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Great Gransden Windmill on track to come off the Heritage at Risk Register

A major repair programme is well underway at Great Gransden windmill in Cambridgeshire. The work will help to restore the windmill - one of the oldest in the country - to its former glory. As most of the machinery survives, it could one day be returned to a functioning state.

Scaffolding covering mill building
Scaffolding in place and repairs underway

Historic England have joined the WREN Heritage Fund and Cambridgeshire County Council (who own the mill) to fund the work, which is being carried out by a specialist millwright. When the current repairs are complete, the mill will be leased to an enthusiastic local trust that will look after the mill and provide regular public access. We look forward to that and to the mill eventually coming off our Heritage at Risk register.

Gransden Mill is of a simple type called a 'post mill', where the whole building, standing on a thick post, is turned to face the wind. Mills like this were once a common sight across the English landscape but there are now only a handful of precious survivors.

A machine used to sift the flour
Inside the mill, the intact 18th century ‘bolter’, a machine used to sift the flour

A mill has stood on the site since the 13th century and parts of the existing structure date to the early 17th century. The mill stopped working only 100 years ago, when it was already in a poor state of repair. Repairs were carried out in the 1970s and 1980s, but its condition has deteriorated seriously since then. Historic England put Gransden Mill on the national Heritage at Risk register which lists the most important buildings and monuments that are under threat so that we can give priority to saving treasures like this.

Two men standing in front of Great Gransden Mill in about 1874
Great Gransden Mill in about 1874

Recent listing - Drinkstone Mill, Suffolk

Listed Grade ll* Oct 2016

At first sight, it's difficult to fathom why Drinkstone Smock Mill is so important – a windmill shorn of its sails and fantail, and now clad in black plastic sheeting. But this rather forlorn exterior conceals a sequence of milling technologies which is probably unique in England.

White wooden mill partially clad in black plastic sheeting.
At first sight, it is difficult to fathom why Drinkstone Smock Mill is so important. © Historic England

Drinkstone Mill was successively a horse-powered mill, then a windmill, and then, in its final phase of operation, an engine-powered mill. There's surviving structural fabric of each of these phases, together with evidence of how the mill functioned in its wind-powered and engine-driven phases of operation. This layered physical evidence of how mill buildings and milling technologies changed over time is unequalled elsewhere in England as far as we know.

The Smock Mill forms part of a milling site of outstanding historic interest. The Grade I listed post windmill is located at one end of the site. There's the smock mill, now listed at Grade II*. Then the mill cottage listed at Grade II lies at the other end. All three listed structures are now set within a conservation area which recognises the outstanding sequence of milling history on the site.

Other fascinating places listed in 2016

From Britain's oldest water chute ride to Crimean War gunboat sheds and a recently exposed shipwreck, read our national guide to 21 unusual or surprising places that have been listed this year.

Get the guide

Vital repairs to save West Acre Priory ruins for future generations

Historic England has provided a grant for repairs to the gatehouse and ruins of West Acre Priory in Norfolk. Once complete, the repairs will stabilise the condition of the ruins so that we can remove the priory from our Heritage at Risk register.

The Priory was one of the largest in Norfolk and one of five religious houses sited along the Nar Valley. Now part of West Acre Estates, it once belonged to the order of St Augustine.

Ruined gate house next to the church at West Acre Priory.
Repairs to the gatehouse are part of works to stabilise the ruins of West Acre Priory © Historic England

What the priory ruins can tell us

The Augustinians were not monks in the strict sense, but rather communities of canons - or priests - living under the rule of St Augustine. In England they were known as `black canons' because of their dark robes and to distinguish them from the Cistercians who wore light clothing. The Augustinians contributed to many facets of medieval life and all of their monasteries with significant surviving archaeological remains are protected.

The well-preserved monastic precinct at West Acre Priory illustrates the general layout of the monastery as a whole. Amongst these ruins lies more archaeological information about the life and economy of this Augustinian community.

The priory ruins are of high significance and have been on Historic England’s Heritage at Risk register for a number of years. We’ve been working with the Estate and with the County Council to enable these repairs.

Find out why West Acre Priory is a protected monument

Detail shot of corner stone work in the church at West Acre Priory.
The ruins at West Acre Priory retain more archaeological information about the life and economy of the Augustinian community that once flourished there © Historic England

New grant will fund further repairs to Stow Maries First World War Aerodrome

Historic England has just approved a grant for a further stage of repairs to the most complete surviving example of a First World War Aerodrome in Europe. The site would be of international significance at any time, but 2017 marks 100 years since the Aerodrome became operational.

Many of the buildings are little changed since then. Slight and impermanent in their construction, some of the buildings have been taken down or fallen down and all are now on the Heritage at Risk Register. A new Trust with funding from the National Heritage Memorial Fund, Historic England and others aims to tell the story of Stow Maries and the part that its airmen and women played in the First World War. A major collection of artefacts and flying historic aircraft is already established here and continues to grow.

Stow Maries airfield in Essex, is probably the best preserved First World War airfield in Europe and its 24 original buildings are listed at Grade II*.
Stow Maries airfield in Essex, is probably the best preserved First World War airfield in Europe and its 24 original buildings are listed at Grade II* © Private Collection

Training opportunities coming up in the East of England

The Historic Environment Local Management (HELM) Training courses are free to attend for Local Authority, regional and national organisation's staff.

Listed below are the latest training opportunities in the East of England:

  • Conservation Area Management
    Learn about the important role of a conservation area survey, and how it can be used to underpin management priorities at a local level.
    Thursday 9 February 2017
  • Introduction to Archaeology for Planners
    An introduction to archaeology and an understanding of its role in the planning process. This course is aimed at planners and will enable you to collaborate more effectively with heritage professionals.
    Thursday 30 March 2017

For more information on any of the above course contact the training delivery team on

Find out more about HELM opportunities across the country.

Follow us on Twitter @HE_EoE to keep up to date with all the latest training opportunities, news and pictures from the region.

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