The Directors of the National Millwrighting Centre CIC (Community Interest Company) are delighted to announce the launch of a major heritage project in North East Norfolk, the creation of the National Milling & Millwrighting Academy at Grade II* listed Sutton Mill. As part of a £3m redevelopment programme for the site close to Hickling Broad, the imposing 9 storey Tower Mill will be restored to full working order, providing valuable on-site training for a new generation of millers and millwrights and creating a vital tourist attraction for the Norfolk Broads National Park.
“Our vision for the project is to create a thriving, financially self-supporting training Academy that secures the traditional craft skills required to repair, maintain and run traditional wind and watermills for the future”, says Jonathan Cook, Director of the CIC, Chairman of the SPAB* Mills Section and owner of Fosters Mill, Swaffham Prior.
The Academy will be based at a new Heritage Centre created on the currently unused five-acre site of the former Broads Museum at Sutton Mill. “We will create a vibrant community facility and ‘must visit’ tourist attraction for the region, one that will provide commercial support for the training activities,” adds Mr Cook.
At 25 metres in height, Sutton Mill is one of the tallest windmills in Britain. Its sails, when complete, have a span of over 22 metres tip to tip. It was built by millwrights England’s of Ludham in 1789 and then rebuilt with an extra storey following a fire in 1857. During the 1980s and 1990s, it – along with the popular Broads Museum on the surrounding land – was a key attraction for visitors to the region. Changes of ownership, steady deterioration of the structure and storm damage in 2013 meant the mill and museum were closed to the public. More recently, the cap, windshaft, brake wheel and the 20-metre timber stocks were removed for safety reasons.
The launch event at Hickling Barn on 7 December will kick off a new and exciting phase of redevelopment that will make Sutton Mill and its adjoining Grade II listed three-storey Granary the heart of Millwright training in the UK. The first real practical use of the site since WWII should be the key to attracting funding and securing a long-term future for a building of great historical importance.
The project is being designed to create:
- The UK’s National Centre for Traditional Milling and Millwrighting, a scheme that will train professional and volunteer millwrights
- A commercial working millwrighting workshop to service the mills of East Anglia with, it is hoped, a collaboration relationship with the Norfolk Mills and Pumps Trust (an organisation with 21 mills in Norfolk in its care)
- Space for complementary traditional crafts such as boat building and blacksmithing
- A permanent physical presence for mills and milling from which to reach a new audience to promote and protect our national traditional milling heritage
- A location for complementary organisations to run residential courses covering a wide range of topics and subjects
- A new Heritage Centre – a regional tourist attraction comprising:
- A commercial working windmill
- Holiday accommodation on site in the form of ‘glamping’ or similar
- An artisan bakery using flour from the Mill
- Shop and centre for local food and gifts
- A café with up to 50 covers
- A viewing area to observe Millwright training and other rural crafts
- Opportunities for community engagement and volunteering
The project will ensure a secure long-term future for Sutton Mill, after many years of uncertainty. It is one of North Norfolk’s most important heritage buildings and is currently on Historic England’s Buildings at Risk Register. Sutton Mill has a huge following among people across the region and farther afield, something that has become evident from the significant interest in the project to date.
The event on 7 December will see the launch of a major Crowdfunding campaign to secure the first-phase finance necessary to deliver the project, and also the launch of the Friends of Sutton Mill, a group being set up to co-ordinate volunteering and community involvement in the project. The site is being acquired from a Bedfordshire property developer who was keen to see the Mill and Granary restored and serving a new purpose in the hands of the new owners.
The National Millwrighting Centre CIC has been awarded a significant grant from the Mills Section of the SPAB*.
When completed, the Heritage Centre will provide local employment as well as volunteering opportunities. Mr Cook explains that “as someone who spent much of my childhood in Broadland and visited Sutton Mill in the 1970s and 1980s, being part of a team bringing the mill back to life is a dream come true. In saving Sutton Mill and also creating the National Milling and Millwrighting Academy, we will not only secure the future of this important and much-loved building but also safeguard the long-term future of the rest of the UK’s traditional mills by ensuring there are people skilled and qualified to conserve, repair, maintain and run traditional mills for years to come.”
More information can be found at www.suttonmill.org and on social media