WATCH: Wheels turning on £1.5m restoration plan at historic Bridgnorth mill
The largest working mill waterwheel in the UK is set for a major restoration in a project expected to cost more than £1.5 million.
Known to be at least 500 years old, Daniels Mill near Bridgnorth is one of the few remaining that produces wholemeal flour by grinding corn using traditional stone methods and is in the process of receiving its biggest facelift to date.
With phase one of three in the ambitious project complete, a tearoom now sits next to the idyllic structure and marks the beginning of a new era for the historic landmark.
WATCH: Take a tour of the historic mill
Maintained by the Daniels Mill Charitable Trust since 2008, the former family-owned mill is run by five volunteers and four members of the trust.
Chairman of the group David Hollyhead said phase two would see basic fixes and improvements done to the mill, while phase three would consist of a total restoration, including a £500,000 touch-up for the 38ft 10inch tall, 46ft-wide waterwheel.
He added: “At an estimate I’d say we’re looking at a minimum of £1.5 million. The plan is to put the mill exactly back to how it was when it was first built, a total renovation including the wheel and all of its workings, which will be the biggest part of the job. We want to enhance the visitor experience within the mill.”
David joined the trust two years ago and says the renovation comes in line with a trust reformation.
“We shuffled some things about and streamlined the trust from eight to four so it’s very much a reformed group at this point,” he said.
“We’ll be getting experts and advisors on board to help with the project and we’re looking forward to getting the second phase underway.”
The complete restoration of the mill, expected to take at least two years, comes more than a decade after severe flash-flooding left the site needing drastic repairs costing thousands in 2007 – the same flooding that saw the nearby Severn Valley Railway close for nearly a year.
Having formed in 2008, the Daniels Mill Charitable Trust took ownership in order to save the mill following the flood damage from the previous year, and now plans on funding the restoration with grants and fundraising efforts.
Cliff Bassett, a volunteer guide at the mill, said the vast heritage and niche flour market is what has allowed it to survive longer than its counterparts across the country.
“We continually operate as a working mill right throughout the year and open to the public from April until November,” he said.
“We sell flour to both our visitors and a number of commercial clients such as craft bakeries that prefer to use traditional stone-ground flour to put in their products.
“People say it tastes different to industrialised flour and generally people like the history behind it.
“There’s also an increasing environmental consciousness so people like the fact it’s carbon neutrally produced.
"The technology is 6,000 years old and is still used as the primary flour-producing method in some countries, which is just astonishing.
“We’re very passionate about the mill and the fact it’s still making flour, it’s not just a quirky museum, it’s got a function and purpose.”
Made of cast iron, the seven-horsepower wheel was made just down the road in Coalbrookdale and shipped in pieces along the River Severn in 1854.
Propelled by water filling the 112 buckets around its circumference, it usually runs for around six hours a day.
Until the end of October, the mill is open from Thursday to Sunday, 11am to 4pm.