You may have seen this imposing building during your travels in the Great Haseley area of Oxfordshire. Sadly, it has fallen into neglect and the years have taken their toll. A major restoration project is now underway, aiming to return this historic building to its former glory. Follow the progress of the restoration in our blog....

The Restoration Team

Friday, 13 December 2013

Sailing along

We are now well into making the first sail for the mill. First came planing and dimensioning of the smaller timbers, for the sail bars etc. Then came the not insignificant task of getting the 30 foot plus main timber (or 'whip') into the workshop. Copying the remains of an original, it was dimensioned and tapered, reading for chopping out the mortices for the 24 sail bars. These were all at different offsets and angles, to give the sail its 'spooned' shape, which helps catch the wind.

Here is the whip with the sail bars fitted.

After this, the lead boards (visible on the right hand side) were fitted. These smooth the airflow onto the canvas (when it's fitted).

Next job will be the long members which run at ninety degrees to the sail bars (uplong and hemlath). Unlike the whip, these will be made of several lengths spliced together (one piece is visible lying on top of the sail, on the left side).

Meanwhile, we have made some minor modifications to the outside of the mill itself. We have noticed that, in driving rain, some water has been getting in just above the lintels, mainly at the upper windows. It is a weakness with timber lintels against stonework; as the timber dries and moves, a slight gap inevitably forms. There was no evidence of any hoods having been fitted to these windows originally, but we have decided to fit small strips, with lead flashing, to help prevent this water ingress. It changes the aesthetics of the tower only slightly and, more importantly, it should help prolong the life of the mill. Any water entering here could affect the new spliced beam ends which were fitted at the start of the project (perhaps the originals were so rotten, at least in part, due to a lack of protection over the lintels). The usual problem; where do you restore faithfully, where do you improve, where do you renew. It isn't easy, but we try our best......

Thursday, 24 October 2013

A long overdue update

Hello again. Well, lifting the cap onto the mill already seems like a long time ago and the summer has been well spent. Work-wise, we were away for a while, painting the sails of Danzey Green windmill, at Avoncroft Museum, Bromsgrove. Back at Great Haseley, we have spent some time setting up the drive gear from the fantail, so that the cap will turn into wind. A few teething problems, mainly due to lack of space, but we are getting there. Also, we have made lots of progress building the brake wheel. This is the large gear which is fixed to the windshaft, and has a brake around its outside rim, hence the name.

Here, the segments of the brake wheel have been cut and joined together.

The next step was to mark out the 90 mortices, into which we would fit the cogs. These were very deep mortices, tapering and at a slight angle. Not easy.

Here we are with the cogs driven in, and by now the segments of the wheel have been bolted together.

Next, the 'clasp arms' were fitted, four on each face of the wheel. These will box around a square portion of the windshaft, so that the brake wheel can be wedged solidly into place. In essence, the whole drive for the stones come from this interface, so it has to be strong and accurate. In this image, the four arms on the underside have already been fitted, and two on the upper face are in position. These two were the only salvageable originals, and even they are a bit wormy - we shall see!....

Once complete, there was just the trivial task of taking it all to bits again, taking the pieces to the mill and rebuilding it in position around the windshaft. Unfortunately levitation is not one of our skills, so the last step was a bit awkward.

Clasp arms wedged into place

and the wheel built around them.

It will take some time to fine tune the position of the brake wheel on the windshaft, and the position of the wallower (the horizontal gear with which it meshes). It also looks like the brake wheel cogs will have to be shaped slightly, to get a perfect mesh. So, we are getting there, but slowly.

PS. Other news; we have just taken delivery of timber for the sails. So that'll be more morticing then.......

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

To cap it all off

Tuesday 16th July; another hot day with, thankfully, light winds. So, in a very un-British way,  a planned outdoor activity goes ahead; the hoisting of the cap. Having previously experienced the delights of a crane becoming stuck in soft ground (building a plywood road is not fun), we were very lucky on this project to have had a prolonged period of hot weather, meaning the ground from the road to the mill was rock hard.

Thanks to all those who came and watched, hope you enjoyed it! For those that missed the day, here are some pictures......

So, the first job was to lift off the temporary roof. Quite a strange experience when viewed from inside the cap!

