Restoration Updates Archive Page

March 2007

As John Double is currently away chasing rabbits in Australia, it falls to me as Deputy Chairman to keep you up to date regarding the Windmill.

The Christmas lighting looked particularly effective this year with the sails installed. We must again thank Kevin and Mrs Curtis, for their supply of electricity, it is very much appreciated. The illuminations are proving popular as I am now being asked when they will be switched on again.

After the high note of last year, when we hoisted the sails, it seems now that we have to deal with some less exciting things but which are nonetheless important.

The constructional matters we have to deal with are basically the roof and walls of the roundhouse, which protects the trestle. Unusually we have to deal with the roof with its complicated conical structure, before dealing with the round wall that supports it. We have been working on the design for some time with Peter Jamieson, our Architect ‘friend’ and, of course, Vincent Pargeter our Millwright, so watch this space.

Raising the funds to pay for all this has started and we hope to have sufficient by late Spring to make a start.

Also in late Spring i.e. the 28th April we shall be having our annual meeting of Friends to give our usual report together with some information on the roundhouse, a light supper and entertainment. So that we can cater for this please let one of the Trustees know you are coming.

Despite the miserable weather on New Year’s Day the ‘New Year Stagger’ went well and we have since made a number of special bookings.

The Mill will be open the second Sunday in each month (10.30 a.m. – 4.00 p.m.) from April including the whole weekend 12th & 13th May as this is National Mills Open Day and we are now listed in the official Essex Mills Register. We can always arrange special personal visits for ‘Friends’, if you telephone David How in advance.

Although we have been unable to produce a commemorative candle yet depicting the sails, we have in the meantime produced a large ‘dramatic’ tea towel of the Mill, which is available from David How (01799 584 382) for the modest sum of £3. They have been road tested, and have proved very satisfactory.

Don’t forget the website: if you would like us to post a special photo or image that you think would look good in the image archive, please Email it to the website Email address

All best wishes.

Peter Connatty
Deputy Chairman
March 2007

After a somewhat worrying week of high winds and rain we enjoyed a lovely sunny day on 23rd September. It was a momentous occasion when the new sails, which had been recently hoisted on to the Mill, were officially inaugurated by Patricia Herrmann O.B.E., Vice Chairman of Essex Environment Trust.

The team of fourteen volunteers running the event had everything ready to greet over one hundred and fifty “Friends” and to show them how much had been achieved in the five years, almost to the day from the commencement of the work, by the combined efforts of the Trustees and the many “Friends of the Mill”, who have been supporting and assisting on the project over the last five years.

Most of the Heritage and Restoration organisations, who have made grants to the project, had sent a representative. Patricia Herrmann, during the “Opening”, made many kind and encouraging remarks regarding the efforts of the community and the remarkable spirit that prevails in Ashdon village. As a person who has been involved in similar projects throughout Essex for many years her compliments should not be taken lightly.

Unfortunately due to the changes that have been made in the regulations which govern Essex Environment Trust, ashdon is no longer in the area in which they may provide funding for heritage projects. We have therefore lost a valuable supporter who through their Chief Executive, Keith Derry, gave us much support and inspiration since 2001.

However, the inauguration ceremony went well and at the close of Patricia Herrmann’s address – the sails really turned. At first I thought this was due to cheering by all the visitors but then I saw it was Vincent turning the sails by hand! It was nonetheless a stirring sight and something that the Trustees and all our supporters have been waiting for. The sails had stopped in 1912 and have not, to our knowledge, turned since, until now.

Although there were too many people involved in the inauguration to name everyone I have to give special thanks to the team of tour guides headed up by Alan Hardy, who created the video presentation of the restoration and volunteer “guides“ roped in at the last minute – Sue Feldman, Sarah How, Chris Tibbs and George Goddard, Peter Connatty for his mobile lunch bar, Marion Wrigley for driving the shuttle bus all day and Tim How who controlled the cricket club car park and Mill Lane ensuring no traffic problems.

We now have to build on this major achievement and restore the roundhouse next year before we can install the millstones together with the various pieces of machinery that drive the stones.

Hopefully Alan Hardy will be organising the New Year stagger on 1st January so keep an eye on the Village notice boards and the website –

Don’t forget we have a selection of useful gifts for Christmas and a call to David (584 382) may solve a present problem.

So a big thank you to everyone for your support on behalf of all the Trustees and we hope you and your families will all enjoy Christmas and the new image of the “Mill on the Hill”.

All best wishes.
John Double


For the benefit of newcomers to the Village and as a reminder, I thought we should recap the long, hard but rewarding steps to restoring the windmill

Following the initial public Village meeting in April 1999, when the possibility of restoring the Windmill was discussed and it was unanimously agreed it should be restored, the first question asked afterwards was – when will the sails be put on?

