Couple look to a future without Denver Mill including a possible move to historic King’s Lynn building
16:58 31 October 2012
© Archant Norfolk 2012
They began their quest of “promoting and preserving traditional country life” when they took on the lease of Denver Mill in 2008.
Two years later, Mark and Lindsay Abel were operating one of the country’s last working windmills as two new sails were installed, replacing two “rotten and dangerous” sails.
But after a problematic year which saw all four sails removed, the Abels have announced they are now looking to move to another site once their lease runs out next May.
Mrs Abel said: “We have to be realistic. If the trust won’t sell to us then we’ve got six months to find somewhere else.
“We’ve got a couple of options and we are also going for a meeting at Hanse House in King’s Lynn to see if we could move there.”
The Abels’ problems began last October when a sail broke off showering debris around the complex and all four sails were later removed.
The owners of Denver Mill, the Norfolk Historic Buildings Trust, then said it could not afford the £100,000 needed to get the sails turning again before telling the Abels in June that their five-year lease would not be renewed and would come to an end next May.
Earlier this month the couple vowed to continue their aim of buying the landmark south of Downham Market but last night admitted they are now looking to move to another site in West Norfolk.
Posting a message on social network website Twitter, Mrs Abel said: “Denver Mills is on the move does anyone have an idea where we can go? Politely please!”
She later told the EDP: “We have to be realistic. If the trust won’t sell to us then we’ve got six months to find somewhere else.
“We’ve had a good response from people on Twitter and we’ve got a couple of options. We are also going for a meeting at Hanse House in King’s Lynn to see if we could move there.”
The couple have said they will continue making their own produce in West Norfolk and still want to run a café as well as hosting their own bakery courses for youngsters.
Denver Mill has towered over the Fens for some 180 years and remains a popular tourist attraction. It was given to the county in 1971 before being sold to the NHBT by Norfolk County Council.
The trust has 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.
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
Developer James Lee, who bought the 650-year-old Hanse House last year, confirmed a member of his team is meeting with the Abels today but said it was still early days. He added: “We certainly have the room to accommodate them.”
It comes after plans for a bar, covered market, shops and offices in the complex, which stands between the River Ouse and Lynn Minster, were approved by West Norfolk councillors earlier this year.
Hanse House, which was converted into offices by Norfolk County Council in the 1970s, is the only surviving Hanseatic building in Britain.
Medieval merchants built it in 1475, to establish a trading base in the then bustling port of King’s Lynn.
Mr Lee bought the building after Prince Charles visited the Grade 1 listed property to discuss its future with councillors.
The Prince’s Regeneration Trust, of whom the Prince of Wales is president, and English Heritage endorsed the decision to sell the building to Mr Lee, who lives in lynn and has worked on a number of development projects in the town in recent years.