A report by Nicholas Weedon
On Wednesday 11 May, a group of Friends under the instruction of an experienced millwright ventured into the very top of the mill to learn how to operate the mechanisms for turning the cap into the wind and setting the sails for turning. This is for both year-round maintenance and for letting the sails rotate if the wind is right on future open days in the summer months. Access into the cap is by ladder from the top floor onto a platform inside where the back of the cap overhangs the side of the building. For those who don’t like heights, you can see the ground five stories below through some thin gaps around the floor. Turning the cap involves some effort, requiring two of us to turn a hand crank – the cap and sails must weigh well over a ton – but it revolves quite smoothly. The winding of the crank turns gears connected to a steel ring around the top of building, causing the cap to turn slowly but surely. It is difficult to see outside from the winding position, but the weather vane on top of the building extends down through the roof, with a pointer inside showing which direction the sails need to face.
Having had the benefit of supervised hands-on experience in the cap, some further safety procedures will be set up, so we can operate it ourselves and offer training for any other Friends interested in looking after the mill and bringing it to life for visitors on open days.