Historic Balsall Common windmill undergoes maintenance

  • Jeanette McGarry has been renovating the windmill

Several of us have had a go at redecorating in recent months, but when you live on the site of a 70ft windmill - paint jobs become just that little bit harder.

At Berkswell Windmill in Balsall Common, it means starting at 07.30 in the morning right through until 18:00 - on a job that could last as long as three weeks. 

Really it's a labour of love. We understand that it's probably the only one in the whole of the UK that still has all of the original machinery...For me, it's a bit like the Egyptian pyramids because this was built by local country people without any machinery, without any tools - it's just absolutely incredible.

Jeanette McGarry

There's been a windmill on this site since as far back as the 10th century. Back then it was built from wood and was eventually replaced with bricks in 1826. 

Inside everywhere are the reminders of the craftsmanship and ingenuity of years gone by.

...loads and loads of different cogs and wheels. They're absolutely incredible because they would have been made by the miller by hand...And he wouldn't have had any measurements, he would have cut them all completely by hand and just using his eye. I just think it's absolutely remarkable, the achievements that people made in those days.

Jeanette
Jeanette renovating the windmill Credit: ITV News Central

This type of weather would have usually seen the windmill flooded with visitors. But even a site as ancient as this hasn't been immune to the effects of covid-19.

It's not opened since March, and the restrictions of lockdown mean that even simple maintenance is now harder than ever. 

It has been difficult because we've only be able to have one or two people in at a time and a lot of our volunteers are self-isolating and actually you need people with specialist skills, they need to know something about windmills and you have to buy specialist paint and so it's been very, very difficult to buy the materials as well as to get specialist people to come in and help.

Jeanette

When it does eventually reopen, the site will once again mill the flour for the kitchens of nearby bakeries.

But until then, the long and lonely task of refurbishment goes on.


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