10 Abandoned Windmills, Windpumps, Turbines & Wind Farms

the-forlorn-sails-of-an-abandoned-windmill (Image: Communicationcy; the abandoned windmill)

Few sights as more melancholy as broken down, abandoned windmills, their purposeless sails creaking gently in the breeze. Such ruins sum up everything that’s poignant about decay: the knowledge that there used to be people here, and that the thing they strove for is now gone forever, leaving a sad ruin as the headstone for their toils. Of course, with renewables the way of the future and wind energy increasingly harnessed, perhaps their time will one day come again. For now, though, let’s explore 10 such monuments to people and industries past, from the centuries-old abandoned windmills of Norfolk to the ruined windpumps and turbines of North America and beyond.

Abandoned Brograve Mill in Norfolk, England

abandoned windmill in the norfolk broads national park (Images: Ian Martin)

Norfolk’s flat, dreamlike expanse has long been one of the best places in Britain to feel the passing of centuries. The course of canals, the reach of the fens, the shoreline of the sea, all are forever shifting in this strange, windswept world. But perhaps the clearest signs of change comes from the abandoned windmills. Thrown up a couple of centuries ago, they now slowly crumble beside canals, forgotten remnants of another time.

abandoned-brograve-mill-on-the-norfolk-broads (Images: Rackellar)

Brograve mill is just one among many examples. Built in 1771, it has stood empty since at least 1931. Once used to pump water and drain the Brograve Levels, it now merely collapses against the sky, a picturesque wreck adding a splash of colour to an otherwise deserted landscape.

Stone’s Drainage Mill, England

abandoned-stones-drainage-mill-england (Image: Evelyn Simak)

Rising solemnly from the flat East Anglian landscape, Stone’s Drainage Mill is so neglected that it no longer even resembles a windmill. Instead, it appears as some sort of medieval tower, densely surrounded by gnarled branches. The sort of place you might expect to see Rapunzel waving out of, waiting longingly for her knight in shining armour.

Of course, the true history of Stone’s Drainage Mill is far more prosaic. Constructed sometime around 1750, it was deserted long ago and left to fall into ruin. Over the decades, the sails disintegrated, the door was torn from its frame, the roof collapsed, and the elements took over. Fast forward to 2016, and all that remains of the abandoned windmill is a glorious wreck, quietly watching over the Norfolk Broads like some ancient stone sentinel.

Abandoned Windmills of Amorgos, Greece


abandoned-windmills-on-amorgos-in-greece-2 (Image: Laborratte; Stathis24)

Nestled on a hilltop on Greece’s far-flung island of Amorgos, where the sun burns so dazzlingly bright it seems to bleach the colour out of everything around, sit these melancholy abandoned windmills. Short, squat structures wrought from stone and painted a burning white, they perch above the tiny village of Chora. Once an integral part of the local economy, they’re now largely derelict.

Not that the current economic malaise gripping Greece can be blamed for the destruction of these windmills. Unused for years, the abandoned windpumps have instead become a kind of local landmark for the people of Amorgos and visitors to the island. A place to hike up to and while away an hour beneath the scorching Aegean sun.

Kamaoa Abandoned Wind Farm, South Point, Hawaii


abandoned-kamaoa-wind-farm-before-demolition-2 (Images: Rebecca Stanek; Christian Razukas)

The Southernmost point of Hawaii’s Big Island (and therefore the United States), Ka Lae was always going to be a shoo-in location for a wind farm. The gusts that buffet this rocky cliff are so strong that they can make trees grow at bizarre, sweeping angles. So when wind power began to take off in the late 1980s, it wasn’t long before developers began building the complex you see above.

Opened in 1987, the Kamaoa Wind Farm operated until 2006 before the plug was finally pulled. When it was, the area were briefly abandoned, leaving only one lone turbine sticking up into the sky. Later dismantled and replaced with larger, more capable turbines, could the fate of the abandoned wind farm at Ka Lae point toward what may one day become of our modern turbines? How they, too, will be seen, many years from now, when technology has moved on and their vast, rusting hulks are slowly replaced with newer versions.

