What’s so special about this place?
Argos Hill Windmill is a post mill, the earliest form of windmill design, constructed so that the mill body can rotate around its central post to face the wind. Only 50 post mills survive in the United Kingdom. As a relatively rare survival, with all its machinery intact and distinctive fantail driven tailpole, Argos Hill is listed Grade II*. Clad in white weatherboard with a red cap, the Windmill is a significant landmark within the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. When it was built in around 1835, industrial activity was widespread in the countryside, in quarries, sawmills and forges. The mill enabled the surrounding rural communities to process the grain they grew, a story which resonates with today's interest in locally sourced produce and reducing food miles.
Organisation: Argos Hill Windmill Trust Ltd
AHF support: Cold Spots Grant; Challenge Fund Grant; advice and support
Outcome: Restoration well advanced: mill due to open to public in spring 2016
Why was the building at risk?
After its closure, the Windmill passed into local authority ownership and following years of decline, was added to Historic England's Heritage at Risk Register. In 2008 it was proposed to dismantle and store the building. A campaign by the local community and mills enthusiasts led to the formation of the Argos Hill Windmill Trust, which took on ownership of the mill on a 99 year lease in 2011. By this time, many of the main structural timbers were severely rotten and substantial repairs were needed.
How was it saved?
The Trust's first step was urgent work to secure the structure, allowing time to develop detailed proposals to restore the mill as a heritage and educational attraction. Fundraising by a separate Friends group, combined with grants, including £100,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund, plus a substantial contribution from the local authority, achieved the £250,000 needed to go ahead. The Trust brings together highly relevant skills including project management, construction, engineering, IT and education. This has enabled them both to manage the restoration effectively and develop plans to tell the story of the mill to people, including through digital media. Whilst the structural repairs have been undertaken by a millwright, significant sections of work have been taken on by a volunteer workforce of [number], contributing their skills and learning new ones. The whole community has been involved, whether through supporting fundraising events or offering help in kind, a testament to the importance they attach to this local heritage landmark.
Where is the project at now?
The structural repairs are now largely complete and the volunteers are fixing the weatherboarding to the exterior. Two volunteer teams are working on site, one during the week and one at weekends, depending on the time they can give. Once the mill body is fully weather-tight and the sails in place, the scaffolding that has protected the mill for over a decade will come down and the Windmill will again be visible across the High Weald. The project is on course to be completed in December this year.
How did the AHF help?
We provided two grants. The first of £2,386 was under our Cold Spots scheme funded by the Pilgrim Trust, the John Paul Getty Jnr Charitable Foundation and Historic England. This enabled the Trust to develop a detailed specification and drawings as part of their project development. We also provided a Challenge Fund grant of £23,000. This grant scheme was funded by the Andrew Lloyd Webber Foundation and Historic England, and unusually for the AHF this supported capital works. The Trust was established using the governance model for a building preservation trust, provided by the UK Association of Preservation Trusts in partnership with the AHF. We also provided advice on developing a fundraising strategy and putting together the case for financial support.