5 of Suffolk’s most iconic windmills
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Situated on the Suffolk coast is Thorpeness Windmill, a Grade II-listed post mill. Built in 1803, this former corn mill was originally based in Aldringham but was then moved to Thorpeness and converted into a water pumping mill in 1923, in order to supply the nearby House in the Clouds with water.
Its quaint design can be attributed to the Ogilvie family, who replaced its American-style metal mill with a more traditional, weatherboarded style, in keeping with the rest of Thorpeness’ architecture at the time.
In 1975, Suffolk County Council, Thorpeness Estate and the Countryside Commission worked together to restore the mill. Just two years later, the council purchased the mill from the Thorpeness Estate and opened it to the public. In 2010, the windmill was put up for sale by the council and bought by the Goddard family.
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While the mill currently isn’t open to the public right now, head to Thorpeness and you’ll easily spot its exterior as it towers above the rest of the village. Such a proud landmark for Thorpeness, it’s even featured on the village sign - right next to the House in the Clouds.
Saxtead Green Windmill
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Saxtead’s current windmill dates back to 1796 - but it’s thought there has been some form of windmill in the village since the late 13th century. Since its construction, this post mill has been raised three times, and was tailwinded in the 1850s. Its sails were also destroyed around that time, but repaired shortly after in 1854 by Whitmore and Binyon.
Over the course of its history, a number of families have owned and overseen the day-to-day running of the mill, but since 1984 it has been under the care of English Heritage.
In 2017, millwright Tim Whiting worked alongside English Heritage to give the mill a new lease of life through a £250,000 restoration project. Saxtead Green Windmill was given a new set of sails, stocks and a replacement staircase, and was due to reopen to the public earlier this year, but unfortunately this has been pushed back due to lockdown.
Currently in working order, Pakenham Windmill just outside of Bury St Edmunds is a five-storey, four-sailed Grade II-listed tower mill, and is one of West Suffolk’s most eye-catching monuments. A village of two mills, Pakenham Windmill is a stone’s throw away from the village’s historic water mill.
Built in 1831, two of its three pairs of millstones remain, and the windmill was restored in 1950 with a new weather beam. Half a century later, the windmill was once again restored thanks to a large donation from the Heritage Lottery Fund. Owned by the Bryant family since 1885, John Bryant and Sons currently sell horse feed, farm animal feed and pet food from the mill.
Eagle-eyed readers may recognise Pakenham Windmill from a small handful of television cameos during the 20th century, including an appearance in ‘And now they rest’, a short film released in 1938; as a short interlude between shows on BBC in the 1950s; and in an episode of Survivors, a 1977 television series that was broadcast on BBC One.
Built in 1836 by Wickham Market millwright John Whitmore, Buttrum’s Mill in Woodbridge is Suffolk’s tallest surviving windmill. Currently in working order, this six-storey tower mill was restored in the 1980s and is Grade II-listed.
This towering windmill provides stunning views of the River Deben and prior to lockdown, visitors were able to climb the tower and see all of mill’s machinery at work. With four pairs of millstones within, its ground floor features a display explaining the history and mechanics of the mill.
Erected in 1823, Bardwell Mill was powered by wind until 1925, and after that, was powered by an oil engine until it became derelict in the 1970s. Later purchased by James Waterfield, he restored the mill in 1985 before selling it to Geoffrey and Enid Wheeler two years later.
Over the years, groups have come together to help restore the mill, with English Heritage and St Edmundsbury Borough Council donating £73,000 to help with costs. In 2010 and 2012, new sails were fitted to it.
Based beneath the windmill is Wooster’s Bakery. Open four days a week, it sells freshly baked goods, flours and baking ingredients.