Thorpeness Windmill
Thorpeness Windmill

Thorpeness Windmill is a historic post mill built in 1824 (some sources say 1803) - but not at Thorpeness. In fact, the mill was erected 2 miles away on Mill Lane in the neighbouring village of Aldringham to grind corn. In 1922 it was taken down by the Ogilvie family and rebuilt in Thorpeness, where it served to pump water through underground pipes up to storage tanks in the adjoining water tower.

The mill replaced an American style metal mill capable of lifting 10,000 gallons of water each day. Mr Ogilvie, who owned the new holiday village at Thorpeness, decided that the metal mill was not in keeping with the style of the architecture of the rest of the village and replaced it with the traditional style weatherboarded windmill.

Shortly after the windmill was erected in its new location a friend of Mr Ogilvie suggested a novel idea; that the water tower could be converted into a house. He thought the idea had merit and created a dwelling by building a frame around the tower for accommodation and put a roof over the storage tank. The result was The House in the Clouds, one of the most unusual houses in Britain, and now a holiday cottage.

The mill fantail
The mill fantail

Most histories of the windmill rather glibly state that it was erected at Thorpeness to supply water to the House in the Clouds. This isn't strictly true, as the House in the Clouds had not in fact been built at the time the mill was erected. The water tower that later became the House in the Clouds was in existence, but it had not yet been converted into a dwelling.

The mil is composed of a three-storey weatherboarded housing atop a single storey roundhouse, with a cast-iron windshaft driven by four Patent sails, guided by a six-bladed fantail mounted on a ladder. The brake wheel drove a three-throw pump that raised water from a 28 foot deep well to water tanks in The House in the Clouds. On a good day, the mill could raise 1,800 imperial gallons of water (over 8000 litres) every hour. You can still see the well through a grill in the windmill's floor.

The mill acted as a water pump until 1940, when a diesel engine was installed to fill that role. In 1963 the village was finally connected to mains water, and the mill was no longer required.

The patent sails
The patent sails

In 1970 the fantail was destroyed in a storm and in the following year it was damaged again by a fire which destroyed the stock and a sail. The County Council joined forces with the Thorpeness Estate and the Countryside Commission to restore the mill in 1975.

Just two years later in 1977 the Suffolk County Council purchased the windmill from the Thorpeness Estate and opened it to the public on specified days throughout the summer. It also served as an information point for a coastal heritage trail.

Unfortunately, the mill was not well maintained, and in 2010 it was put up for sale by the council. Though it had a guide price of £150,000, there were only two interested parties, and one pulled out when he saw the state of disrepair.

The windmill was purchased by the Goddard family, who owned the neighbouring property, for £72,100, in a move that sparked some local controversy. The Goddards intended to restore the mill and open it to the public, perhaps with the addition of an art gallery, tea room, and community event centre.

As of this writing, the mill may be open to visitors for National Mill Weekend in May, and at other times at the discretion of the owners, but you can easily get good views of the mill exterior at any time. The mill is easy to find; it is located directly beside The House in the Clouds, and is just a few minutes walk from the village car park on the B1353.

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About Thorpeness Windmill
Address: Uplands Road, Thorpeness, Suffolk, England, IP16 4NQ
Attraction Type: Historic Building - Windmill
Location: On the track called Uplands Road, off the B1353. Open access to exterior
Website: Thorpeness Windmill
Location map
OS: TM468598
Photo Credit: David Ross and Britain Express


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