Well, as you will have seen, the sails were “put on” in July and by the time you read this they will have been officially opened on 23rd September by Patricia Herrmann O.B.E., Vice Chairman of Essex Environment Trust.

However, it was not as simple as it sounds! At the meeting in 1999 we immediately called ourselves “The Friends of Ashdon Mill” but before we could accept the conveyance of the Mill from Thurlow Estate we had to form a Company and register it as a charitable trust. When that was completed we had to obtain planning permission and historic building clearance, as the Mill is a grade II listed historical building. The planning permission was conditional on our building two passing places in Mill Lane and a car park at the Mill, which meant we had to go back to Thurlow Estate to request a further piece of land for the car park, which was generously agreed, and obtain further planning approval.

At the same time as all the administration and legal work was taking place we were obtaining estimates for work, making applications for grants, visiting and being visited by prospective funding organisations, who supported Countryside and Heritage protection and preservation.

The “Friends of Ashdon Mill” grew rapidly in this period and we had over 100 donations in the first year, which also kept the pressure on us and gave us the courage to face the daunting prospect of having to raise over £150,000. Thurlow Estate had promised us a donation of £25,000 as soon as we could raise £25,000 ourselves, so that was our first target. The Essex Environment Trust was quite impressed with the community spirit and gave us a tremendous boost when they awarded us a grant of £40,000 in 2001, we knew then we were really in business.

We hastened to our Millwright – Vincent Pargeter – to let him know we could now pay him and the preliminary work started in September 2001, almost 4 years ago to the official opening date.

The most urgent work at the time was to stop the Mill collapsing or falling over!  The Mill had been leaning progressively to the left and the front end, where the sails are, was leaning more than the rest, so that it was becoming twisted.

The Mill had to be strapped up inside with steel straps and carefully straightened by tightening the straps gradually, to avoid splitting or breaking the main timbers. In March 2002 the Mill was trussed up with an exterior timber scaffolding, by a massive cross braced “A” frame to support it, while the main timbers were repaired or replaced. When you visit the Mill you will see how big the main timbers are and will readily appreciate why this took a long time.

We were completely mystified and lost in admiration as to how Vincent was able to build the frame on his own, as the “A” frame props were 26’ long and about 10” square. The horizontal joining pieces “the needles” were of a similar size and about 25’ off the ground. Later when the Mill received new white cladding, he then built a gallery just under the roofline to repair and clad the roof.

While all the work continued in 2002 and 2003, we were still seeking funds and eventually were awarded a grant of nearly £45,000 by The Heritage Lottery Fund in July 2004, to restore the steps, tailpole and build new sails. Vincent who is a very busy man, being one of the top Millwrights in England, was unable to start right away on this work so we had to wait but he prepared plans for the sails, which we also had to submit for “planning approval”. He also located a supplier of the special Scandinavian white pine timber for the sails, which was laminated by a firm in Denmark for strength and durability. The making of the sails was carried out in Vincent’s huge workshop at Ingatestone and brought over to the Mill in pieces by a ‘large’ lorry and re-assembled on site. They then had to be partially taken apart so that they could be hoisted and threaded through the sails socket on the front of the Mill by a high lift hydraulic crane and wedged into position.

This is now history – but not a lot of people know about it. We still have to restore the roundhouse and fit out the interior of the Mill with the millstones, which we have, and machinery, which we do not have, but at least we now have a Mill which looks the part up on the hill overlooking the Village, as it did 250 years ago.

We shall continue to raise funds for all the further work and have to thank everyone in Ashdon for their support, not only in donations but also for their assistance “on the ground” with all the equipment this requires. Also the various Village groups and societies who have contributed – the Bowls Club, The Ashdon Players, The Lady Quilters , The Parish Council and descendents of William Haylock who built the Mill.

Finally the three original Trustees Andrew Eyles, David How and myself plus Nick Finlayson Brown, who was co-opted, and saw us through all the tangled web of legalities, have been joined by Peter Connatty (2002), Alan Hardy and Andrew Noakes (2006). In view of the changing roles, we now have to play with structural work nearing completion, the additional Trustees will help to continue the ongoing research and maintenance.

The Trust is a Village Trust and the Mill is therefore owned by the Village in perpetuity and will always be part of our heritage.

John Double
September 2006

Our annual meeting for Friends of Ashdon Mill was held at the Village Hall on 22nd April. Unfortunately Vincent Pargeter, our Millwright, was unable to come, so we did not learn how to design sails for windmills. However, David Bidwell presented a photographic history of Ashdon, which was both interesting and amusing – Helen, Brenda and Elizabeth provided supper.

