Miller wanted for the role that is far from plain sailing

Billingford Mill is being cleaned ready for the new season by Julie and Herbert Websdell. Billingford Mill is being cleaned ready for the new season by Julie and Herbert Websdell.

Saturday, April 12, 2014
12:28 PM

An appeal has been launched for volunteers to help look after one of Norfolk’s most historic and well-loved mills.

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Billingford Mill is being cleaned ready for the new season by Julie and Herbert Websdell.Billingford Mill is being cleaned ready for the new season by Julie and Herbert Websdell.

Julie and Herbert Websdell took over as millers at Billingford Mill near Diss almost by accident about 10 years ago.

Mrs Websdell said she came past the mill one day and saw it was backwinded, meaning the wind blows from behind the sails and causes a high risk of damage.

As a result she and her husband were asked by the Norfolk Windmills Trust to keep hold of the keys and look after the Grade II Listed building, cleaning it up each spring ready to show groups, clubs, schoolchildren and other visitors around on tours during the summer.

Since then, the pair have devoted much of their lives to a place they describe as “working history”.

At the mill in the coming months:

Billingford Mill has an extensive programme of events planned for 2014. They include:

April 21 – display of vintage tractors, with Easter egg hunt for children from 2.30pm. There will also be an art exhibition in the mill.

May 25 – open for guided tours of the mill.

June 8 – talk at Brockdish Village Hall by the last miller to work the mill commercially. Event starts at 2pm, with admission costing £3. A raffle and books on the mill will be available and the mill open after the talk.

June 15 – opportunity for people to bring their classic cars to the mill.

July 6 – open for guided tours of the mill.

August 17 – open for guided tours of the mill.

September 21 – display of harvest exhibition machinery and historic signs and books.

But with Mr Websdell aged 81 and his wife aged 66, the pair are looking for people who can assist visitors with tours of the mill once they are no longer able to do so.

“If we hadn’t stepped in where we did, I don’t know in what state the mill would be now,” said Mr Websdell.

“It’s history. It’s here and someone needs to do it, otherwise it would just die.”

He even goes so far as to call it a “job” – albeit with no salary because of its voluntary nature.

Mrs Websdell added that the couple had got involved “by accident”.

She added: “It sort of grew on us. We have people who come from all over the country to see it.

“People are interested in as much as they want to go to it but the difficulty is to get people motivated to be more involved.”

Ultimately, the Websdells would like to find a miller who would take the mill on from them in the future.

However to start with they are looking for an assistant, who will be insured by the Norfolk Windmills Trust, which owns the site.

Once training is complete, the new person or people would be required to assist visitors with tours of the mill and learn how it operates.

The Norfolk Windmills Trust is also looking to raise funds to help bring the mill – which was built in the mid-1850s and was still being operated as a commercial mill 100 years later – back into full working order.

Anyone interested in helping with fundraising or looking after the mill should contact Mr and Mrs Websdell on 01379 853967.

Do you have a story about a historic property in Norfolk? Email reporter Andrew Papworth.

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