Enthusiasts continue preservation work at Holton mill

Forty years ago volunteers and mill enthusiasts set to work at a Suffolk mill to ensure its sails turned once more.

Over the weekend, that tradition was kept alive as preservation work continued at Holton Post Mill, near Halesworth.

The mill, which is leased by Suffolk County Council, opened its doors to the public to ignite an interest in local history and help visitors bring the Holton landmark to life, and volunteers from the Suffolk Mills Group carried out routine greasing of the cast iron gear wheels of the mill.

The mill was leased to Suffolk County Council for 50 years in 1966 and the council is responsible for its upkeep.

But with large budget cuts being made, the mill's future could rely on the interest and dedication of volunteers.

Mark Barnard, historic buildings officer at Suffolk County Council, said mills needed small amounts of money spent fairly often and it was important to get local people and volunteers interested in the building.

'Local authority budgets for many heritage buildings, including mill conservations are under pressure', he said.

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'These buildings have not had as much money spent on them as they should do.

'The paint on the outside is starting to flake at Holton and it is not in quite as good condition as it should be. It would be good if one or two local people showed an interest.'

Chairman of the Suffolk Mills Group Chris Hullcoop was one of the volunteers greasing the mill.

He said that the future at the mill was very uncertain because of budget cuts. The county council's lease ends in 2016.

'The problem is that with the cuts the first thing to go will be windmills. It will make it very difficult for the owner, it is an expensive thing to maintain.

'We are only a small society and we don't get many youngsters coming on', said Mr Hullcoop.

'Windmills are part of our quality of life. That is why we want to preserve them. It is quite a landmark.'

The mill opens its doors twice a year. It is set to open again on the August bank holiday weekend.

'People can see the outside of it all the time, but inside it requires a degree of supervision. It is just not practical to open it more often', said Mr Barnard.

'We mainly spent the day welcoming visitors and showing them around and answering various questions about the mill,' said Mr Barnard. 'It is very much an attraction that people can come along and see, but the open day allows them to come inside and actually see the mill.

'It enables them to be preserved for the public to appreciate. Clearly public access is important and people understanding more about the mill and what it used to do and its role in the local community.

'It is very often that by going into the mill and looking around you can find out how it can work.'

Most of the mills in Suffolk disappeared between 1900 and 1950. By about 1950 there were only 20 left. The county council took on the mill in the 1960s and at the same time they took on some repairs.

As well as doing work to the mill there were displays showing the mill's fascinating history, together with photographs of other local windmills.

Milling at Holton ceased over 100 years ago and the mill.

Holton Mill still carries its four sails and is turned into the wind by a fantail, although of the internal machinery only the wooden brakewheel remains.

The mill is in the centre of the village, one mile east of Halesworth. It is reached by a short footpath from the entrance to the grounds of Mill House. Visitors should park in the village or in the nearby former gravel pit on the Southwold Road.


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