Celebration as 5 year restoration of iconic Billingford Windmill now complete

17 May 2022

Sponsors and supporters of a project to restore Billingford Windmill near Diss have been invited to an event to celebrate the completion of work on Wednesday 18 May. Hosted by Norfolk Windmills Trust, Norfolk County Council and Friends of Billingford Windmill, the event will include the unveiling of a supporters’ plaque, thanking them for their generosity.

The grade II* listed building was the last mill in Norfolk to work commercially by wind power. It stands close to the A143 in the middle of Billingford Common and is an iconic landmark in the Waveney Valley for commuters and visitors.

The cap and stocks of the mill were removed in February 2017 to be repaired by millwright Tim Whiting and his Suffolk-based team. The removal of the cap revealed damaged brickwork on the tower which required a further £70,000 to be raised for repairs.

Councillor Martin Wilby, Chairman of Norfolk Windmills Trust, said: “I would like to thank all the Friends of Billingford Windmill and all the local volunteers that have raised the funds required for the restoration of the mill. I would also like to thank the generosity of the grant providers and donors for supporting the project, without which the restoration would never have happened.

"This shows the huge support locally, nationally and internationally for this iconic mill. The mill is a well-known landmark along the Waveney Valley and the thousands of people that travel past it daily, and the thousands of visitors to the Waveney Valley every year, will enjoy this impressive, restored mill."

Conservation builders R & J Hogg Ltd of Coney Weston were appointed to carry out extensive repairs to the tower. Works began by lifting the wooden curb and iron track that sits on the top of the tower, and on which the cap rotates. This enabled the contractors to access the brickwork beneath so that the damaged brickwork could be dismantled and rebuilt.

After lifting the wooden curb it was discovered that over half the iron track sections were cracked and needed to be renewed. New castings were made and the track refitted. The curb was lowered and the remaining brickwork completed. The windows and doors were also painted before scaffolding was removed.

The cap was returned to the mill in May 2019 whilst work continued on fitting the fly, associated running gear, stocks, sails and striking gear. The stocks and sails were hoisted back onto the mill in September 2020 and work to fit a half set of shutters has recently been completed.

Billingford Windmill is owned by Norfolk County Council and maintained by Norfolk Windmills Trust. The restoration project was developed with the involvement of the Friends of Billingford Windmill, which was formed in 2013 and is chaired local landowner, Sir Rupert Mann. The Friends of Billingford Windmill has received donations from the local community and have raised funds from open days and events held on the common. The restoration project would have been impossible without the additional support and generosity of the funders, listed below:

  • Sir Rupert and Lady Mann
  • Historic England
  • Association for Industrial Archaeology – Restoration Grant
  • Garfield Weston Foundation
  • The Geoffrey Watling Charity
  • Idlewild Trust
  • Norfolk County Council
  • Paul Bassham Charitable Trust
  • The Pilgrim Trust
  • Saffron Community Foundation
  • The Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings Mills Section – Mill Repair Fund
  • South Norfolk Council
  • South Norfolk Building Preservation Trust
  • The Martin Laing Foundation
  • 100th Bomb Group Foundation and members (U.S.A)
  • The Trust’s own funds
  • Donations from the local community and fundraising by the Friends of Billingford Windmill.

In addition to restoring the structure, the Billingford Mill project has purchased a shepherd’s hut to provide a ‘meet and greet’ point for visitors to the mill and to sell refreshments. This has proved very popular and raises much needed funds for the mill. An updated guidebook has also been produced which is available to purchase on open days.

Volunteers are crucial to keep the mill running and the Trust and Friends are currently appealing for new recruits. Volunteers are needed for several roles around the site, including tour guides, site stewards, trainee millers and selling refreshments. Anyone interested in volunteering should email: norfolkmills@norfolk.gov.uk

Background history

Billingford Mill, built in 1860, replaced a post mill blown over in 1859. It was last worked by wind in 1956 when the remaining two sails were damaged, by which time it was the last commercially operated mill to work by wind in Norfolk. The mill has a Norfolk boat shaped cap with a six-bladed fly or fan which drove a shaft coupled to a worm drive to automatically turn the cap to wind. The mill is five storeys high, with two sets of wind-driven stones on the third floor. The mill worked until 1959 with the use of a diesel engine and ceased operating when the grist trade fell away due to an outbreak of fowl pest. Billingford Mill was the first mill acquired by deed of gift in September 1965 by Norfolk County Council to be maintained by the newly formed Norfolk Windmills Trust.

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