For about the last twenty years I have been driving (and occasionally cycling) past the husk of the windmill at Great Haseley on my way to and from the workshop. I found the sight of it gradually sinking into the field particularly poignant on the return journey where its derelict bulk stood like a forgotten monument in the foreground against the backdrop of the mighty cloud factory of Didcot Power Station. The sight of what seemed an irredeemable wreck of a dead technology on its knees before its monstrous belching descendant had a strong mournful appeal to the old goth still lurking within me.
Shows what I know.
On Thursday 16th July 2009 work began on the restoration of Great Haseley Mill. On Wednesday 25th June 2014 the sails and fan-tail were fitted onto the restored mill, two hundred and fifty-four years after the original sails began turning in 1760. On Sunday 27 July 2014 at 05:01am the three cooling towers on the south side of Didcot A Power Station were demolished. The last three towers are due to be demolished later in 2015, 45 years after the station went on line.
Okay, it’s an invidious comparison. Haseley mill has been beautifully restored by David Empringham and his colleagues, but I don’t imagine that flour production will trouble Kingsmill or Warburton’s any time soon. Whereas Didcot has chucked out sufficient megawatts to toast the equivalent of five hundred thousand, two hundred and seventy-three slices of bread for every man woman and child on the planet*. But having had the good fortune to see the rebuilt cap being fitted onto the tower, rotating on its cast iron wheels in a massive elm ball race, and the fantail operating day and night to keep the sails into the wind at all times, it’s a treat for a woodworker, and a great credit to the effort and commitment of all involved in the restoration project.
The final part of the restoration before milling can begin is the making and fitting of the sail-cloths, which should be happening within the next few months. In appreciation of the saving of this great part of our local history we at the workshop decided to donate a specially designed chair as a fundraiser to help put the last few stitches in the sails. It is a variation of our classic Windsor lath and baluster arm chair with the mill itself represented in the seat back, and like much of the timber of its machinery, an Elm seat. The chair is due to be auctioned off at a special event to celebrate the mill’s final completion, date to be finalised but certainly before 2016’s National Mills Weekend on 15th – 16th May. Watch this space.
*Entirely made up statistic. I have no idea how much toast.
David Empringham, millwright: www.davidempringhammillwright.co.uk
Great Haseley Mill: www.greathaseleywindmill.net
National mills weekend details: www.nationalmillsweekend.co.uk
Bates and Lambourne: www.batesandlambourne.co.uk
Josh H-S 22 Aug 2015