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An Ill-Wind Means Mill Won't Open This Year

Visitors have lost their chance for the annual visit to look at Chesterton Windmill, a Warwickshire landmark dating back nearly 400 years.

The mill is seen from the M40 by Barn Hill services and the Fosse Way, but people can normally only go and have a look inside one weekend a year.

But even that will not be possible this year as there is a problem with one of the sails and the county council has cancelled the open day, which coincided with the Heritage Open Days running across the country.

The mill was built about 1633 and remained in use until 1910 when the machinery stopped working, as the winch that turned the sails failed to operate and milling became impossible.

It is a problem with the sails that has blocked the planning opening for 16 and 17 September.

An expert reported one of the main timber sail supports was unsound. A structural engineer will be taking a look later this week - but organisers have already decided to cancel the annual Open Weekend, for safety's sake.

The county council restored the mill from 1965-71 working with the Ministry of Public Building and Works and the structure is now part of the Warwickshire Museum, and the council needs to consult English Heritage if it wants to make any alterations.

The mill is structurally and mechanically unique. It is set on six pillars linked by semi-circular arches. There used to a central timber structure in the open space.

The mill machinery is set on two floors, with the two pairs of millstones downstairs and the driving mechanism above. The sails have a 60-feet span and carry 450 square feet of canvas.

Chris Jeens, head of heritage and cultural services for Warwickshire County Council's Libraries & Heritage department said:

"There would be no chance of turning the sails.

I know many people look forward to the open weekend every year and will be disappointed - but we think it safer to keep the public away from Chesterton Windmill until the fault has been fully investigated and any necessary repairs have been made."

The windmill, which dates back to 1632, stands on land belonging to a local farmer. The Open Weekend normally takes place in the short 'window' between harvest and ploughing.

Warwickshire County Council has spent more than 14,000 on Chesterton Windmill in the past two years, including 2,000 on the installation of a lightning conductor.

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Warwickshire County Council - Our County 1998-2001

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CWN / Politics / Warwickshire County Council / 05 Sep 00

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