Repairs to iconic Sunderland windmill set to complete after weather delay

Fulwell Mil.
Fulwell Mil.

The £400,000 revamp of an iconic Sunderland windmill will finally be complete next week after being delayed by the weather.

Fulwell Mill will finally get its sails in the major repair scheme, which was launched after years of damage caused by inclement weather.

Fulwell Mill.

Fulwell Mill.

Ironically the refurbishment was hampered by the recent winter weather causing difficulties for the country's only specialist millwrights.

Traditional craftsmen and millwrights from Owlsworth IJP will finally be able to transport the heavy crane to Sunderland next week, to lift the final main sails onto the cap of the building to complete the restoration of the windmill.

Work is expected to last two days, after which Fulwell Mill will be handed over by Sunderland City Council to Sunderland North Community Business Centre (SNCBC) who will manage and maintain this historical heritage attraction.

Sunderland City Council Assistant Head of Service (Museums, Heritage and Arts), Trina Murphy said: "First it was heavy winds then it was heavy snow which delayed us, but now finally we’re able to get the specialist craftsmen and machinery we need on site at the same time to complete this fantastic restoration project.

“The complete set of sails is now being installed as the final piece in the historic jigsaw at Fulwell Mill, which will help restore one of our most well-known local historic landmarks and iconic part of Sunderland’s skyline to its’ former glory.

“Everyone who have been involved in this partnership can be proud of what has been achieved, the traditional craftsmanship required is as specialist as that used on some of this country’s most historic buildings such as the Tower of London, Brixton Windmill and Sir Antony Gormley's Iron 'Land' statue.”

SNCBC will deliver a programme of community activities and events from the visitor centre and Tea Rooms at the Mill which were developed after attracting external funding from the Coastal Communities Fund in 2016.

Volunteer recruitment is starting now and SNCBC are keen to hear from anyone who can support them in ensuring the historic windmill is maintained for future generations to enjoy.

A training session is being delivered on Tuesday, April, 24, from 9am - 1pm, to give people an insight into the traditional skills required to maintain the Mill, including areas such as inspection of the sails and machinery, maintenance and operating equipment .

The cultural heritage project was a partnership between Sunderland City Council and Historic England who both helped fund the costs of repairs and restoration.

Chief Executive of SNCBC, Nikki Vokes added: "Having the community at the heart of this project is essential for its success and we would like to invite those who are interested to come along and get involved.

"There will be lots of opportunities to volunteer in different ways including helping us to share the history of the Mill both locally and nationally and we will be delivering a range of events and activities across the year.

" The view out to the coast from the first floor of the visitor’s centre is one of the best you will find in Sunderland and we hope people of all ages can visit the site to enjoy it for many years to come."

Nikki added: "When restoration work is completed we'll be able to fully re-open the café and tea rooms, and hopefully attract even more people to Fulwell Mill."

The Grade II* listed building can now be removed from Historic England's Heritage-at-Risk Register where it was placed in 2015.

It was closed as a visitor attraction in 2012 because of storm damage with the cap and sails later removed in 2015 because of their dangerous condition.

Since then, the council has been working with Beaumont Brown Conservation Architects and Bonwick Milling Heritage Consultancy on the restoration scheme approved by Historic England.

Kate Wilson, Heritage at Risk Principal for Historic England in the North East, said: "We are delighted to see Fulwell Mill fully restored. Repairing buildings like this requires specialist skills and has been carried out by a team of millwrights possessing the necessary expertise.

"Historic England actively promotes and supports the use of traditional building skills as preserving this expertise is fundamental to repairing historic buildings.

"The specialist work carried out by Owlsworth IJP has restored Fulwell Mill to its rightful place on the city’s skyline and is testament to our shared commitment to preserving our industrial and cultural heritage."

If you are interested in taking part in the training or becoming a volunteer at Fulwell Mill then please contact SNCBC 0191 537 3231 9am - 5pm (Please note places on the traditional skills training on April 24 must, be booked as places are limited).