Bourn Windmill surrounded by scaffolding propping it  up. Steps are shown leading to a doorway. The post which turns the mill can be seen in the foreground. There's a small window towards the top of the mill and two sail posts can be seen on the other side of the building.
View of Bourn Mill showing the tail pole. © Patricia Payne/Historic England
View of Bourn Mill showing the tail pole. © Patricia Payne/Historic England

New Grant to Save Bourn Mill Cambridgeshire

Historic England has awarded a grant of £54,000 towards the repair of the Grade I listed and scheduled monument Bourn Mill in Cambridgeshire.

At risk

Added to the Heritage at Risk Register in 2021, the mill is at risk of collapse due to rotting in its central supporting beams. The repair and conservation work will include structural repairs to the trestle, including weathering improvements, and repair to the high-level gable window.

Working in partnership, The National Lottery Heritage Fund, Historic England and SPAB Mills have given grant funding, advice and support to save this historic mill. (£148,456 from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, £54,000 from Historic England and £500 from SPAB Mills). Local people from nearby communities have generously responded to a fundraising appeal, so far donating £20,000.

Historic England previously contributed grant funding of £22,902 for investigation work into the mill’s condition and for emergency propping to save it from immediate collapse.

One of the oldest windmills in England

Bourn Mill is one of the oldest windmills in England. According to recent Historic England research, the main post of Bourn Mill is from a tree felled in the first half of the 16th century, making this the earliest main post of a mill yet dated.

Bourn is an open trestle post mill; the entire weight of the body is supported on a central post, which is then supported by a trestle. The sails of the mill have to face squarely into the wind and to achieve this, the entire mill is rotated around the central post. There are only around 50 trestle post windmills left surviving in the UK, five of which are in Cambridgeshire.

John Cook, the first recorded owner, sold the mill in 1636 to Thomas Cook of Longstowe. From 1701 to 1875 the mill was owned by baker John Bishop and his family. Their initials are carved into the interior side timber of the mill. The last miller at Bourn was George Papworth, whose father was landlord of the village pub.

The mill became redundant in 1926 and was sold for £45, before passing into the care of the local charity Cambridge Past, Present & Future in 1932.

Inspiration for Lord Norman Foster

Bourn Mill provided inspiration for the work of one of our most eminent architects, Lord Norman Foster, who prepared drawings of the mill whilst studying architecture at Manchester University.

Bourn Mill is not only a significant national heritage building, but it is one which holds particular personal significance to me as an architect. As a young student at Manchester University, I was drawn to Bourn Mill to create a set of measured drawings of the building – a requirement of my architectural studies. My choice was not only because of my fascination with the ingenuity of a trestle post mill construction - with the entire weight of the structure supported on a central post and trestle – but also the sheer beauty of the overall design, particularly in section. The original drawings that I made of Bourn Mill are at my Norman Foster Foundation and remain one of the most viewed items from the archive, by students and researchers from around the world.

Lord Norman Foster

I’m delighted to see work progressing to save and restore Bourn Mill. Rescuing this very special building is a labour of love for volunteers, staff, funders and the local community. I’m looking forward to seeing visitors enjoy the mill in all its working glory once again.

Sarah Morrison, Heritage at Risk Architect/Surveyor Historic England

When we first discovered a small area of rot, we could not have imagined that the whole structure of the mill was at risk of collapsing, and that a significant and expensive project would be needed to save the windmill. It is such a special building that we are determined to preserve it for future generations. It is not just a building that looks nice, it’s an ancient machine with lots of moving parts. Due to its relatively small size, people can have a go at turning the mill themselves or being inside whilst it is turning. As well as the fantastic support from Historic England and The National Lottery Heritage Fund, we are appealing for donations, so that once again people can take part in this amazing and unforgettable experience and protect a piece of our national heritage.

James Littlewood, Chief Executive Cambridge Past, Present & Future