A couple who bought an old mill in Norfolk as a family holiday home have restored it using parts of its original fantail found buried underground – and now guests can stay there too.
In 2004 Kate Chadwick and her husband were reading the Eastern Daily Press when they came across an advertisement for a mill for sale in North Norfolk.
They used to vacation nearby and therefore knew the area well, she said. “We went to see it and fell in love with it – and with the park and the countryside.”
The mill near Binham – known as the Hindringham Lower Green Tower Mill and now the Old Mill – was originally part of a farm and was built in 1844 to replace a post mill on the same website.
At its peak it was five storeys high and built of red brick, with a Norfolk boat-shaped cap on top and double-pronged sails that powered three pairs of millstones – the largest of which spanned five feet across. diameter.
According to norfolkmills.co.uk, other machinery on the site included a flour mill and sieve, and by 1862 a bakery had also been installed. It operated from site alongside a 10 hp steam engine, which helped power it after the mill was badly damaged by a gale – or a ‘hurricane’ as some local documents described it.
Over the years the mill was operated by several tenant millers and bakers before being bought by the Gunthorpe Estate in 1878. It ceased working altogether in 1908 and in 1920 it was resold – this time in an auction by Salter, Simpson & Sons, which took place at the Royal Hotel in Norwich.
But by the mid-1930s the mill, like so many others across Norfolk, had become nearly derelict. That was until a London architect named Mr Forrest bought it and turned it into a holiday home – that’s how it was when Kate came to buy it.
“It had been used as a holiday home for many years after being lovingly restored in the late 1960s,” says Kate. “Mr. Forrest had renovated it himself and used it as a family vacation spot. Before that, it was used as a barn – with no roof or floor. »
By the time Kate saw it, there were floors, as well as a huge spiral staircase that led to the top. “64 steps!” she says. “It was quite a job.”
Kate used the mill and cottage as a vacation home before deciding in 2015 to renovate it. “When we bought it it was nice, but it only had storage heaters so it needed a bit of an overhaul. We did a complete overhaul: new roof, windows, central heating, rewiring – the works!”
They brought in local experts, Fakenham-based architect James Henman and builders Michael and Daryl of Buntings & Sons. “They were just awesome,” Kate says. “Michael and Daryl had previously refurbished Cley Windmill and Weybourne Mill”.
As part of the works, they decided to add a modern extension, to create more usable side space, and to install a new kitchen on the first floor, to take advantage of the “wonderful” views.
They chose period paintings for the roof and windows, in keeping with its Grade II listing, but perhaps the biggest surprise was what they found buried in the grounds.
“When Buntings dug the foundation for the new expansion, Daryl miraculously found the fantail, which had been buried underground for over 100 years,” Kate explains. “They were able to salvage some parts and make a new one, which was just amazing.”
In addition to the fantail, they also discovered millstones, which are now placed next to the old front door.
Kate says the sustainability of the building was also important and as part of the work they installed geothermal heating. “It was important for us to be as energy efficient and self-sufficient as possible,” she says.
“Our builders and our architect wanted to do it too. We thought if we had to go through this process we had to do it too, and the geothermal heating is great because we have underfloor heating, so it’s comfortable, all year round.
The mill looks very different today than it did twenty years ago, with the tower joined to a modern extension, to maximize space. But it still offers a real sense of its history and place, with circular rooms, lots of exposed brick and large windows, which make you feel part of the countryside.
Recently, Kate decided to rent it out to others as a vacation home.
There are two bedrooms and a bathroom downstairs, plus a good sized living room which doubles as a cinema room. It is circular in shape, with exposed brick walls and shutters for all windows, as well as a large screen and projector.
On the first floor there is a modern, open plan kitchen and dining area, which has stunning countryside views and has large glass doors which can be opened to bring the outside in.
A few steps lead down to the original mill, comprising another circular living room with exposed brick and flint walls, tastefully furnished in mid-century style. It has two couches, accent chairs, a piano, and a beautiful spiral staircase that makes a great focal point.
The second floor houses a unique circular bedroom with a king-size bed, and in the bathroom above there is a freestanding freestanding bathtub.
For security reasons, the fourth floor is now the highest one can reach in the mill and has been converted into a single bedroom with whitewashed walls and twin beds.
As well as the mill itself, guests can also enjoy a stay in the luxurious single-storey cottage, available to rent only with the mill, and featuring an open-plan living room, well-equipped kitchen, two bedrooms and a bathroom. bathroom. .
Visit sowerbysholidaycottages.co.uk or follow @oldmill_norfolk on Instagram.
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