Renovation work on Bembridge Windmill on the Isle of Wight
The last surviving windmill on the Isle of Wight which was captured in watercolour by JMW Turner has undergone an extensive renovation by the National Trust
The work on Bembridge Windmill which dates back to the early 1700s and was in action for more than 200 years, includes replacing the rotten sweeps and stocks – the timber frame and beams of the sails.
The mill fell out of use when the men who worked in it left the island to fight in the First World War, and it never returned to service.
It went on to become a wartime shelter and a Home Guard headquarters, but it faced dereliction until the restoration work carried out by Geoff Wallis, of Dorothea Restorations, who was the last millwright to fit sweeps to the mill 40 years ago.
He said: “There are a few millwrights still about, but it takes a lifetime to learn the skills.
“Each mill is different – different ages, different construction, materials, technologies – it’s wonderful to see how they were put together and to study the skills of former millwrights.
“Bembridge Windmill is a terrific example of this. Being a small country mill it was probably never prosperous enough to be updated with modern machinery so much of its original construction is still intact.
“It’s basically an authentic 18th-century mill. You can see all the little changes that have taken place over time though, and these things tell the mill’s story. For a millwright like me it’s absolutely fascinating, and a great privilege.”
The mill was captured by artist JMW Turner in the late 18th century, in an unfinished watercolour entitled “Bembridge Mill, Isle of Wight, with a View West towards Brading Haven”.
The restoration work cost £38,000 which was covered by local fundraising as well as a grant of £10,000 from the Government’s Culture Recovery Fund.
Kathryn Wilson, National Trust operations manager on the island, said they plan to reopen the mill for pre-booked appointments as soon as it is allowed under Covid-19 restrictions.
She said: “People on the island will be thrilled to see the mill reunited with its sails; it’s looked so forlorn without them.
“We’re really looking forward to welcoming visitors back to the mill, to discover its stories, and to enjoy the thrill of clambering to the top and taking in those glorious views across the fields and out to the sea.”