September 20 2014 Latest news:
Thursday, May 1, 2014
After months of planning it was finally “lift-off” for the giant sails pinned to one of Norfolk’s most iconic landmarks.
The operation, staged in perfect weather, saw a team of engineers gingerly remove the 23m structures ahead of a major renovation that will see the roadside windpump at Horsey restored to full working order.
It marks a new chapter in the varied life of the 102-year-old landmark which draws 20,000 visitors a year, and the prospect of seeing its sails turn for the first time in 70 years.
Rebuilt from the ruins of its 18th- century predecessor, it has survived a lightning strike, storms, and floods – the most recent battering in December triggering fears about how much more the fragile structure could stand.
However, removing the sails lifts any danger and means people can once more visit the mill and climb to the top, while conservationists work out the best way to approach the refit.
Paul Coleman, project manager for the National Trust, said the existing sails were made to the wrong design and even faced the wrong direction – albeit one which made for a picturesque photo opportunity. Under the restoration scheme, however, the sails, will be made fit for turning, connect to the turbine, and usher in a new era of shuddering, clattering noise to the hitherto tranquil spot.
It will also see the cap replaced with an authentic boat-shaped one, typical of east Norfolk. The sails will also be repositioned facing along the road towards Great Yarmouth.
He said: “We have been monitoring the building for some time. What is now evident is that some of the internal structure is quite tired and there is some water coming in through the timbers and that affects the main beams that support the sails.
“We were planning to replace them last year, but the building was just too fragile.
“The last time the mill was used for pumping was in 1943 when it was hit by lightning and a diesel pump was brought in.
“Then in 1961 a huge amount of work was done to replace the sails as they look today, but it was not to the authentic pattern and there was no intention of it working.”
Horsey’s accessible roadside location made it unique among windpumps, dozens of which were visible across the flat Norfolk landscape, but a hike away, he added.
If all goes to plan, the restoration will be complete by the end of next year, making it one of only a handful of windpumps in working order and the most easy to reach.
Mr Coleman added: “Just standing in the mill at the moment you have to imagine what it would have been like with all the noise. It would have been shaking with the amount of energy being produced by what is a big machine.”
The trust hopes the sight of conservationists at work will be an attraction in itself as old rural skills are reprised. The renovation project will include a training element and provide new volunteering opportunities as a well as a chance to tell the building’s full story.
Phase one to replace the sails, fantail, internal timbers and cap is set to cost around £190,000 with an additional budget being worked up for the turbine house project to follow in the next few years.
The sails were last replaced in the 1980s.
Do you have a heritage story? Call Liz Coates on 01493 847959 or email firstname.lastname@example.org