Facelift for Friston Post Mill

By Sarah ChambersTHE top half of a sagging giant is to be lifted up as part of a complex operation to save it.A giant steel frame will be placed around Friston Post Mill, near Saxmundham, and jacks will be used to raise its wooden upper half from its brick base to allow timbers to be repaired as part of vital restoration works.

By Sarah Chambers

THE top half of a sagging giant is to be lifted up as part of a complex operation to save it.

A giant steel frame will be placed around Friston Post Mill, near Saxmundham, and jacks will be used to raise its wooden upper half from its brick base to allow timbers to be repaired as part of vital restoration works.

The grade II* listed early 19th Century building, which is 53ft in height, may be tallest east Suffolk mill of its type built. Although temporary works have been carried out, decay inside is threatening its stability.

The owner of the site is Piers Hartley, an old building enthusiast who bought it 30 years ago and lives nearby. The ownership of the mill itself has been passed to a charity called the Friston Mill Foundation and Mr Hartley is one of its members.

They have been battling to raise the funds to restore the historic mill, which remained in operation until 1966 when it was powered by an engine, and contains machinery which is largely intact.

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The operation to put the frame in place will be carried out by DGT Steel and Cladding Ltd, near Norwich, who will be sending a team down on Thursday.

A gang of around three will work to get the frame in place and over the following couple of days another gang will jack up the wooden structure to allow restoration works to take place," said Mr Hartley.

"It's quite a significant step. This at least saves the mill and holds it in place and stops it falling down any more."

The work forms part of the first phase of restoration work supported by English Heritage, which is expected to cost about £120,000. The total restoration is expected to cost somewhere in the region of £400,000.

"It's good for us because we know the mill is secure now. We have been watching those timbers fall slowly and watching the mill sag a bit," explained Mr Hartley. "It gives us a little bit of a breathing space while we raise the rest of the money."

Cedric Helsby-Proffit, a company director at DGT who runs the special projects division, will be overseeing the operation to lift the upper half of the mill.

"It's a difficult operation because of the size and shape of what we are trying to do," he said. "It's a national heritage piece. We have to take care of it and it's difficult from that point of view ensuring we don't create damage."

Mr Helsby-Proffit, an expert in his field, has worked on many high profile projects, including conservation work on the Albert Memorial in London, the Royal Naval College at Greenwich, and the Isabella Wheel on the Isle of Man, a huge working water wheel.

He is currently involved in work on the steel frame for the roof of Bury St Edmunds' new cathedral tower and the bronze work.

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