Heage Windmill is looking more like herself again as the two new sails were hoisted into position on the morning of the 6th November.
The weather was calm which was perfect for the task.
These two sails were assembled by the maintenance team under the skilful leadership of David Land, the Maintenance Manager.
The project has taken approximately 750 hours of volunteer labour.
Nicholls Engineering of Heage were on site helping the team both when the old sails were removed and when the two new ones were attached.
The firm have great experience in engineering projects and have worked on Heage Windmill before, so sincere thanks are extended to them.
Constructional Timber of Barnsley supplied and delivered the laminated pieces of wood (84 in total) for the sails.
These arrived at Heage Windmill back in the spring and the team have spent the summer assembling the new sails.
This included coating all the pieces with sealer followed by undercoating and glossing – 2 coats of each. The shutters were removed from the old sails, washed, repainted and transferred to the new ones.
Alan Eccleston, Chair of the Trust, said that the Trustees wished to thank the dedicated team of volunteers who have worked tirelessly to make this possible.
Our windmills two replacement sails are now scheduled to be up and turning by the end of September.
The story so far… Having found that two sails at Heage windmill needed to be replaced due to wood rot, the Trust made enquires seeking replacements. There are few millwrights able to carry out such work and our enquires showed that the cost would be around £60,000 and delivery would be about 2 years. This was not acceptable to the Trust as we wished to return to our normal 6 sail display as soon as possible.
The volunteers at the mill felt they were capable of making the replacements themselves and that we were able to obtain suitable pre-cut wooden members from Constructional Timber of Barnsley for less than a third of the above quote. The two offending sails, weighing approximately 1 tonne each, were taken off and the part time work of assembling the new timber into sails was undertaken ‘in house’. We found that no less than 84 pieces were needed for the pair of sails. Also, each piece had to have any knots treated. They pieces were then coated with sealer, carefully painted and assembled in a predetermined sequence.
The team agreed to carry out the work in our marquee on site and aimed to ensure work was carried out on a minimum of two full mornings a week. To date, some 400 working hours have been expended and much experience gained.
In parallel, all the iron fittings from the old sails were removed and re-painted and the 40+ shutters washed and cleaned prior to them being transferred to the new sails. The first replacement sail (sail E) currently has all the sail bars and the frame in place and will soon be ready to accept the fitting of the 21 shutters taken from the old sail. Due to space limitations, work on the second sail (sail B) could not start at the same time but presently the stage of sail E is such that the sail bays could be turned upright, creating enough space for the second sail to be started. Presently the angled sail bars are being fitted and work will continue in parallel.
Due to weather and holiday limitations we are expecting to be able to complete the assembly of the pair by the end of September and aim to fit them back soon after.
The cost of the work is being covered by money taken from the mill maintenance fund of Heage Windmill Society but, of course, donations will be most welcome as the cost is estimated at some £20,000 for materials alone. We are continuing to mill flour with four sails and our normal range of flour is still on sale at the mill.
In recognition of bringing Tractor Days to Heage Windmill, John Allsop was invited to officially open the mill for our 2019 season.
In what was probably the warmest opening day since the windmill was restored in 2002, John made his entrance in fitting fashion by driving his Fordson Tractor down the track to the windmill, escorted by two other tractors, driven by local men David Hornsey and John Gould.
They were welcomed by a large gathering of people , including Alan Eccleston, Chairman of Heage Windmill Society, and Cllr. Angela Ward, Chair of Friends of the Windmill.
Alan welcomed everyone present and thanked in particular the team of volunteers who make the mill such a great attraction.
He introduced John Allsop, who was born and bred in Heage and has had a long standing love of the mill. It was John who, many years ago, suggested he organised a tractor rally at the mill. This has blossomed into memorable and well-supported Tractor Days which have greatly helped support the mill.
Angela spoke on behalf of Friends and mentioned the continuing need for more volunteers to help maintain the high standards set at the mill.
Alan then invited John to cut the yellow ribbon. In doing so doing, he said he sincerely hoped the mill would enjoy a great season and that that weather would be kind throughout.
On a perfect, blue sky, breezy Sunday, Heage Windmill Society held a memorable event to celebrate the completion of mill repairs.
For the first time ever the mill was closed to the general public for just the afternoon in order that the Trustees could properly thank all those who had contributed to the repairs being accomplished after severe wet rot was discovered nine months ago.
Unfortunately, as many donors had not given contact details, the Trustees were not able to invite everyone but still wished to offer a huge thank you for their vital contributions.
Chairman of the Heage Windmill Society Piers Bostock welcomed the invited group of over 120 people attending the event.
They largely consisted of groups and individuals who had helped in any way – by donations, effort or time – in the concentrated fundraising period.
The donations came from all over the country – including a few fellow mills – along with some international help.
Piers especially thanked the local businesses who had contributed by either providing facilities or work space.
He thanked Neil Medcalf from Traditional Millwrights, who carried out the major repairs but he particularly full of the praise for the mill volunteers who put in hundreds of hours of work over the last eight months, fund raising or working on the repairs.
It was their efforts, he said, that meant the repair had been completed in less than nine months and for which the costs were largely covered.
Other Speakers included: Robert Kirkland, representing Bowmer and Kirkland; Cllr Steve Freeborn (Chair of Derbyshire County Council) as the mill owner; plus local MP Nigel Mills.
All of them praised the mill volunteers for their concerted efforts to bring this now famous Derbyshire landmark back to life again.
During Piers’ speech, Founder Trustee Alan Gifford ceremoniously cut the fund raising wristbands worn by both Piers and volunteer Lynn Allen to symbolise the end of the fundraising period.
The windmill was decorated with bunting, strung between the sails, which turned slowly in the gentle breeze.
A full hog roast, and other refreshments, including two huge iced fruit cakes – one of which was decorated with the image of the windmill – was then enjoyed by all.
The Derventio Choir sang their hearts out in the background, providing lovely entertainment, enjoyed by all.
It was a suitably dreary, damp day at 8-00 am on Thursday,26th November when the crane arrived at the windmill to play its part in the removal of the sails – the first stage in repair of the mill following the discovery of wet rot in some key structural components.
Fortunately the wind was negligible, a critical requirement when handling large components designed to catch the wind!
A local contractor, Dave Nicholls and his mate worked hard to release the eleven huge bolts on the first sail which fasten the sails to the iron cross – the largest was about 14” long and 1 ¼” diameter.
The crane supported the sail whilst this was done and by 9-30 the first one was being guided to its initial resting place, laying flat on wooden pallets.
The volunteer team then removed the wooden leader boards from the sails and made the control rod for the shutters secure.
Meanwhile the millwrights started to remove the next sail and the whole process was repeated six times.
All the sails were then repositioned to stand vertically ready for the next stage – transport to a dry workshop where they will be carefully checked and any repairs carried before painting – again by the mill volunteers.
By 1-00 pm all the sails were off and stacked and the workers gathered round to celebrate the successful completion of this phase of the work.
The mill however looked strangely bare without her sails… But the sails WILL turn again.
Here is a gallery of the day the sails were transported from the windmill to the workshop.
Heage Windmill is usually open to the public every Saturday and Sunday from Easter to the end of October, but is currently closed because of Covid-19. See home page for details>
Please note the wind speed. If it is more than 5 or 6 mph, then normally the sails will be turning.
Heage Windmill is owned by Derbyshire CC but is controlled and operated by Heage Windmill Society, a charitable organisation (Reg Charity No 1065980), to whom all profits from running the windmill are donated by the Friends to help ensure its continued preservation