Restored Dereham windmill back to its former glory

PUBLISHED: 11:58 03 August 2013 | UPDATED: 11:58 03 August 2013

Dereham Windmill now has new sails. Picture: Matthew Usher

Dereham Windmill now has new sails. Picture: Matthew Usher

© Archant Norfolk 2013

A £75,000 project to revive Dereham’s historic windmill has been given its crowning glory as replacement wooden sails were hoisted into place after months of renovation and reconstruction work.

The installation marked a symbolic moment for the 19th century listed building in Cherry Lane, which is due to reopen to the public on September 7 as an exhibition space for schools and community groups.

After preparatory work on the four original steel stocks started on Monday, the new sails were hoisted into place on Wednesday by a crane which was twice as tall as the mill itself, before the final fixings were completed yesterday.

Specialist contractors from Bunting and Son of Stibbard, near Fakenham, recreated a design based on research and old photographs to ensure the new parts were manufactured as closely as possible to the original pattern.

Alison Webb, head of fundraising for Dereham Windmill, said it was a “wonderful, wonderful feeling” to see the landmark restored to its former glory.

“It is the final touch that makes all the difference,” she said. “The sails are decorative, and they are not going to spin again. For a start there were health and safety reasons, as we couldn’t have a community exhibition centre with the sails spinning round.

“That is not to say that it will never ever work again, but our future vision is to make it into something that can be maintained and loved and used, rather than just having a windmill that goes round and doesn’t do anything. That would be pointless. It has got to be of benefit to the whole community.”

Brian Webb, chairman of the windmill’s trustees, added: “I am so proud and thankful to the whole community who have contributed to what we have done so far.”

The project received its main financial backing of £50,000 from a Biffa Award, but Dereham Town Council, Norfolk County Council, the Society of the Protection of Ancient Buildings, the Paul Bassham Trust Fund and the Geoffrey Watling Charity also contributed.

While the restoration of the mill itself is now almost complete, the trustees have set their sights on their next fundraising target, with another £100,000 needed to build a proposed 23-seat community café and toilet block at the site.

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