Cambridge Past, Present & Future is just one step away from saving the country’s oldest windmill near Bourn in South Cambridgeshire. Over the last two years they have been working with funders, the local community, mill enthusiasts and supporters to ensure that the mill doesn’t collapse.
Now, with the help of the UK’s two largest heritage funders National Lottery Heritage Fund and Historic England they are only £10,000 away from raising all the money needed to make all the restoration works possible.
Bourn Windmill was found to be at risk of collapse in 2020 when extensive rot was discovered in the beams. A fundraising campaign was immediately launched to pay for scaffolding to prevent its’ collapse. Once the mill had been made safe, building conservation experts have been working out how to fix it. The cost of repairs will be over £150,000.
After more than 12 months hidden from view and closed for safety reasons, the campaign is now only £10,000 away from raising the total amount needed. The National Lottery Heritage Fund and Historic England have both awarded vital grants to prevent this important heritage building from being lost. The public have also been generous by giving nearly £20,000 so far. Now, Cambridge Past, Present & Future is appealing to people to give what they can so that the repairs can begin this spring. This is vital as the schedule of works will take 6 months to complete due to a painstaking conservation process using historically accurate materials, it needs to be completed before the first frosts in the Autumn.
James Littlewood, CEO of Cambridge Past, Present & Future said:
“When we first discovered a small area of rot, we could not have imagined that the whole structure of the mill was at risk of collapsing and that a significant and expensive project would be needed to save the windmill. It is such a special building that we are determined to preserve it for future generations. It is not just a building that looks nice, it’s an ancient machine with lots of moving parts. Due to its relatively small size, people can have a go at turning the mill themselves or being inside whilst it is turning. As well as the fantastic support from Historic England and National Lottery Heritage Fund, we are appealing for donations, so that once again people can take part in this amazing and unforgettable experience and protect a piece of our national heritage.”
Famous architect, Lord Norman Foster, has also given his unreserved support to the project. He said:
“Bourn Mill is not only a significant national heritage building, but it is one which holds particular personal significance to me as an architect. As a young student at Manchester University, I was drawn to Bourn Mill to create a set of measured drawings of the building –a requirement of my architectural studies. My choice was not only because of my fascination with the ingenuity of a trestle post mill construction – with the entire weight of the structure supported on a central post and trestle – but also the sheer beauty of the overall design, particularly in section. The original drawings that I made of Bourn Mill are at my Norman Foster Foundation and remain one of the most viewed items from the archive, by students and researchers from around the world.”
Recently published research by Historic England has revealed that the main post, which is the oldest part of Bourn Windmill, is made from a tree felled between 1513 and 1549, making this the earliest windmill yet dated.
Alongside the restoration work, Cambridgeshire ACRE will be carrying out a programme of community engagement activities to bring the windmill’s story to a new and wider audience.
Anything who wishes to contribute to the fundraising campaign can donate here. Every gift makes a difference to saving this important heritage site.