Horse Whim

This thatched building, dating from the 19th century, houses a horse-driven mechanism for raising water from a well.

Removal of a pin in the shaft allows the drum to revolve freely when lowering the bucket, with the speed of descent controlled by a brake. The open shed may have originally been a wagon or cart shelter but has also been used as a saw-shed, with the balk raised up on the tie beams.

horse whim

The horse whim before dismantling.

Horse whim The three-bay building covers both the well and the winding mechanism, known as a “horse whim”. The well was about 120 feet deep, so the drum had to turn about sixteen times to raise the bucket, and to achieve this the horse had to walk one third of a mile.

The winding mechanism consists of an elm winding drum mounted on a vertical oak shaft. An arm through the shaft has a hook on the end for a whipple tree for a small work horse.

The drum can be either locked to the shaft or free to rotate about it. To raise the bucket (clockwise rotation) the drum is locked to the shaft by a crude ‘dog clutch’ consisting of two wooden blocks or ‘dogs’ fixed to the underside of the winding drum, which lock against a removable ash pin that is inserted in a hole through the shaft. To lower the bucket (anti-clockwise rotation) the pin is removed and the drum freely revolves on the shaft, powered by the weight of the descending bucket. The rate of descent is controlled by a brake consisting of a sycamore brake shoe on the end of an arm which passes through the shaft and is pivoted on a pin. Manual pressure on the arm presses the brake shoe on the circular brake pad, also of sycamore, attached to the underside of the lower flange of the drum.

The well head consists of an oak frame which houses a wooden pulley over which the rope passes. The original bucket is said to have been of leather, holding about 25 gallons. The bucket on display was the last bucket used in the Catherington treadwheel and holds 20 gallons.

Following a fire and partial collapse, very little of the original building survived when it was rescued by the Museum — some roof timbers, wall plates, tie beams and cladding. All the new timbers have been produced at the Museum by the traditional conversion methods of hewing and pitsawing.

Open shed This building came from the perimeter of Gatwick airport, but map evidence suggests that it may have been moved there from another site when the airport was created before the war. Originally open on all four sides, its original purpose may have been a wagon or cart shelter. However, saw cuts on the tie beams suggest that it was also used as a saw-shed, with the balk to be sawn placed on the tie beams instead of on trestles or over a pit.

Animal, wind and water power

Before the age of steam these power sources were extremely important in the rural and industrial economy.

Animal power can be seen in five exhibits at the Museum. Two of them are buildings dedicated to raising water — the horse whim from West Kingsdown (illustrated here) with a horizontal wheel, and the Catherington treadwheel house with a vertical wheel. Another building dedicated to an animal-powered machine is the pugmill house from the Redford brickyard.

Two other exhibits show horse wheels manufactured in cast iron, which were widely used in the 19th century. Near the Redford building is a typical example, the horse gin from Patching, a ground-level wheel which raised water from a well by driving a pump. Another wheel has been installed at the end of the Watersfield stable to drive a chaff cutter inside the building.

Lurgashall Mill is an impressive monument to the traditional use of water power for grinding corn, and the Pevensey windpump shows the vital importance of wind power in the draining and maintenance of land.