Vision to restore well-known Halvergate drainage pump and turn it into tourist attraction
James Bass © 2003
Nestled between the River Bure and the Acle Straight, Stracey Arms Windpump is a familiar landmark for boaters and motorists alike. Now, an ambitious vision hopes to restore the well-known mill and transform it into a busy tourist attraction. Lauren Cope reports
Stracey Arms: A history
The pump was built in 1883 by Robert Barnes for Sir Henry Stracey of Rackheath Hall, to drain the marshes into the River Bure.
In its early days it was known as Arnup’s Mill - the name of the pump previously in its place - and in 1912 underwent extensive renovation.
Up until the Second World War it had been operated by wind power, when it was replaced by an electric pump.
During the conflict, the red-brick tower was converted to a pillbox, complete with gun ports.
The four-storey mill stopped working in 1946 and repairs began in 1961, when the gun ports were removed.
Four years later Lady Stracey presented the mill to Norfolk County Council to be cared for by the Norfolk Windmills Trust.
In 1972 the sails were damaged in a gale and were later restored.
Today, the mill, which is awaiting new sails, houses a photographic display of the history of Broads drainage mills and is open to the public daily from Easter to the end of September.
Sat on the river bank, and just a stone’s throw from the busy A47 and the railway, Stracey Arms is one of the most noticeable mills in Norfolk.
But passed by drivers in a rush, and in need of new sails, the grade II* drainage pump is often overlooked.
Now, a major scheme from the Norfolk Windmills Trust (NWT) hopes to unlock the Halvergate mill’s history for visitors - and once again get the sails turning.
The plans - which rely on £670,000 of heritage lottery funding - would see an education centre for school trips added, repairs undertaken, a car park built and access for both drivers coming from the A47 and disabled people getting to the mill improved.
David Gurney, historic environment manager at Norfolk County Council, said: “Our vision for this wonderful drainage mill, which is the most visible mill in Norfolk – from the river, railway and road – is to see the mill repaired and its sails turning once again.
“It is also for local people and visitors to have better access to and to learn about the mill and its history, its landscape and the people who have lived and worked in that area.”
Mr Gurney said displays would include stories from the mill’s time as a pillbox, complete with gun ports, during the Second World War - while the team had hopes of reinstalling one of the loops at a later date.
The project has so far secured one round of funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), with an application for the lion’s share, the £670,000, currently being worked on.
The NWT has also applied to the Broads Authority for the green light to go-ahead with the work at the mill, which is owned by Norfolk County Council and managed by the trust.
“There is still a lot of work to be done and we also need to raise some local match funding, so any offers of support would be very welcome,” Mr Gurney added.
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