Windmill restoration now complete

Tomorrow sees one of Havering’s most famous landmarks, the Upminster windmill, officially re-open after its restoration.

Friends of Upminster Windmill announced that the restoration of the Windmill has been completed after a seven-year transformational project. Led by a group of passionate volunteers, the windmill has been returned to full working order and a new visitor centre created and educational facilities that will benefit the local community, schools and youth groups, as well as visitors from far and wide.

Upminster Windmill is a Grade II* listed smock mill, widely considered to be one of the best examples of its kind in the UK. Since 2015, it has undergone full restoration to bring it back to working order. Specialist and structural work was completed by the Dutch millwright, Willem Dijkstra. The mill’s cap was transported to Holland for refurbishment, and four new sails were constructed. The smock tower required extensive restoration and levelling to enable the cap to turn to wind, and for the sails and machinery to operate.

Volunteers from the Friends of Upminster Windmill have invested thousands of hours completing the internal machinery, building a community garden, researching the history and archaeology of the site and building award-winning digital and interpretation technology.

A new onsite visitor centre provides facilities for the public, community groups and a broad range of educational visits.

The project was delivered in partnership between the Friends of Upminster Windmill and the Havering Council, with funding from The National Lottery Heritage Fund, Veolia Havering Riverside Maintenance Trust, and Veolia Environmental Trust.

Key project benefits and legacy:

– The restored windmill

The windmill is now back in working order and can produce flour for demonstration purposes. The windmill is open to the public on selected weekends; visitors can climb inside to experience the magic of the moving sails and machinery, the varied history of the building and the fantastic views over London from the upper floors.

– Skills for the future

A key legacy of the project was the recruitment of volunteers and the development of skills to operate and maintain the mill ongoing.

Cameron Southcott, started as a volunteer at Upminster aged 19 and is now a professional millwright, working full time at other mills across the country.

– Education

Education has been at the heart of our mission throughout the project. The site offers vast potential for the study of a diverse range of curriculum areas, including local history, engineering, weather and climate and sustainability. The Friends of Upminster Windmill are delighted to welcome Education and Youth Groups on a regular basis.

– Community hub

The visitor centre, which was completed before the windmill, is now in use for community groups including an art group, yoga and sewing.

Our large team of volunteers meets weekly to manage and preserve the site, grounds and garden. The windmill garden won the Havering in Bloom award 2021.

– Centre of excellence

Upminster Windmill is now very much on the map as a centre of excellence for conservation and millwrighting. Sensor technology developed by our volunteers won the BAfM Impact Award 2021 and has now been deployed to 12 other mills across the UK and Germany.

Justin Coombs, Trustee of the Friends of Upminster Windmill, said “We are thrilled to be welcoming visitors back to the windmill. The restoration is truly stunning, and combined with the new onsite visitor and education centre we are able to offer a much broader experience to both the public and the many education and youth groups that visit. We are hugely grateful to our hundred plus team of volunteers who have delivered so much of the project, alongside the skilled millwrighting professionals.”

Stuart McLeod, Director of England – London & South at The National Lottery Heritage Fund, said: “It’s fantastic that Upminster Windmill has been saved thanks to the passion and determination of the volunteers involved. We’re proud to have supported the project with £1.4million thanks to money raised by National Lottery players. This has helped to safeguard this important heritage landmark and will provide opportunities for people to celebrate its past and create stories for the future.”

Doug Benjafield, Chairman of the Veolia Havering Riverside Maintenance Trust, said “I am proud of the funding that the Trust has given to ensure the delivery of such an important, innovative and exciting heritage project. We wish the Friends of Upminster Windmill every success in managing the windmill site in the future.”

Cameron Southcott, Millwright, said “I became involved with the Upminster Windmill restoration project as a volunteer, aged 19. Through the project, I had the opportunity to work alongside professional millwrights and subsequently to lead the restoration of some of the internal machinery. This, together with the training I received as part of the Heritage Lottery-funded programme, has enabled me to launch a career as a professional millwright, and I now work full-time restoring and maintaining mills throughout the country.”