Couple will not give up their bid to buy historic Norfolk mill

PUBLISHED: 11:40 25 October 2012 | UPDATED: 12:25 25 October 2012

Denver Mill near Downham Market. Picture; Matthew Usher.

Denver Mill near Downham Market. Picture; Matthew Usher.

© Archant Norfolk 2012

A couple have vowed to carry on their quest to buy a historic mill in West Norfolk despite its owners insisting the complex is not for sale.

Mark and Lindsay Abel, who rent the six-storey Denver Mill, want to set up an independent company and sell shares to raise enough money to take over the site and continue to promote and preserve traditional country life.

But this scheme appeared doomed to failure as the Norfolk Historic Buildings Trust confirmed its focus was to push ahead with plans to take over the running of the site once the Abels’ tenancy ends next year.

Mr Abel has, however, said the announcement has not put the couple off trying to buy the complex, which also includes a bakery, shop and café.

He continued: “We have grown very attached to it and, as a miller, it is hard to not get emotionally involved when you are working such a magnificent machine.

“We know from our own experience that in order to make the site sustainable you have got to be prepared to put your heart and soul into it. It is not a nine to five job and cannot be done at arm’s length.”

Mrs Abel added: “People living locally and our customers from across the country have been very enthusiastic about this idea.

“We want the people who love the windmill and who are interested in its history to be able to own it.

“This way it will remain owned by lots of people across the country.”

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

It was also one of the country’s last working windmills until a sail broke off and showered debris around the complex just over a year ago.

All four sails and the stock were removed in January and the NHBT said it could not afford the £100,000 needed to get the sails turning again.

The Abels were then told in June that their five-year lease would not be renewed and would come to an end next May.

Douglas Munro, from the trust, said the Abels were offered the chance to buy the mill for £420,000 – far less than the market value of around £550,000 – but after allowing them two months to consider the offer without a response, it was withdrawn and notice was served on the couple.

In total, four groups have come forward and spoken to the trust with a view of either running the site or taking it over the mill once the Abels’ lease runs out.

A statement on the trust’s website also states the trust is “confident” that it can manage the site and that it will remain “open and attractive” to visitors.

Denver 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 trials and tribulations of Denver Mill also appeared in the final episode of BBC2’s The Fixer, with Alex Polizzi, in March where the hotelier tried to turn around the Abels’ business.

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