Couple’s shock as Denver Mill owners reveal their lease won’t be renewed

PUBLISHED: 10:29 15 June 2012 | UPDATED: 11:40 15 June 2012

Denver Mill without its sails, with Lindsay Abel Picture: Matthew Usher.

Denver Mill without its sails, with Lindsay Abel Picture: Matthew Usher.

Archant © 2012 01603 772434

A couple have been dealt a blow in their bid to promote and preserve traditional country life at a historic Norfolk mill.

Denver Mill was one of the country’s last working windmills until a sail broke off and showered debris around the complex, near Downham Market, last October.

All four sails and the stock were removed in January and the Norfolk Historic Buildings Trust (NHBT), which owns the site, said it needed to raise £100,000 to get the sails turning again.

Mark and Lindsay Abel, who rent the six-storey building, launched a campaign in February to help restore the historic mill in the Fens to its former glory.

But the couple have now received a letter from the NHBT which states their five-year lease will not be renewed and come to an end next May.

Mrs Abel said: “We have got a year to fight and we are determined to fight to stay here.

“We have managed to build the business up to a point where it is profitable and now they {the trust] are taking it away from us.

“We originally asked for a 15-year lease because we knew we needed five years to turn this place around but in the end we ended up taking out a five-year lease.

“We were given the opportunity to buy it from the trust but we weren’t/aren’t in a position to do so. We are now exploring all options available to us to ensure we can achieve our dream here.”

Denver Mill has towered over the Fens for some 180 years and remains a popular tourist attraction and landmark south of Downham Market.

The mill was given to the county in 1971 before being sold to the NHBT by Norfolk County Council. The Abels took over in 2008.

The NHBT has said it cannot fund the repairs at the complex, which also has a bakery, shop and café, because its £40,000 county council funding has been axed.

John Birkbeck, the trust’s chairman, said: “The complex is not generating enough income and we feel we can run the it more effectively.

“We have not take this decision lightly but we want to get along with our tenants and cannot keep on fighting.”

The trust has been given a donation of £15,000 from the Garfield Weston Foundation for the repair works at the mill.

Mr Birkbeck has previously said the trust will look to English Heritage or the National Lottery for a grant for the rest of the amount needed.

After the sails and stock were removed in January, Mr Abel said: “It is heartbreaking to no longer be able to look up and see the sails turning.

“This was the last commercial windmill in Norfolk and currently there isn’t much hope of all four sails going back up anytime soon which is quite wicked.

“The county of Norfolk was once highly regarded as the leading light in heritage work but now we are the subject of much ridicule because we don’t seem to know how to keep sites like this going.

“I had hoped this project was the thing to change all of that and we were so near to achieving our dream. It will now be impossible for us to make progress without the support of the people who own it.”

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