Burwell Museum has reached a key point in its project to upgrade Burwell’s last remaining windmill, thanks to funding raised by National Lottery players
Stevens’ Mill, an icon of the East Cambridgeshire landscape, is a fully-working tower windmill and one of the most popular visitor attractions at Burwell Museum. Volunteers and staff at the Museum are celebrating today after welcoming a new arrival – a 1-ton millstone which will form a key part of the ongoing “Mill for All Seasons” project, supported by funding from the National Lottery.
The stone is the first of a pair and has spent several months being rebuilt and “dressed” – prepared for use by a trained millwright. It was settled into its new place by winching it up to the first floor, then very carefully lowering it over its drive spindle and fitting wedges underneath to ensure it is perfectly level. The second stone will be placed on top of this one once it has been restored and dressed.
Saved from demolition in the 1970s by a group of like-minded individuals, the mill has undergone extensive restoration over the years to bring it back to working order. Today, visitors can take a tour of the four-storey mill and see how flour is made. However, being so heavily reliant on the right weather conditions means that the mill cannot always be operated.
To enable the mill to run in all weathers and in any season – just as it would have done in the early 20th century under its last owners, the Stevens’ brothers – Burwell Museum Trust is restoring the mill’s external drive system and renovating a 1950s tractor to run it. It is hoped that the new stone and its partner will soon be balanced and ready to run, first by wind power when the wind is right and then via the external drive system whenever they are required.
Thanks to money raised by National Lottery players, the £19,400 funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) is a real boon for the museum as it works to build interest in the mill’s 200th anniversary in 2020. Colin Marshall, Mill Team Manager, says “This will be an important step in restoring the mill to its 1950s function. Having an engine-driven stone will allow us to teach more volunteers how to mill and to demonstrate milling more often to visitors”.
Robyn Llewellyn, Head of HLF East of England, said: “Thanks to money raised by National Lottery players, we’re pleased to support the restoration of Burwell’s last surviving mill. This project is enabling people of all ages to get involved – from local residents adding their own voices to the interpretation to a new generation discovering this part of their community’s heritage for the first time.”
If you would like to admire the new millstone, the museum will open to the public again on Easter Sunday and bank holiday Monday. It is then open on Thursdays, Sundays and bank holidays until the end of October. The “Mill for All Seasons” project will be celebrated at a free weekend event for National Mills Weekend on the 12th and 13th of May. If you would like to know more about the project and/or be involved in it, please contact the museum at firstname.lastname@example.org.