Tide mill gets £400,000 boost

THE historic Woodbridge Tide Mill, a symbol of the riverside town, is to be given a £400,000 makeover to bring it back into use and attract more visitors.

By Richard Smith

THE historic Woodbridge Tide Mill, a symbol of the riverside town, is to be given a £400,000 makeover to bring it back into use and attract more visitors.

Up to 12,000 people come to the mill on the River Deben each year – but the Tide Mill Trust believes that this number could double and lead to an economic spin-off for the town.

The Tide Mill is one of only five existing tide mills nationwide and only one of two where the mill wheel rotates.

The other working mill is at Eling, at the head of Southampton Water, and it mills corn for human consumption. Flour could be produced from the Woodbridge Tide Mill and sold.

Fred Reynolds, a trustee of the Tide Mill Trust, said: "We do not want a polished, chromium-plated museum. Better that there should be some flour on the floor rather than layers of protective glass.

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"If more people can be attracted to the town in order to explore its history, admire and use its waterfront, take photographs and set up their canvases they will spend money in our shops and dine in our inns and restaurants.

"No other historic Woodbridge building has the potential to attract more visitors than has the Tide Mill. Without the success of this restoration project the benefit of the mill could actually be lost because it has been declared unsafe, illegal or has just gone up in smoke."

A special meeting was held last night at the Shire Hall to outline the Tide Mill's future and the public was told that visitors love to see something happen, rather than see a static display.

"The most credible and only way to give the mill a really new dynamic appeal is surely to make it do what it was built do - mill corn," said Mr Reynolds.

The Heritage Lottery Fund would give 90% of the costs, if an application is successful, and the Trust would have to find about £40,000. Work could start in 18 months if the application goes smoothly.

The restoration would include 24 tasks. The installation of hand-held audio guides, the replacement of the water wheel, dredging mud, redesigning the entrance lobby and putting in new lights, heating and fire protection equipment are among them.

The mill, made of wood and on a windy corner, is viewed by the trustees as "horribly vulnerable" to a fire and they urgently want a modern fire alarm system.

The Heritage Lottery Fund provided £83,000 of the £100,000 spent this year on improvements that saved the quay from dereliction.

The work included repairing the quay wall and replacing it with timber cladding, removing mud from the river, installing benches and an interpretation board, and putting up bollards for moorings by small boats.

There have been tide mills on the site since 1170. The present building dates from 1793 and last worked in 1957.

It fell into disrepair before an appeal was made more than 30 years ago to repair the building. The tide mill worked for about two hours either side of low tide.

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