A COUPLE who are hoping to restore a Grade II*-listed watermill to its former glory have been “overwhelmed” by the response to their pleas for help.

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Stephen de Lara-Bell and his wife Alison bought Kersey Mill last summer after the company which ran it went into liquidation with massive debts.

Instead of converting the original mill into housing, the de Lara-Bells want to refurbish the dilapidated building and get the water and engine-driven stone mill working again. They also hope to open it up to the public and use it as an educational facility.

Earlier this month the couple held an open day at the site – which is on the banks of the River Brett near Hadleigh – with the aim of getting volunteers on board to help with the project. They also put out a call for anyone who had knowledge of the history of the mill to advise them on the restoration work.

To their surprise, Mrs de Lara-Bell said more than 100 people had turned out to offer their support, including a 98-year-old gentleman who had worked at the mill during his youth.

She said: “It was fantastic that so many people attended the open day because they feel as passionate about this project as we do. We were particularly encouraged by how many young people turned up, including one who is interested in the engineering side.

“We also have offers of help with the accounts and administration, as well people who have knowledge of working mills.”

English Heritage is involved with advising on the structural side of the renovation and the organisation is helping with an application for heritage lottery funding. A second open day is being scheduled for summer.

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