We have already had a number of open days at the Mill including some special interest groups – unrelated to Mills – who wished to see how the restoration was proceeding. One rather unusual visitor appeared from nowhere complete with camera, fortunately on a day when David just happened to be counting the nuts and bolts. After a quick tour the visitor happily roamed about on his own taking photographs. After some while, when David had finished what he was doing, he proceeded to lock up and had just put the locking bar across the door before inserting the padlock when he had second thoughts in case the visitor had left anything – on reopening the door he came face to face with the visitor who was still taking pictures in the almost dark interior. It was quite a shock - and a narrow escape for the visitor from being locked in a lonely Mill. He had come from Dorset and was on his way to Suffolk and had picked up information on the Mill from the tourist bureau.

The National Mills Weekend was quite successful when seventy visitors or so visited the Mill, apart from regular “Friends” we also had visitors from Harlow, Brighton, Colchester, Nottingham and one lady from Louisiana. We were also very fortunate in that John Scott, who has painted two pictures of the Mill at different stages of the restoration, very kindly arranged for some postcards and notelets to be made from his pictures, which were very popular with our visitors. He is also proposing to paint a further picture when the sails are fitted. We are very grateful to John for his generosity. The weather was decidedly “iffy” but those on duty throughout the weekend were able to have a “base camp” in the luxury of Peter & Sarah Connatty’s caravan, which they kindly loaned to us for the weekend.

The Bartlow “Three Counties Walk”, prior to the Open Day, also used the Mill as a staging post and many of the walkers took the trouble to stagger round the Mill, including 3 boys from Moscow.

The sails arrived and were fixed to the mill on 5th July 2006. A thing of beauty. Vincent Pargeter the Millwright has made a wonderful job of their construction. Please see below, and the image archive, for recent photographs. We will be arranging a very special open day to celebrate!

John Double
June 06

Christmas has come and gone since the last update and spring is nearly with us. The tail pole and steps are now complete. Vincent Pargeter has made a splendid job as always. We ordered the Timber for the sails on Vincents instructions and we are very pleased to report that the sails are now under construction and if all goes well, should be completed at the end of May/early June. We are unable to give a fixed date for the fitting of the sails, as this is very dependant on the right weather conditions, but we anticipate this to be done by the end of June/early July. This is of course an exciting and major milestone in the restoration of the mill and preparations are under way to commemorate this wonderful event. When in place and finished the sails will be able to turn, provided we have a wind of Force 5 to 6 on the Beaufort scale and the Mill turned into wind. It will have been over a Hundred years since the Mill has been seen with sails revolving and will be a marvellous tribute to everyone who has contributed to the project thus far and to Vincents craftsmanship.

01 Mar 06

The work on the tailpole and steps has taken rather longer than we had hoped and even as I write the work is not quite finished. We shall of course let everyone know when the tailpole and steps are back in place. Work on the roundhouse has been delayed by this and is unlikely to start in the winter weather but we still have plenty of homework to do on this.

During the Village Arts and Craft weekend in October we were very grateful for the loan of a picture of the Windmill drawn and painted by John Scott, a well known local artist living at Sewards End. John is actually planning a total of three pictures of the Windmill, the final one to include the sails. We hope to have them all on show in due course.

Kevin Curtis our "Grounds man and temporary supplier of electricity" has bravely continued to keep our grass under control this Autumn despite the weather and a period of ill health. We are grateful to Kevin for his valuable and practical support.

Peter Connatty is working on the flood lighting of the Windmill at Christmas and is seeking to improve the illumination over last year.

Andrew Eyles is organising the annual autumnal tidy up of the hedges and trees with the assistance of the usual ground works team, which should improve the visibility of the Mill - particularly from the Radwinter Road.

Next year will we hope be a momentous time for the Windmill as we confidently hope to see the sails in place. Due to all the delays and problems we have experienced David has obtained an extension of time with the Heritage Lottery Fund to complete the work next year but dare I say it may not be all plain sailing!!

We still have to raise funds to make up the balance of the lottery funding, about £6,000. We are very grateful to all the people who have been kind enough to send donations. As we are now approaching the critical time we may be sending out gentle reminders to our other supporters.

The Ashdon Annual Pantomime was again a marvellous effort by all involved and very well received. Every year it never disappoints. The Pantomime Committee have been very generous in donating to four village charities, one of which is the Mill. We are extremely grateful for the marvellous donation of £400-00 and we look forward to its inclusion into the sails next year.

The Trustees and I wish everyone a very happy Christmas and all good wishes for the New Year.

