Historic windmill is fitted with new sails

An 18th century corn-grinding windmill has been fitted with four new sails as part of a £250,000 conservation project.

Saxtead Green Post Mill near Framlingham, Suffolk, was originally built in 1796 and ceased use in 1947 when its last miller died.

It is kept in working order and regularly opened to visitors by English Heritage.

Saxtead Green Post Mill
A crane hoists new sails in to place (Joe Giddens/PA)

The mill is a rare example of a post mill, with its body mounted on a single vertical post and able to turn around it to bring the sails into the wind.

It has been rebuilt three times over the years, with cast iron machinery added in 1854.

Specialist millwright Tim Whiting worked on the latest project over the last 12 months, and on Thursday he fitted the sails which have a full span of almost 60ft (18.2 metres).

The wooden sails, made from Douglas fir, were constructed in his workshop in nearby Saxmundham, and a crane hoisted them into position on the 48ft-tall (14.6 metres) mill.

Mr Whiting also crafted a replacement staircase and carried out repairs to the timber housing and the fantail to the rear of the mill.

The Heritage Crafts Association placed millwrighting on its red list of critically endangered heritage crafts for the first time this year, with only an estimated six to 10 people still practising in the UK.

Buildings and Landmarks – Saxtead Green Windmill – Saxtead
The Saxtead Green Windmill (PA)

Joseph James, English Heritage’s National project manager, said: “Saxtead Green Post Mill is a fascinating piece of our industrial history.

“Before the arrival of steam and electricity, mills powered by wind and water were a vital part of daily life, grinding corn into flour for local people.

“We are delighted to have been able to secure the future of this important piece of Suffolk’s heritage, and this project is all the more timely because millwrighting – a skill that has been practised in the UK for more than 700 years – has recently been classified as a critically endangered heritage skill.

“If historic windmills are to survive for the future they need our help now more than ever.”

Although milling ceased at Saxtead Green Post Mill in 1947, the mill remained in working order until recently. We're now undertaking conservation to get it moving again like it's 1948. https://t.co/tVYyHvnhATpic.twitter.com/Yx7FyjLQyN

— English Heritage (@EnglishHeritage) February 13, 2019

The project forms part of a national investment in historic windmills by English Heritage.

It has scheduled works at Sibsey Trader Windmill in Lincolnshire and Berney Arms Windmill in Norfolk in the coming years.

Saxtead Green Post Mill is due to reopen to the public for two days on September 21-22, before it permanently reopens in 2020.

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