Photo Gallery: Weather delays repair work to iconic Sutton Mill

Damage to Sutton Mill after the storms of December 2013. Picture: NORTH NORFOLK DISTRICT COUNCIL Damage to Sutton Mill after the storms of December 2013. Picture: NORTH NORFOLK DISTRICT COUNCIL

Saturday, August 16, 2014
11:40 AM

A landmark windmill is awaiting urgent repairs to its towering cap. And ironically it depends on having three days in a row... without wind.

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A brief history

• Sutton Mill, one of the tallest in the UK, was built in 1789, with eight floors.

• It was rebuilt after a fire in 1861 an additional floor.

• It was topped by a traditional Norfolk boat-shaped cap.

• The height to the top of the cap was almost 80ft.

• The mill was also hit by lightning on in July 1875 at 4pm with the lightning bolt hitting one of the sails and then passing down through the centre of the mill via the sack chain.

• Some of the staff were within three feet of the chain at the time but escaped injury.

• It was hit again in 1940 when the sails were hit, causing a fire.

• The mill, which was then producing animal feed rather than corn, ceased to work from that time.

• In 1975 it was bought by Chris Nunn as part of the Broads museum he created.

• In 2006 he sold it to Yesterday’s World, who shut it two years later.

Chunks of timber flew off the cap of Sutton Mill, near Stalham, after the winter storms in December, landing in neighbouring properties and causing a section of the adjoining Weavers Way footpath to be closed for safety reasons in January.

But work to repair the cap has still not begun at the grade two-listed 19th century mill, believed to be the tallest in the country.

A spokesman for North Norfolk District Council said the owner was waiting for three consecutive calm days so that the cap and stocks could be lifted down to the ground and a temporary cap put in its place.

The owner had paid for a flat-topped temporary cap to be made, and had appointed a millwright to carry out the work.

The millwright was checking the weather weekly but so far there had been no suitable run of days to start the job, said the spokesman.

Once the temporary cap was in place, the district council hoped internal repairs would be carried out, including “putting right inappropriate alterations carried out in the past,” said the spokesman. But the ball was in the owner’s court, he added.

Linda Matthews, who lives near the mill and is vice-chairman of Sutton Parish Council, said councillors had discussed the matter at their meeting this week.

“If it could be secured and made safe, and any further deterioration prevented, we would be quite happy,” she said.

“Of course we would really love to see it restored and become an attractive feature in the village again. It’s an eyesore now – derelict, with ragwort everywhere; a rabbit heaven.

Mrs Matthews said a half-mile section of the Weavers Way passing the mill remained closed but many walkers ignored the warnings. Norfolk County Council had signed diversions along Hickling Road and Church Road but they added about a mile to walks.

There had been rumours in the village that the owner would try and develop land behind the mill with housing or holiday units, to raise funds for the estimated £500,000 cost of repairs. But, to date, no planning application had been submitted, Mrs Matthews added.

Jonathan Neville, who runs the Norfolk Mills website, said the nine-storey mill, originally built in 1789 and rebuilt in 1859 after a fire, was 79.5ft tall, and was understood to be the tallest in Britain.

“It’s massive and iconic. It would be a great shame if it was allowed to run to rack and ruin,” he added.

The mill was sold by Chris Nunn in 2006 to historical attractions company Yesterday’s World, which has a business in Great Yarmouth. Mr Nunn had run it as bygones museum for 30 years.

Yesterday’s World shut the mill in 2008, saying it was unviable. Its ownership is believed to have changed since. The EDP was unable to contact the owner.

Do you have a special interest in Sutton Mill? Contact alex.hurrell@archant.co.uk

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