Millwrights; then and now
Millwrights built and carried out running repairs on windmills and drainage mills and still do today here at Horsey.
The work was hard and challenging, often in confined spaces and bad weather conditions. The millwright’s job required a range of skills including draughtsman, carpenter, engineer, blacksmith and bricklayer.
Horsey Windpump was built in 1912 by Dan England of Ludham making it the youngest windpump on the Norfolk Broads. Many parts from the previous Black Mill were used. The bricks were made in nearby Martham and shipped to the site by Wherry. Huge cast iron gear and shafts, and large pieces of timber were hauled into position by hand using only ropes, pulleys and levers. Dan England was from a family of millwrights that had been in the trade for over 200 years. Dan was in the business for 66 years, until his death, aged 80, starting as a millwright and engineer at the age of 14. He built the mills and also made repairs and improvements to many others. His work took him to all areas of Norfolk.
The skills required to be a millwright today have not changed, but with the invention of electrical tools and modern cranes the job has become easier and health and safety laws have made it safer.
Tim Whiting and his team of Suffolk-based Millwrights have been working on this Norfolk landmark since 2016. Tim has been a Millwright since 2011 and has worked on a variety of mills across the country. Many parts of this building were restored and others had to be replaced on this long and exciting project. With their hard work and dedication, the Windpump has once again become a living machine rather than just an historical building.
Just 12 millwrights remain today and this number is decreasing all the time leaving this traditional trade at risk of being lost forever.