Appeal for new sails at Old Buckenham Windmill

It is one of the most photographed landmarks of a Norfolk village and has been used as a handy grid reference for incoming pilots at a nearby airfield for decades.

But an historic windmill, which was once owned by an Indian prince, is looking for another generous benefactor after its sails were lost to the ravages of time and weather.

The Old Buckenham Windmill has almost been brought back to its former glory after falling into a sorry state after being made redundant as a working mill in the 1920s.

Now villagers and officials from the Norfolk Windmills Trust have begun fundraising to replace its four sails after they were found to be beyond repair. Its rotten white wooden sails, which were installed in 1996, currently lay stricken beside the building after being removed and inspected last summer.

Custodians of the tower mill, which was built in 1818 and was once one of six mills in the village near Attleborough, are looking to raise �32,000 for the new sails, which would restore the building to an almost fully functioning standard.

Trustees opened the mill to the public for the first time in two years at the weekend and are staging a series of open days on the second Sunday of every month to help raise awareness and funds for the project.

Tom North, chairman of the Old Buckenham Windmill committee, said it would be difficult to raise the funds in the current climate, but a lot of people in the village wanted to see it restored.

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'I think it makes it more complete and impressive with the sails and adds to the size and scale of it and is one of its unique selling points. It is useful to have the sails to show it in its full glory and makes an impressive silhouette.'

'When we have the sails on, they can turn and go around, but we currently do not have the internal mechanics for a working mill at the moment,' he said.

The listed windmill, which has five large stones for turning corn into flour and is the widest mill tower in the country, was last used in anger in 1926 and has been gradually brought back to life by the Norfolk Windmills Trust over the last 20 years.

During its working life, it was owned by Jeremiah James Colman, of Colman's Mustard fame, and later by Prince Frederick Duleep Singh and his wife Princess Sophia Alexandrona, who lived in Old Buckenham Hall at the end of the 19th century.

Mr North added that the Old Buckenham windmill was the 'Tesco' of its day after making other mills surplus to requirements because of its size and efficiency. He added that the landmark was a useful marker for aircraft pilots using Old Buckenham Airfield.

The next open day at Old Buckenham Windmill will take place between 2pm and 5pm on June 12 and every second Sunday until September.

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