Beautiful mill up for sale
You’re Beautiful, the evocative chart-topping success of singer and songwriter James Blunt, applies so easily to his childhood holiday home in north Norfolk, picture postcard Cley Windmill with its unrivalled coastal views. Now, for family reasons, the mill is to be sold.
You're Beautiful, the evocative chart-topping success of singer and songwriter James Blunt, applies so easily to his childhood holiday home in north Norfolk, picture postcard Cley Windmill with its unrivalled coastal views.
This prominent national landmark, dating back to the 1700s, has been in family ownership for decades. From 1979 until last year it was owned by James's parents, the now retired Colonel Charles Blount and his wife Jane (their son dropped the 'o' from his surname for his music career), and run as a guest house of great charm and character - a role which has been carried on proudly for the past year by James's cousin John Woodhouse, and his wife Val.
Now, for family reasons, the mill is to be sold and, from today, it is on the market through Strutt & Parker in Norwich for around
£1.5 million. Although a highly successful business, with both the mill rooms and surrounding self-catering units much in demand, selling agent and partner, Antony Bromley-Martin, says there is a possibility the mill could revert to private use with permission. It was a private house/holiday home from 1921 to 1983, when it was granted planning consent to become a guesthouse.
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The mill, and its hauntingly beautiful setting, is at the heart of Cley's history. During the war years it was used by a Blount family relative, Sister Rachel, and another nun Sister Catherine, who became legends in the local area and reportedly helped save stranded villagers in the floods of 1953, the worst for 400 years. The mill withstood the floods, but some time afterwards a sea wall was built around the remainder of this picturesque village.
In the late 1980s, local communities and national bodies helped raise funds for new sails and repairs to the superstructure, and on May 11, 1989, villagers watched anxiously as the two massive steel stocks, weighing nearly a ton and 56ft long, were swung above the brick and flint cottages at the end of a gigantic crane.
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In medieval times, the prosperous port of Cley was centred near the magnificent church of St Margaret of Antioch, and the town was one of the principal ports of East Anglia, exporting large quantities of wool and grain. The River Glaven was navigable to large ships as far as Glandford, and ran into the sea half a mile north-west of Cley.
The mill's working heyday was in the 19th century, but after 1919 it fell into disrepair, and in 1921 was bought by Sarah Maria Wilson, who converted it to a holiday home, and the warehouses into stables and boat sheds. It passed ultimately to her grandson Hubert Blount, who made many improvements including replacing the sails in 1960, since when it has again been such an intrinsic part of the landscape on this part of the coast.
It has converted beautifully and comfortably as a guesthouse with first-rate facilities; a unique and romantic place to stay where the ground floor includes a splendid circular sitting room which still has family paintings on the walls and a roaring fire in the grate in winter and on chilly evenings.
The top rooms, galleries and balconies provide the most memorable views of the salt marshes, Cley Bird Sanctuary and, in the distance, Blakeney Harbour. The Stone Room, a circular room with aged oak beams in a high ceiling, is on the second floor, with a private doorway onto the balcony (and en-suite shower room). Wheat Chamber and Barley Bin are on the first floor and the River Room and Miller's Room on the ground floor.
The beamed dining room, for breakfast and dinner by arrangement, is part of the original warehouse built in 1713, and courtyard buildings are now the Boat House guest room and self-catering Long House and Dovecote units.