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Historic windmill to be used as polling station in 200th anniversary year

PUBLISHED: 07:32 25 November 2019 | UPDATED: 08:00 25 November 2019

Thelnetham Windmill as a polling station for the first time in May 2019. Picture: WEST SUFFOLK COUNCIL

Thelnetham Windmill as a polling station for the first time in May 2019. Picture: WEST SUFFOLK COUNCIL

West Suffolk Council

Village halls, churches, schools and community centres will be transformed into polling stations once again on December 12 - but one historic windmill will be hosting its first General Election poll for its 200th anniversary.

Chris Mills (right) here giving a tour of the mill, said the polling station helped people connect with the mill's history. Picture: SONYA DUNCANChris Mills (right) here giving a tour of the mill, said the polling station helped people connect with the mill's history. Picture: SONYA DUNCAN

Thelnetham Windmill was used a polling station for the first time in the European elections in May, but has never been used for a General Election.

The picturesque Grade II Listed building is one of only a few working windmills in East Anglia according to its website, with the building's granary replacing Thelnetham's village hall as a polling booth this year in the West Suffolk constituency.

Chris Mills, volunteer and event organiser at the mill, said: "The polling station is normally in Thelnetham Village Hall but the village hall is currently undergoing a major refurbishment so they cannot use it.

"When I was approached I was quite pleased because people know of it but haven't actually been inside it, so I thought it was a great way to get people to come to the mill."

The Belstead Arms in Ipswich is no stranger to decorating for an occasion, such as  for the 2014 World Cup, and will be decked in polling station banners on December 12. Picture: SU ANDERSONThe Belstead Arms in Ipswich is no stranger to decorating for an occasion, such as for the 2014 World Cup, and will be decked in polling station banners on December 12. Picture: SU ANDERSON

The mill was built in July 1819, and first set to work on Christmas Day that year, meaning the polls for this year's election takes place on the eve of its 200th anniversary.

Celebrations to mark the occasion were held in July, with votes in December's election set to contribute another small part of the mill's history.

The granary is now used as a meeting room, while the mill workshop itself has a visitor centre offering guided tours.

A spokeswoman from West Suffolk Council said having the windmill meant people could continue to cast their vote in the village.

The Station Hotel in Ipswich will be a polling station for the first time in 2019. Picture: ADAM HWOLETTThe Station Hotel in Ipswich will be a polling station for the first time in 2019. Picture: ADAM HWOLETT

While Thelnetham Windmill is one of the most visibly unusual polling stations, a handful of other interesting locations will also be used.

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Pubs

Public inns have been used in areas of the county in previous years, notably the White Horse in Beyton and the Kingfisher Pub in Ipswich.

But this year another two Ipswich taverns will be hosting voters for the first time - The Station Hotel in Burrell Road and the Belstead Arms in Hawthorn Drive.

An Ipswich Borough Council spokesman said that the Red Rose Chain base in Gippeswyk Avenue and Birkfield Drive was normally used but the group's Christmas show meant the Station Hotel was needed instead.

Thelnetham Windmill will host a polling station for the 2019 General Election on the eve of its 200th anniversary. Picture: ARCHANTThelnetham Windmill will host a polling station for the 2019 General Election on the eve of its 200th anniversary. Picture: ARCHANT

The Belstead Arms replaces the nearby primary school so as not to disrupt the school day.

Flat

Residential properties are rarely used as polling booths, but it isn't unheard of.

Thelnetham Windmill with the granary next door (white building). Picture: ELLA WILKINSONThelnetham Windmill with the granary next door (white building). Picture: ELLA WILKINSON

One Suffolk council chief executive recalls a kitchen being used once during an election held at a previous authority and this year Flat 51 in Sandyhill Lane, Ipswich, will be doing the same.

The apartment, owned by Ipswich Borough Council, is currently empty and won't be occupied before December 12, so voters there need not worry about disturbing anyone's domestic routine.

Dance studio

Waterlane Leisure Centre in Lowestoft has been hosting ballots for more than a decade, and since its refurbishment in 2011 the polling booths have been in the dance studio, so those wishing to bolero while they ballot can do so.

The leisure centre's main hall is also where the Waveney count takes place this time around.

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