New visitor centre to be built at Nutley Windmill

L1138016
L1138016

AS WELL AS majestic views and a fascinating history, a better class of creature comfort will now be on offer to visitors to one of Wealden’s most famous windmills.

Plans to build a new visitor centre and toilets at the Nutley site have been laid before Wealden planners and, if they go ahead, the centre would house a permanent display of historic items, photographs and an audio-visual display for disabled visitors.

The open trestle post mill – the original design for British mills – is the only workable one of five of its kind remaining in the country. The mill dates from the 16th century and is the oldest in Sussex. It was probably moved to Nutley from Crowborough in about 1835. In the 1880s it was modernised with replacement sweeps and an iron windshaft put in place of the wooden shaft.

The mill worked until 1908 then rested until 1968 when the Uckfield and District Preservation Society was formed to raise the necessary funds.

Former owner Lady Castle Stewart agreed it could be restored to working order in 1972 and, together with the surrounding land, was given to the society in 1995.

A Victorian barn was then refurbished and an electricity supply provided. Lady Castle Stewart stipulated that the weatherboarding had to be kept intact all the time the framework was undergoing major repair. In 1971 the sweeps were fitted and with two temporary sailcloths the mill was turned to face the wind and, for the first time in 64 years, the sweeps turned once more. One year later corn was taken into the mill, the stones were set in motion and ground meal once more poured down the spouts and into the bins below.

A society spokesman points out the barn has to be used as both a workshop and visitor centre and has never been satisfactory. On visiting days tools, work and materials have to be locked away. There are currently no seats, facilities for disabled people and the only toilet is a chemical one in a tent. Members say this means it’s difficult to attract extra volunteers or visitors and charge an entrance fee. At present the mill runs at a loss and the financial position must be improved if the society is to continue maintaining it and opening it to the public.