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Sails fitted at Holgate Windmill in York
10:09am Tuesday 20th December 2011 in News
A MILESTONE has been reached in the painstaking restoration of York’s historic windmill – with sails being fitted for the first time in more than 50 years.
Two of the huge blades were yesterday installed at Holgate Windmill, which has been undergoing a £550,000 transformation to bring it back into working use, and three more were due to be put in place today.
The 35ft-long sails, each weighing a tonne, will allow York’s last remaining windmill to start grinding flour again and their arrival marked a proud day for the Holgate Windmill Preservation Society, set up ten years ago with the aim of reviving the Grade II-listed building through a partnership with City of York Council.
Once the finishing touches to the restoration are completed after Christmas, the society will enlist the help of other mill-owners to show them how to operate the structure, which dates back to 1770 but whose previous sails had not been used for decades when they were fully removed in the 1950s. It will be the only surviving mill in England with five double-shuttered sails and a fantail which will keep them facing into the wind.
Much of the cost of the scheme has been met through grants from organisations such as the Big Lottery People’s Millions fund. The society’s chairman Bob Anderton said: “It’s fantastic to see the sails being put up - it means it finally looks like a windmill again.
“It will be the first time most people have seen the mill looking this way and it will be visible from quite a distance because of its position, making it even more of a York landmark than it is already.
“We still have a few things to complete inside the building, but the sails feel like the finishing touches.
“In the New Year, we will be getting other people who have mills to come up and teach us how to work everything.”
Crowning glory for fine project
JOHN Speed’s 17th-century map of York shows the city surrounded by windmills. Now they have virtually all gone, some converted into houses, many simply razed to the ground.
But one remains in Holgate, where a group of volunteers have worked tirelessly to restore the old mill. Now its raison d’etre has returned as, yesterday, two sails were put in place, with three more due to go up today.
This is the crowning glory of a ten-year project and the first time in half a century the mill has looked so resplendent.
It’s also a proud moment for Holgate Windmill Preservation Society and, as its chairman Bob Anderton says, it finally looks like a windmill again.
We have all watched with fascination as, piece by piece, Holgate Mill has taken shape again, and with the sails in place it now looks truly magnificent.
This has been a thoroughly worthwhile project and a past winner in The Press Community Pride awards. The whole city has taken the mill to its hearts, and it can’t be too long before bread can again be baked with flour milled in York.
Another piece of York’s heritage has been saved and in a spectacular way. Well done to everyone involved.