30th September - beautiful clear sky, light wind freewheeling the sails and we welcome a group of MX5 owners.

“For the first time in three years we have a full set of sails and shutters.  Things are still not right, but we look forward to the forthcoming autumn and winter winds that will double flour production in the next year.”

Mark Abel, Denver Mill web site, September 2011

1st October - At the end of another successful baking class students collect the loaves they made, direct from the ovens!

It is immensely gratifying being able to show people just how and where the flour they are using was produced.  After years of frustration we are now producing flour from a locally grown single variety of English wheat, in whose taste and performance we can take justifiable pride.

4th October - whilst touring a group of five year old school children round the gently freewheeling windmill Sally hears a noise and instinctively evacuates the mill, runs up to the gallery and puts the brake on.  Only then did she walk round tower and see what had happened.

One of the two steel stocks had snapped near the canister, crashing one sail into another.

The sails smashed into each other, the bay bars meshing into one another like the teeth of a comb.  This, and the fact that the bottom face of the stock rolled over a stud rather than bent and tore, is what saved the whole sail and stock from falling to the ground.

6th October - The Norfolk Millwright Alliance and Wave Trade make an emergency visit to Denver to make the mill safe.


Winds are too strong to start removal so the sails are pruned - all loose debris (predominantly shutters, bay bars and back stays) are removed and the broken sail secured to the canister and also the sail it has crashed into, which acts almost like a splint to support it.


It is now a waiting game until the wind dies down enough to allow removal of the entire stocks and sails.

10th October - with the agreement of the H&S Officers Mark and Sally decide to hand crank the cap round to face the Tea Garden so the Mill Yard may be used again.

Just as the cap reached position a gust of wind hit the back of the odd sail, bending the con rod so the shutters closed, fully tail winded.  

It was (to put it mildly!) alarming on that fanstage when the full force of the wind turned the cap round and up at the same time.  Habit again proved its worth - we instinctively followed all our safety procedures and no harm came to anyone. However, with the fan disengaged and the third sail shutters loose we could not be sure of how the cap might behave so it was agreed by all that the site should close until the sails were made safe.

The 12th October saw the wind subside and the NMA returned with a bigger Wave Trade crane.

Once the three sails and broken stock were down and the remaining sail and stock designated safe we were able to open the site again.

There now has to be an investigation into how the accident occurred.  The damaged parts have to be examined by an Engineer from the HSE and further non-destructive testing is to be carried out on the broken stock.

The broken stock and three sails were removed to the Tea Garden before we ran out of light.

Our landlords have been given three months to remove the remaining stock and sail for testing and the Prohibition Notice requires a full report on the condition of all moving parts before the windmill can be brought back into use for milling - something we have been trying to get for more than three years.

The disaster seems to have been caused by a maintenance issue.  We have repeatedly asked our landlords for records, schedules and risk assessments but been refused them.

But for the exemplary conduct of our staff, this disaster could have been an out and out tragedy.

Sally’s sub-conscious reactions almost certainly saved a 12 tonne cap and sails falling on either a school party of 5 year olds or a yard full of happy lunchers and the utterly professional behaviour of all our staff in the hours and days that followed earn our warmest thanks and considerable pride.

Our landlords are not adequately insured, have declared this an unfortunate fuss over nothing and in five weeks have offered us no practical support or help of any kind or even surveyed the damage sustained to their site.


On the 12 January time and winds allowed a return for the removal of our final stock and sail.

Needless to say, things didn’t go smoothly! With the backstays cut and the bottom two whip bolts free the top bolt should have come out nicely but would it?!  Eventually Paul had to ascend on ropes and drive a wedge between whip and stock until he was able to get in with a hacksaw.

A whole five hours later the poor old girl lost her final sail leaving only one stock to be removed.

Just draw the stock out of the canister?  Only a few months ago it was rattling loose but it would not move.

The wedges had to be cut out piece by piece.....

And still, with 2 inches clearance front to back and only the wooden plates on the sides, the stock still would not move, even with enough lift from the crane to raise the windshaft.

6 o/clock, no light, give up for the day.

The side plates freed.....

It was a very sorrowful sight the following morning.....

The stock was drawn out of the canister by hydraulic jack in the end (yes, that tiny slither of wood on the left is what caused all the trouble).

Norfolk’s Last Working Windmill, entrusted to the Norfolk Historic Buildings Trust, funded for its maintenance by the Norfolk County Council and loved by so many..…

For the first time ever with no stocks or sails - we should as a County be deeply ashamed.    

Steve secures the strops ready for the final lift.

Denver Windmill

October 2011.

Postscript:

After considerable time and investment Denver Mill proposed a scheme for the electrification of one set of stones in the windmill, but this was rejected by the NHBT Chairman.

In 2012 Denver Mill was offered the opportunity to buy the site, but at nearly three times the valuation price.

Aside from the sails, the windmill was in very poor condition with the walls saturated causing floods of water inside and the render falling off outside.  Denver Mill some success finding sponsors and funders for the work but the NHBT had ceased communications with their tenants.

Despite their previous failure, in 2013 the Trust took over the operation of the site once again forcing Denver Mills to leave.

By 2015 the site was closed.