John Double
December 2005

Our annual meeting for the Friends of Ashdon Mill was held on 30th April at the Village Hall and proved to be a very pleasant evening - with a difference . After the Chairman's report, Vincent Pargeter's progress report and the delicious supper provided by Brenda, Helen and Eileen, we were entertained by Nick Rumble who among other things is a trained opera singer! He sang several arias from La Fleidermus and also various well known classical songs. He also provided 'hymn' sheets so we had a general sing song as well. As a reward, everyone sampled the specially created "Windmill" chocolates. The creator was the Essex Chocolate Lady, Julia Haylock-Sherry of Steeple Bumpstead, who is distantly related by marriage to William Haylock who built the Mill! The chocolates were delicious and the connection a remarkable coincidence.

Our range of merchandise is growing, we now have our branded sweatshirts in children's sizes too but the chocolates are only in one size.

Following the Friends Meeting we had the National Mills Open Weekend on 7/8 May when people from far and wide - Brighton, Lincoln, and London visited the Mill, about seventy over the two days. The weather was not very kind, with regular heavy showers, but Peter and Sarah Connatty kindly brought their caravan up to the car park and brewed tea about every half an hour, so everyone was pretty relaxed.

In the week before the open weekend, Peter Jamieson and David were checking the brickwork of the roundhouse and found, behind an ancient curtain of cobwebs, some coloured drawings which have a little mystery about them! There are, for example, a picture of a French lady Mme Fauget with a traditional French hairstyle and a French man sitting at a desk with a "daffodil" telephone with various papers spread out. There is also the visible the remains of a "Tricolour", together with a Union Jack which is flying from an orange or gold flagpole. The style seems to be between WW1 and WW2 but who are Mme Fouget and Monsieur?

In addition to all these amusing events, work on phase III of the restoration quietly continues. We now have a design for the new sails, which have been submitted to the Uttlesford Planning Department and Vincent Pargeter is now working on the steps to the Mill - which will shortly disappear to his workshop for repair and renewal as appropriate. Until the steps reappear, and are refitted, there will be no open days but we may be able to show our interesting drawings by appointment.

The treasure hunt for some of the missing Mill machinery has been delayed, as our information leads us to believe the parts may be nearer to Little Walden - if they still exist, however more on this later.

When we know about the timing of the repairs to the steps we will publish a list of open days. In the meantime if you would like some windmill chocolates contact David and for other things contact Andrew.

John Double

15 Jul 2004, A landmark event in the history of Ashdon Windmill!

We are delighted to announce that The Heritage Lottery Fund consider the Village Community project to restore the tailpole, steps and sails of our windmill to be worthy of their support and have awarded us a grant of £46,900.

We can now proudly proclaim that we are supported by The Heritage Lottery Fund but notwithstanding their generous grant, which amounts to 81% of the estimated cost, we still need the continued loyal support of the "Friends of Ashdon Mill" to make up the 19% needed to complete the project. We do not believe this to be a problem in view of the spontaneous response we have received from the "Friends of Ashdon Mill", including many fromer residents of Ashdon and visitors.

We are grateful to The Heritage Lottery Fund and everyone for their combined support.

The Heritage Lottery Fund grant will enable the Mill to resume its original look and, in the not to distant future resume its original function.

Phase 2 restoration work is now complete, the images you see below are from Spring 2004. The mill now stands unsupported by external aids on its central shaft, the first time for nearly 100 years.

The Friends of Ashdon Mill, together with many other notable contributors, have been extremely generous in their financial commitment to the mill allowing us to finalise Phase 2.

Restoration work began in earnest in March 2002 "trussing her up", as the old millwrights would say! Horizontal timber needles were passed through the body, and fastened to the main timbers inside. Four raking props, 26 feet long and 8 inches square were footed on wooden pads dug into the ground and were bolted to the needles. This formed a strong, triangulated structure, further reinforced by cross bracing between the raking props. The shoring, in addition to existing vertical props under the body, will hold the mill firm while repairs are in progress.

The images in the image archive show the extent of the restoration with all props removed and the mill now upright.

Restoration updates to this page will occur on a quarterly basis, and hopefully more often, however the Image Archive will be updated on a more regular basis.

Any thoughts you might have on website format or content you would like to see, please don't hesitate to email the Friends of Ashdon Mill. Anyone fit and able, who would like to volunteer for site maintenance working parties, please contact us at the same address.

We are very grateful for the continued support for this important community project, and the efforts of Jenny Banbury and volunteers of planting wild flowers and daffodils along the Jubilee Walk, linking the Mill to the village museum, proved a great succes in the spring months.

As a footnote we would be very grateful for any assistance in researching the mill history, photos and anecdotes are always welcome. We feel confident that there must be some mill history still hanging on someones wall, or hidden on a postcard, please feel free to contact the website Email or any one of the trustees.