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Millwriting

Owlsworth have been working with wind and watermills for many years and in this time we have successfully undertaken repair projects both large and small to well over 100 mills.  Our involvement can range from carrying out regular maintenance to ensure these challenging structures continue in good working order through to the full repair and replacements of sails, caps, and water wheels

Our work has taken us the full length of the country and beyond.

"It is immensely satisfying to see a once redundant mill returned to life, and even produce flour again."

Bradwell Windmill

Morgan Lewis 

Brixton Windmill

Bradwell Windmill

The council’s objective for Bradwell windmill was for it to be restored to a safe working order.

 

Inappropriate materials used on the mill more recently were removed and sympathetic breathable materials including traditional lime mortars were used in its restoration.

 

The sails were removed and transported back to our purpose designed yard for thorough overhaul and redecoration. A complete set of shutters was manufactured and fitted to the spring shuttered sail frames. New windows were produced by our joinery shop incorporating a superior weathering detail than previously fitted. The existing stone furniture was overhauled and a new flour dresser designed, made and fitted.

 

Whilst work was being undertaken out on the sails and mill furniture in our workshops, the work to the mill tower was carried out concurrently. This comprised removal of internal sand and cement renders and replastering with a traditional hot mixed fat lime mortar, removal of the concrete ground floor and re-laying of a limecrete floor. Significant structural repairs to the upper floors were carried out after the extent of decay was determined. A new pair of stones were also installed along with an electric motor to give the option of milling when there is no wind.

 

The existing millstones were re-dressed in the appropriate direction and set correctly for milling. The existing cap cladding was removed, cap ribs repaired and new cladding fitted with better weathering details. The cap winding mechanism was overhauled, serviced and lubricated with the cap being wound round 360° in both directions to ensure the correct operation.

 

After the scaffold was struck the refurbished sails were delivered back to site and re-hung on the mill.

The spring shutter system was tested along with a test milling session ensuring the refurbishment was complete.

 

As part of our handover procedure, training was given to the volunteers. Owlsworth Conservation also provide the mill with regular maintenance procedures and guidance on milling operations.

Morgan Lewis Windmill Sugar Mill World Hertiage Site
Brixton Windmill

The Morgan Lewis Sugar Mill is the only intact sugar mill in Barbados and is known to be one of the seven wonders of Barbados. It is worth noting there are only two intact and restored sugar mills in the Caribbean. The tropical storms have all but put paid to what was once a common site throughout the region. As such the site is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Owlsworth Conservation have been associated with the Morgan Lewis Mill for many years regularly working at the site to ensure the Mill continues to function as it was originally designed.

 

Project mobilisation requires careful coordination of the team including planning for the supply of appropriate materials, and tools. All of which are shipped out to site some 3 months in advance to ensure they are ready for when our team of millwrights arrive.

Many of the timber repairs to the mill are carried out using local and tropical woods. Greenheart is extensively used in situations where strength, durability and hard wearing properties are essential. Greenheart is often used in marine environments as an 'untreated alternative' to other hardwoods, as it is resistant to decay, insect attack and has a high density value.

Greenheart timber as with other hardwood and marine timbers is an extremely difficult timber to work with, due to the nature of the Greenheart's interlocking grain structure. However where required using our dedicated sawmills, we machined, cut and drilled Greenheart timber to suit the specifications and requirements of the project before shipment to Barbados.

Contact us for a full project list and references

 

Owlsworth Conservation completed a large scale restoration project involving our entire team of millwrights over eight months. The windmill was completely overhauled and the project included the provender mill which is now electrically powered so it can be used in milling demonstrations, and the sails restored once again to be able to turn in the wind.


A large portion of the works centred on the Sails. Brixton Windmill has four sails, two common sails and two patent sails. The patent sails consist of wooden shutters that are opened and closed, like Venetian blinds, by a system of rods and chains. These were completely restored to turn in the wind. In addition purpose built clamps were added to strengthen the stocks (the wooden bars that support the sails) due to the additional stresses imparted once the sails began to turn once again.

The cap was removed and transported back to our yard undergoing extensive repairs and the introduction of measures to ensure it is no longer a site for roosting birds. The winding mechanism for the mill which is within the cap, was realigned, repaired and generally overhauled.

Other works included:-

  • Brickwork using handmade bricks & traditional hot mix fat lime mortar.

  • Replacement windows & security grilles.

  • A new electrical supply, lighting and smoke detection on each level.

  • Telephone line and intruder alarm.

  • Floors, joists, beams and ceiling timbers were repaired, including the stairs and ladders, hatches and balustrades.

Owlsworth continue to be involved at Brixton, carrying out a regular scheduled maintenance.

Chiselden Windmill
Mapledurham Watermill Black Sabbath
Bromley By Bow Tide Mill
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