Horsey Windpump restoration project
When the disintegrating sails were removed from Horsey Windpump in 2014, it was clear that the historic building also needed vital restoration work. So, in 2016, we started a three-year project to replace the sails and bring this historic windpump back to full working order. Find out how we worked to get Horsey Windpump turning in the Norfolk landscape once more.
Phase one – restoring the cap and sails
The Horsey Windpump restoration project was initiated after the disintegrating sails were removed in 2014. Then in 2016, phase one of the project began in earnest, with the National Trust allocating £244,000 to the work.
The rotten cap which previously held the sails was removed from the top of the tower by a 60-tonne crane. It was placed on the ground beside it, ready to be loaded onto a lorry and transported to Millwright Tim Whiting’s workshop.
You can watch a time-lapse of the cap being lifted, thanks to the Eastern Daily Press.
Over the course of a year, the cap and structure were repaired and conserved, and the sails were remade using a historic pattern. The new cap was designed to rotate the sails towards the wind, giving a different view of Horsey Windpump every single day.
Tim Whiting first assessed the cap to see which original pieces could be reused, and which bits would have to be remade. Tim made exact copies of the unsalvageable elements out of the correct wood using the same traditional millwright skills originally employed to build Horsey Windpump.
Although he had the advantage of electricity and new modern power tools, Tim still used some of the tools millwright Dan England would have used in 1912.
Restoring the tower’s brickwork
Meanwhile, as work was taking place at Tim’s workshop, the brickwork at the very top of Horsey Windpump's tower was being repaired. Bricklayers with a head for heights scaled five levels of scaffolding to relevel the top of the tower, ready for the newly refurbished cap.
Reinstating the cap
In May 2017 the newly repaired cap was lifted back onto Horsey Windpump and the event was watched by 150 people. It was a nerve-wracking day for Tim Whiting and his team, as the total weight of the cap and brake wheel was unknown. However, a 130-tonne crane – the largest available – expertly lifted the cap in one go, and then successfully lowered it onto the tower. The cap then required some bedding-in time to ensure it was able to turn correctly.
Stocks, clamps and sail frames
Once the sail frames, stocks and clamps were completed, they were ready to be lifted. Unfortunately, due to very wet winter, the ground conditions meant a traditional crane could not be brought on site as it would likely sink into the ground.
Over three very cold days in mid-February 2018, the stocks, clamps and sail frames were instead lifted back onto Horsey Windpump using a lorry-mounted crane, with the millwright team working into the night.
Phase two – fitting the shutters and striking gear
Phase two began in 2018 and saw the shutters and striking gear being fitted to the sails, allowing their speed to be better controlled and help keep this iconic Norfolk Broads building in operation.
The moment the sails turned once more
After four months of unsuccessful tests in unfavourable wind, the sails finally turned for the first time in 76 years on the evening of Wednesday 29 May 2019.
The evening had the perfect wind conditions and, after the brake was taken off and the shutters closed, the sails on the newly restored windpump sprang into life and began turning. With a small group of National Trust staff and a few lucky visitors looking on, the sails turned for a full hour without any issues, marking a historic moment in the life of this Norfolk Broads building.
You can watch a video of the sails turning for the first time in 76 years.
This moment was proof that the sails could turn successfully, but the team continued to carry out more tests on the windpump. The tests included adding more shutters to the sails and putting them through their paces in different wind conditions. Later that year, when the team completed their checks, the sails were finally ready to begin turning regularly once more at Horsey Windpump.
Uncover the history of Horsey Windpump in Norfolk. Standing on the site of previous mills, it’s survived floods, a lightning strike, collapse, storms and gale force winds.
Enjoy the spectacular views from the top of Horsey Windpump, with special sights from the windows on all five floors on the way to the top, with 61 steps in total.
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