A peep behind the polythene wrap
Upminster Windmill was built by James Nokes, a local farmer, in 1803. It is a Grade II* listed building and in terms of quality, completeness and significance it is widely considered to be amongst the very best remaining English smock mills.
The windmill is currently being restored to working order.
The exciting pictures on our new carousel provide a dramatic illustration of the activity behind the Mill’s polythene cover.
Repairs to the smock frame are well underway. Of the eight sides of the octagonal Mill, five now have new timbers. Six of the eight corner posts have been replaced and one more will be replaced next month. The remaining post was the only one still strong enough to be left in situ.
This phase of the restoration required many months of planning followed by an even longer period of cutting and shaping the new timbers in the Dutch workshop ready for assembly on site. The four floors of the timber framed smock tower have been jacked up from the ground floor brick base to facilitate the repairs, a task made particularly difficult by the poor condition of the existing timbers, many of which were rotten. Two of the eight sides have been replaced in sections, providing the strength and rigidity to repair or replace the timbers of the remaining sides piece by piece.
When repairs to the smock frame are completed, the smock tower will be lowered to rest once again on the brick base, which has itself been repaired. The refurbished cap frame will be returned and new weatherboarding will be added. At that stage, later this year, the polythene and scaffolding will be removed. We will start to see the Mill as we know it, albeit the gallery and sails will not be in place until next year.
Featured article this month by Luke Bonwick. Click here.
Even with the Mill wrapped in polythene there is still a lot of work going on.
Our millwright, Willem Dijkstra, has cut and shaped eight corner posts (each around 35 feet long) and is making good progress on the adjoining timbers. Due to the position of the doors and windows, the eight sides of the Mill are all different. In total 6 sides have now been rebuilt and the final two will be completed in the next couple of weeks.
The Millwright is also continuing his work to rebuild the cap frame.
Willem will finish cutting and shaping the structural timbers later and will then bring them to the UK. The main timber repairs will be completed in the summer, allowing the cap to be replaced later in the year. It will be early 2019 before we see the sails turning.
Work has been done inside the Mill, including the replacement of flooring boards on the first floor following repairs to the joists on which they rest.
26 September 2017
The next stage of the restoration has begun. Our millwright, Willem Dijkstra, has begun repairing the mill’s tower, which comprises the brick base and the wooden smock tower above which houses the four floors of machinery.
Earlier this month Willem (with just one assistant, Douwe), jacked up the entire four floors of the smock tower, including the internal machinery. It is now two inches higher than the brick base on which it has sat for over two centuries!
The gap has enabled the removal of the concrete cill, that covered the top of the brickwork and on which the smock tower rested. This cill was added in 1949 by David Lewis and Philip Leonard under the supervision of millwright Hector Stone. We know this because David & Philip carved their names and the date in the concrete.
The gap will be filled with two courses of bricks and the new cill will be oak both reflecting the original design. The smock tower will be lifted even higher for this to be accomplished.
19 June 2017
During the last few days, scaffolding has been erected around the Mill and a polythene cover applied.
This will facilitate the structural repairs. Safe from the elements, the external weatherboarding can now be removed and repairs made to the structural timbers. These timbers have been examined visually from the inside and those requiring repair or replacement have been identified, though it is possible that removal of the weatherboarding will reveal more damage.
The scaffolding will be in place for about a year, at the end of which the cap and sails will be replaced and will again turn with the wind.
During the last few months, good progress has been made on refurbishing the cap and sails in the millwright’s workshop and some of the floor beams inside the Mill have been repaired.
The work is on target to complete in summer 2018.