Sacrewell Watermill

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View of Sacrewell Watermill over the millpond. The millpond dam is built up against the back of the mill building, causing damp problems.

CAR has completed a Conservation Plan for Sacrewell Watermill near Peterborough, which is part of the Sacrewell Farm and Country Centre (http://www.sacrewell.org.uk). This was part of a Stage II bid for Heritage Lottery Fund support – the bid was successful and £1.4m was awarded in October 2013 for an ambitious refurbishment project. The architects for the project are Purcell.

The refurbishment of the mill will restore the buildings and milling machinery to create a centre of excellence for milling, providing education, interpretation and training in traditional skills.

Sacrewell has probably had a watermill since the Domesday Book in the 11th century. The present buildings, which are listed at Grade II, are very hard to date They show evidence of numerous adaptations and extensions up to the mid-19th century, when the mill was substantially modernised – just before the collapse of small-scale milling in Britain. By the end of the 19th century, flour milling was dominated by industrial mills at the ports used by ships importing grain from Canada and the USA. Many rural mills lost their machinery, but this did not happen at Sacrewell where the milling of animal feed continued right up to the 1960s. The survival of the milling machinery is now one of Sacrewell Watermill’s greatest heritage assets.

This is CAR’s second conservation plan for a watermill. The first was for Grade I listed Flatford Mill on the Essex-Suffolk border, made famous by John Constable’s paintings of the early 19th century. Like Sacrewell, Flatford was modernised in the mid-19th century but milling ceased in the late 19th century. It became a holiday house and the machinery was removed in the 1920s. It is now used as a Field Studies Centre – like Sacrewell an educational use that exploits the building’s heritage but also requires modernisation, creating potential conflicts that conservation plans help to reconcile.

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