Windmill turns again for first time since great storm of ‘87

BEING able to watch the sails of his windmill finally hoisted back where they belong would have been an emotional moment for Geoffrey Wheeler.

Bardwell Windmill, near Bury St Edmunds, was acquired by Mr Wheeler and his wife Enid in 1987, but the great storm of that year dashed their dream.

Mr Wheeler, who passed away in 1995, had hoped to run the working mill – which dates back to the early 19th Century – in his retirement.

During the storm the sails crashed to the ground in front of their home.

A restoration project which has involved the whole community saw two new sails fitted to the mill on Thursday, and they were put in motion the next day.

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Jonathan Wheeler said the day they were fitted would have been his father’s 81st birthday.

He said: “We ran the sails the first time on the Friday evening and that was very very emotional. To see them move again with the power of the wind.

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“That’s the first time they had run since the hurricane on October 15, 1987.”

The father-of-four, who has a background in engineering, told how four years ago he found drawings his father had created of the mill.

Mr Wheeler said: “That was just like him saying to me ‘For goodness’ sake get on with it’ and the Friends of Bardwell Windmill said ‘If you think you can, do it’.”

The main role of the Friends has been to raise money for the restoration of the Grade II* Listed building, with Mr Wheeler saying in excess of �100,000 must have been raised.

He said the project would not have happened without the Friends, which came about after villagers offered to help the family restore the mill.

It took Mr Wheeler four years, with the help of friends, to build the sails, and the cap has also been re-engineered.

It is hoped the mill will very soon be working once again.

n In the great October storm of 1987, 18 people lost their lives up and down the country

n In parts of the UK winds reached 100mph

n The storm also uprooted millions of trees, ripped roofs off buildings, destoyed cars and left parts of the country cut off from power

n Many areas in southern England were totally devastated

n The Suffolk Wildlife Trust said the storm had led to more variety in the county’s woodlands

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