200-year-old mill set to grind corn again

New lease of life: The windmill was derelict when bought at auction in 1993
New lease of life: The windmill was derelict when bought at auction in 1993

The largest post mill in the UK is set to grind corn again – more than a century since it ceased working.

The iconic Grade II Listed building, which gives its name to Windmill Hill at Herstmonceux, last week became the subject of a major restoration project.

The sweeps were taken down for new shutters to be made and they will be restored to the structure at the end of July.

Restoration of the windmill’s machinery is continuing along with the refurbishment of exterior steps to the trestle floor.

Testing and commissioning will take place during the summer. Volunteers will be trained to operate the machinery and it is expected the mill will be grinding flour for sale in the autumn.

The latest work is the final stage of the restoration of the windmill which was on the English Heritage ‘At Risk’ register and was rescued from dereliction in 1996.

The first stage of the restoration with a grant of £557,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund enabled the mill to be made available to the public in 2006.

The windmill is run as a registered charity and is in the custody of trustees. It has always been their dream to restore the mill to complete working order and capable of producing flour as it did for the first time more than 200 years ago.

The recent Heritage Lottery Fund of £80,800 will allow this to happen.

The windmill has become part of local heritage for future generations to ‘own’ and enjoy. A team of volunteers work on the restoration throughout the year and another team work as guides throughout the season when it is open to the public.

The historic building can be viewed from Easter Sunday through to mid October, when it is open on the first and third Sunday in the month from 2.30pm to 5pm as well as all public holidays. Private visits for schools and groups can be arranged.

There are plans to make the mill available for weddings in 2016. For further information on the windmill please contact Bee Frost on 01323 833033 or Jenny Alder on 01323 832329.

The mill was built in 1814 and raised on to brick piers around 1851.

It was converted to steam power in 1894, but ceased working as a mill in 1913.

The derelict structure was bought at auction in 1993, and the Trust to secure its future was formed in 1996.

In 2001 £557,000 Heritage Lottery Funding was awarded and restoration work started two years later. It opened to the public in 2006.

In December last year the mill was awarded £80,800 from Heritage Lottery Fund to restore the machinery and sweeps to working order.

Record show millers of the past have been a Mr Beeney (1845 - 1877), Charles Edwin Hammond (1878 - 1887) and Henry Harmer (1887 - 1913).

The mill stands nearly 51ft high, which makes it the second tallest in the UK and the largest by floor plan to survive.