Saturday, March 10, 2018

Hayley Mills & The Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Windmill

Every fan of the 1968 musical Chitty Chitty Bang Bang remembers inventor Caractacus Potts' beautiful workshop, but what many do not know is that the windmill where it was filmed was once owned by Hayley Mills, the star of numerous Walt Disney films of the 1960s. 

In 1967, producer Albert "Cubby" Broccoli sent location scouts throughout the English countryside to select a picturesque windmill to become the workshop of the magnificent inventor Professor Potts, portrayed by Dick Van Dyke. In the parish of Ibstone in Buckinghamshire, they discovered Cobstone Mill, a lovely 1816 smock mill that was used to grind cereal until the late 1800s. After a fire damaged the center post, the mill went into disrepair and, by the time the scouts discovered it, it needed extensive renovation. Broccoli footed the bill for a cosmetic restoration....of the exterior only. Paper sails were fitted to mock blades that actually worked, making the sails turn in the wind. Since the scenes featuring the interior of the workshop would be shot on a soundstage, there was no need for repairs to be made on the inside of the mill. 
Three years after Chitty Chitty Bang Bang was released in theaters, Hayley Mills and her husband, director Roy Boulting, discovered the mill and purchased it at an auction for £30,000. Over the next four years, they invested nearly £90,000 in restoring the mill, which proved to be quite a challenge. By 1975, they had the mill up for sale...at a cost that just about covered their restoration expenses. It looks like Mills was put through the mill for that purchase.

Since the 1960s, Cobstone Mill has been seen in television episodes of The New Avengers, Midsomer Murders, Jonathan Creek, and Little Britain. Today, it still stands proudly overlooking the village of Turville and is admired by the occasional Chitty Chitty Bang Bang fan who happens to be passing by. 

This entry is a part of our series entitled "Did You Know?".....sometimes we just feel like sharing interesting fragments of television and movie history and now we have a place to do just that. If you have a hot tip that you would like us to share on Silver Scenes, drop us a line!

10 comments:

  1. Interesting. £30,000 seems expensive for a disused windmill 50 years ago. Maybe that house was included.

    Turville was the location for "Bramley End" in the excellent Ealing film Went the Day Well? (1942). There are a lot of film locations in Buckinghamshire, as you might expect, given the proximity to Pinewood.



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    1. I think a cottage was included with the mill, but it didn't look anything like the one from Chitty. I'm not sure, but that may have been a "front" built around the actual cottage. It would be interesting to find location photos during the making of the film.

      And yes, Buckinghamshire was a great place for filming. There is a little church in Hambleden that seems to have appeared in hundreds of English movies. But then again, so many churches look alike!

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  2. They may only have recouped their costs, but I hope there was some satisfaction in restoring the historical building.

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    1. I'm sure Hayley is probably looking back on those years now with fondness, but maybe at the time it seemed more of a headache than it was worth!

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  3. The windmill is probably my favorite part of CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG. I had no idea it was owned by Hayley Mills and her husband! Given the restoration costs, I guess I won't be buying a windmill any time soon.

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    1. Converted to today's money, that 30,000 pound purchase cost would be over $500,000. That's a tidy sum for a run-down windmill...but it sure is picturesque. :-)

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  4. Awww, how cool! Windmills are amazing. But I've never had a yen to own one, I must admit.

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    1. ...And with their market prices, that's a good thing!

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  5. Wow! I did not know that! Thanks for the info!

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  6. my grandmother owned the mill in the 1960s, and sold it to Hayley Mills. Somewhere we have super 8 footage of her and Boulting coming to see it

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