Hopes raised for the future of Billingford Mill

Billingford Mill is being cleaned ready for the new season by Julie and Herbert Websdell.

Billingford Mill is being cleaned ready for the new season by Julie and Herbert Websdell. - Credit: Eastern Daily Press © 2013

Millers at an historic windmill – who took on the role by chance –are hoping to be able to start work restoring the building's top next year.

But they have a major fund-raising battle to win first.

Julie Websdell, who runs Billingford Mill with her husband Herbert, said the committee responsible for the Grade II listed building was hopeful of being able to remove the top in 2015.

The restoration work will involve replacing timbers, while new wooden sails will also be fitted to the structure, which has suffered wear and tear over the years.

So far, just £900 has been raised through a series of open days –with the total cost expected to be between £120,000 and £130,000.

Grants are being sought from English Heritage for the work, though Mrs Websdell warned they were unlikely to provide funding unless they could see money was already being raised. She has appealed for donations.

She added: 'The committee is hoping to get the work under way in 2015 and is hoping to get grants, but obviously the people who provide the grants will not do anything unless they can see money is being raised as well.'

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The Websdells took over as millers almost by accident about 10 years ago.

Mrs Websdell said she came past the mill one day and saw it was backwinded – meaning the wind blows from behind the sails posing a high risk of damage.

As a result she and her husband were asked by the Norfolk Windmills Trust, which manages the facility, to keep hold of the keys and look after the building, cleaning it up each spring ready to show groups, clubs, schoolchildren and other visitors around on tours during the summer.

The mill was built in the mid-1850s after an earlier building was blown down. It was still being used as a commercial mill 100 years later.

Anyone who wishes to donate towards the restoration of the mill should contact Rupert Mann at Thelveton Estate on 01379 741328.

Are you working to save a piece of South Norfolk heritage? Email dominic.bareham@archant.co.uk