Abandoned Windpump at Lo Pagan, Spain

abandoned-windpump-at-lo-pagan-spain (Image: Silver Machine)

On the edges of one of Lo Pagan’s famous mud-bathing lakes sits this derelict old windpump. With its faded, peeling white paint, snapped and spindly wooden arms, and slowly decaying roof, it looks like something that has lain forgotten for hundreds of years. Preserved by the dry, dusty heat and the baking sun, it has the air of a prop from some dystopian, post-apocalyptic sci-fi film.

Lo Pagan was once a centre for salt production, so it seems safe to assume this old windpump was linked to that industry. But technology moves on, and what once seemed cutting edge is now consigned to miserable oblivion, forgotten and unloved.

Abandoned Windmill Near Wernigerode, Germany

abandoned-windpump-near-wernigerode-germany (Image: Sludge G)

Not far from the Gothic spires and attractive timber buildings of Wernigerode, Germany, sits this forlorn wooden windmill. A small, squashed little place at the best of times, the abandoned windpump had evidently fallen into disrepair long before the above picture was taken, in 1990. With the world having moved on since then, and East Germany transformed beyond all recognition, it seems plausible that there’s now nothing left there at all.

The wooden structure reflects the architecture of the nearby town. Wernigerode is mildly-famous for its elegant timber frames, and it’s likely the windmill once looked equally-grand. But while the centuries conspired to preserve Wernigerode’s wooden town hall, they did little for this old windmill, instead likely consigning it to oblivion.

Abandoned Windmills in Gotland, Sweden


gotland-windpump (Images: CucombreLibre; Viktor Rutberg)

Sweden’s largest island, Gotland is a 1,229 square mile stretch of land adrift in the Baltic Sea. A remote world of chilly winters and long summer days, it is a predominantly rural land, home to a mere 57,000 people. Away from its main town, Visby, everything returns to nature. It’s in these stretches of bucolic wilderness that Gotland’s forgotten windmills can be found.

Stone giants occupying empty plains, or squatting on mountaintops, Gotland’s abandoned windpumps are uniformly big, and uniformly empty. Numerous enough to be a noticeable part of the island’s past, they can be found in various states of repair, from good-as-new, to utterly collapsed. Lonely, melancholy, and often oddly beautiful, they testify to Gotland’s distinct history.

Abandoned Windmill on the Island of Serifos, Greece

abandoned-windpump-at-the-chora-of-serifos (Image: C messier)

Sun-drenched, barren, and spectacular, the island of Serifos in southern Greece unfolds like a dream amidst the spectacular Aegean Sea. A place where myth and history collide, it was here that Perseus supposedly used Medusa’s head to turn King Polydectes and his entourage into stone.

Looking at the landscape, it’s easy to see how that story could’ve arisen. Serifos is nothing but stone; a land of rocks that bake in the noonday sun. The above abandoned windmill therefore fits perfectly into this peculiar world. A damaged old stone structure, its ruins could be all that remains of Polydectes’s court, doomed forever to crumble beneath the Aegean Sun.

Derelict Windmill Near Ruba, Latvia

ruined-windmill-near-ruba-latvia (Image: simka)

A tiny parish in one of Europe’s least-populated countries, the village of Ruba is almost relatively obscure. Tucked away in a corner of Latvia away from the heady bustle and gorgeous art nouveau architecture of Riga, the crumbling ruins of this abandoned windmill stand largely forgotten.

But there’s certainly a picturesque quality to the derelict structure. A shambling, overgrown red brick mess, it today looks close to collapse. Battered over the years by harsh winters and baking Baltic summers, it is now completely overgrown. The sails have gone. The roof has fallen in. The only sign that it was ever an operating windmill is its strange conical shape, too awkward to have ever been part of a defensive tower.

Abandoned Windpumps of North America


abandoned-windpumps-in-north-america-2 (Images: llensgraf; tpsdave)

Nothing evokes the American Midwest and the Dust Bowl of the 1930s like the strange, rusted old windmills you see above. Different from their European cousins, these simple, metal windpumps were once a feature of the plains, guarding over tiny homesteads that tried to forge a living in this vast, great wilderness. Even now, they remain burned onto the minds of millions via the magic of the silver screen. How many are able to look at pictures like the one above, and not subconsciously hear the sails squeaking as they turn reluctantly in the breeze?

For more industrial history from a different age, check out our feature covering the abandoned mines, quarries and collieries of Britain.


About the author: Morris M




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