A Medieval mill

I’m back again…. Now I know the Scholars and the other Fellows will be sharing their experiences and their opinions of the places we have visited with you very soon but to keep you all informed of our travels here’s a quick entry detailing part two of when the Fellows were let loose in the Peak District.

The second visit of the week was to Nether Alderly Mill, Cheshire, a 12th Century Flour Mill now in the possession of the National Trust who, along with Architect and Scholar Lucy Stewart, Lambert Walker Conservation and Restoration and The Norfolk Millwright Alliance, are bringing it back to life as an operating Flour Mill and visitor centre.

To enable this, major structural timber work and millwrighting is taking place and it is with the millwrights that the ‘controversial dilemma’, which many in the heritage sector face daily, lies.

Does one repair, in this case a machine, to its original working state keeping the past alive or maintain it in its current condition leaving it as a museum piece and an item of yester year?

This dilemma then poses further questions such as ‘’If you do agree to repair then what point in time are you trying to achieve as after all it is a machine, and if you do change the gears and cogs, is it still the same historic Mill or a 21st Century contraption??’’ But on the other hand if repairs aren’t made then it no longer serves its original purpose as a working mill!

The argument of conservation vs restoration has been resolved to an extent at Nether Alderly, as the aim is to now produce its own brand of flour using just one of the grinding stones whilst the other is to be maintained in its current state. This decision was not by any means an easy one to reach, but seems to be one that will protect and conserve the mill for future generations. If you’re interested in mills and mill conservation, visit our SPAB Mills Section site.

Back on the road… all the best, Emily.

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Getting our hands dirty

There’s no better way to learn than through practical experience, and one of the many perks of the SPAB Scholarship is that we get to try our hand at everything! Here’s just a few things that the ever-enthusiastic Henry has been turning his hand to over the last few weeks.

Henry tackles the drains with Nick Warns at Swaffham Church, Norfolk

It’s hardly glamorous but the regular maintenance of gutters and drains is often the first step in keeping an old building in good shape, especially as the British Summer weather is being true to form! As William Morris advised ‘stave off decay by daily care’. You can find advice and tips on basic maintenance by visiting our sister site Maintain Your Building.

SPAB Fellow Sam shows us the ropes at her workshop with Simon Armstrong at Wells Cathedral Masons

An important part of the Scholarship and Fellowship scheme is that Conservation professionals and craftsmen travel and work with each other, giving them an insight into the others’ practice and respect to last a lifetime of working together to help old buildings. This was a great chance for us to see Sam, and award-winning stonemason, at work on her home territory, the glorious Cathedral of Wells.

Henry has a go at Thatching with Tom Dunbar, of Dunbar & Bunce Master Thatchers.

A great chance to learn from Tom, who completed the SPAB Fellowship in 1999 and is the only thatcher so far to be a SPAB Fellow!

Stafford Holmes (co-author of ‘Building with Lime) imparts his knowledge of Lime at CAT

Henry just can’t stop working! Some time well spent at the Centre for Alternative Technology, an education and visitor centre which demonstrates practical solutions for sustainability, set in the heart of Wales.