside – forlorn relics of a bygone age.

The country was scoured for such items and by 1982 developers had got wind of a couple. “Negotiations are taking place in respect of two windmill remains,” they announced at a London press conference in November that year.

“Both are the tower type in the form of a cone and upon renovation will stand some 40 to 50ft high,” we were informed. The windmill stump of choice would be resurrected “in the spirit of the original by means of an appropriate blend of historic and modern techniques.”

The identity of the second was never disclosed after Swindon’s potential new windmill was unveiled a few months later as Chiseldon’s old one.

The limbless, redbrick tower had been sitting in the village, derelict, cobwebbed and redundant on land adjoining flats in, err, Mill Close.

Only a couple of years earlier we ran a piece about the gnarled, time-ravaged old boy – by then a Grade II listed building – and photographed a Mill Close resident, George Flippance posing next to it.

“Not many council tenants can boast a windmill in their back garden,” we reported.

Erected next to Chiseldon Church, it was built in the 1820s and local historians said it was still operating as late as 1892. Thirty two years ago the Adver published a grainy 1881 photo of it in full swing.

Come the turn of the century its death knell, like all the others, had long since been sounded by steam-power. For a while the four-storey structure, minus the sails, became someone’s home.

Later abandoned, its windows were bricked-up and its top sealed with a lid before decades later it caught the eye of St Martin’s windmill seeker David Nicholson, a leading expert who described the stump as in “perfect condition.”

Mr Nicholls, who oversaw the restoration of majestic Wilton Windmill (see panel), enthused: “If we can get the necessary permission – it is a listed building – we’ll have this one working again.”

It would even have the capacity to grind out corn again, he pledged.

The windmill was acquired in 1983 for £15,000 as Chiseldon folk – who gained funding for tennis courts as part of the deal – waved farewell to their 160-year-old landmark.

Its bricks numbered Abu Simbel-like, the structure was carefully dismantled – none of your heavy-handed, let’s pulverise it to dust, ball-and-chain stuff here.

Mr Nicholls said: “There are thousands of bricks and each one has to be numbered to ensure it goes back in the right place. Otherwise it wouldn’t be Chiseldon windmill again.”

With re-pointed, cleaned-up bricks, spanking new sails, a concrete base, smart door and windows and even a fan tail, it arose from the dead at its new West Swindon home the following year.

To the uninitiated, it had scrubbed-up a treat. But it wasn’t all plain sailing. Severe damp broke out and drastic action involving a special type of mortar was eventually deployed.

The five year rescue-and-restore mission finally wound-up in 1988, signalling the completion of Swindon’s first newly erected windmill almost certainly since the era of Waterloo.

  • THE West’s only working windmill at tiny Wilton near Marlborough was built alongside the Kennet and Avon Canal during the same period as Chiseldon’s, in 1821.

    Having ground out a living for a century, it finally became obsolete in the 1920s and fell into dereliction.

    During the 1960s it was afforded Grade II listed status and later bought by Wiltshire County Council who leased it to the Wiltshire Historic Buildings Trust.

    An imaginative and visionary four year project saw it finally restored to working order in 1976 when it began producing flour after a gap of more than half-a-century.

    When it hit financial problems in the 1980s the Wilton Millers’ Cricket Team was formed to raise funds by playing sponsored matches.

    Flour made from locally-grown wheat continues to be produced at the mill and can be bought on site and in local shops.

  • WINDMILLS were a familiar sight in pre-railway Swindon and neighbouring rural settlements.

    Harnessing the wind to grind corn, Highworth had one in 1275, nearby Sevenhampton in 1285, with dozens of others springing-up in the area over the years.

    One of Swindon’s oldest thoroughfares, Wood Street, was formerly Windmill Street as it was dominated by one of the structures that was believed to have stood since the 14th Century.

    Demolished during the early 19th Century, it occupied a spot close to The King’s Arms that was built in the 1830s.

    Others existed at Okus, Kingsdown in Stratton and Moredon while Wootton Bassett had three.