Residents in Burgh le Marsh and passing motorists will have noticed quite a change to the iconic Dobson’s Mill after the county’s millwright removed part of the sails this week ahead of expected repairs later this year.
The mill’s sails are at the end of their operational life and in urgent need of replacement if the mill is to be brought back into full working order.
The Burgh Heritage Committee hopes that the cash needed to restore the landmark’s sails will be found in this year’s county council budget when it is drawn up in March/April.
But until the cash is forthcoming and the sails are replaced, possibly this autumn, key parts of the structure have been taken down for repair and to safeguard the mill building itself against damage.
Malcolm Ringsell, the Burgh Heritage Committee treasurer, said: “This [week’s work] has been a major safety holding operation in preparation for the sails being repaired in the new financial year.
“The millwright has taken down the ‘loose’ bits for safety because they were beginning to wear out. “He is now looking at what he has taken down and will prepare a full estimate for repairing the sails.
“There is no money in the current council budget for the repairs this financial year, but the new budget starts in April and we hope there’ll be some money for us in that one.
“If all goes to plan then the millwright thinks it is going to be autumn before everything is back up and running because [the repair] is quite a major job - the sails have to be rebuilt and rightly balanced.”
Malcolm added that this week’s removal of the fins (the slats on the sails) and the fan tail which turns the mill into the wind is partly related to the need to keep the sail finely balanced.
Because the parts are worn out they have become looser than when new, and there is a risk that this could unbalance the main sail, which could then cause structural damage to the building.
He added that now the fins on the sails had been removed the millwright had turned the frame into the direction of the prevailing wind to minimise the chance of wind damage while the mill is out of action.
Malcolm added that another reason the fins were taken down was as a safety precaution. He explained that each one is a piece of canvass stretched over a metal frame and when they become too old they can start to rip and fall off. He added that this had happened at other windmills elsewhere in the country and passers-by had been hurt by falling debris.
Once the repairs are made, however, the fins will be safe to go back up on the new sails and the mill will be back to its former glory.