Hooking up the temporary roof

There goes the roof

There followed some hurried removal of the plywood and wire mesh which had been fitted around the outside of the curb to keep out birds. During this period the restored wallower was hoisted up and onto the main shaft. No photos of the hoisting as I was busy (see above), but here is the wallower on the ground.

Next, the bearing circle was lifted. We had bolted on some bracing scaffold planks to try and keep the shape circular, which more or less worked.

A brief pause on crane work, while we fitted the remaining trolley wheels to the bearing circle (some had been left out to reduce the weight, and hence potential for distortion). All seemed well, with the wheels positioned right over the metal track of the curb - never in doubt!

That left one final object to lift, the cap.

Take the strain. You never really know if all your lifting points are strong enough until....
Making light work of 7.5 tonnes

Finally, with some relief, the bearing at the centre of the cap frame slides perfectly onto the top of the main shaft, the skirt boards fit around the top of the tower and the cap circle sits on top of the trolley wheels. We have done it.

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Pawn to King4

Since the last blog entry, things have moved on quickly. The cap has been covered with canvas, and given three coats of bituminous paint. We have also been able to fit the finial to the top of the cap, for that finishing touch! Garry Kasparov would have been proud.

The painted cap, with finial proudly atop

Pawn to k4

The beady-eyed amongst you will have spotted the heavy brackets at the front of the cap. These are for the lifting straps when we crane the cap onto the tower, in the not too distant future. We are aiming for 16th July, but obviously this depends heavily on the weather.

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

The dalek gets an eye and some canvas

Gently does it
So, the time has come to put the windshaft back into the cap, ready for the upcoming hoisting. With a bit of toing and froing (and some hydraulic assistance) it was soon back in its rightful place. That's one less thing obstructing the footpath (sorry walkers!)

We have also been making the most of the settled weather, covering the cap with canvas. The triangular pieces, or 'gores', are glued and nailed into place. At least there's no pattern to match up at the edges! The canvas will then be sealed and painted black. The white/cream colour does look good, but the original cap was black, and white hurts our eyes too much when working in bright light!

Some canvas gores applied

The devil is in the detail, more specifically, weatherproofing detail. There is a bit of fiddly leadwork to be done, mainly around the front of the cap (vulnerable because, in theory, it will always be facing into the weather). We have also tried to improve a little on the storm hatch design, with a belt and braces approach to keeping out the rain. We have seen the damage water ingress here can do to a mill.

Leadwork on the weather beam, and a fine-looking storm hatch

If the good weather continues, we should be looking at craning the cap on some time early July. Watch this space......

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Cap looking good

Finally, the cap boarding has been finished.

Planing the joints between boards

Just over half was covered with boards reclaimed from the old cap, with the remainder being fitted with new timber. The ogee shape can now be properly seen, and many of the passers-by seem to appreciate it!

The final cap shape
The 'skirt' boards have also been fitted around the base of the cap - easier now than when the cap is lifted onto the tower. Their style has been based on what we believe the originals looked like.

It looks like the final covering of the cap will be along more traditional lines; painted canvas, rather than the aluminium sheet which was used for previous repairs in the 70s. Not quite as maintenance free as lead, but just a little bit cheaper!

Friday, 10 May 2013

National Mills Weekend 11th-12th May - Mill Open on Sunday!

Although not yet normally open to the public, Great Haseley windmill will be open on Sunday 12th May, from 11am until 5pm. So come along for a rare chance to look around the mill and see the progress made with the restoration. There will be someone around from the restoration team, to answer any questions you may have.

Access is from Great Haseley, with a public footpath leading from Back Way right to the mill.

Click the link below for the National Mills Weekend website - with links to other mills open in your area....

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Stoop and build 'em up

So, the next stage is upon us; relocating the cap to the mill and rebuilding there, in preparation for hoisting onto the tower. Luckily, the weather has been fine and we have made lots of progress in the last couple of weeks.

The main cap frame timbers arrive!

The cap circle already laid out on blocks (the blocks were made from the old sail stock - you can see how badly decayed it was down the middle)

The shears offloaded

The frame and fan booms assembled

Next we raised the lower finial section with a tripod - ready to receive the cap ribs...

Hoisting the finial

First ribs going in

The more you add, the stronger it gets!

Errr, how do I get down

With all the ribs fitted, and the ring purlin attached. Very aesthetically pleasing.
After that, with the storm hatch and fan door areas reassembled, we began boarding out the cap. Some of the boards were salvaged from the previous cap, probably enough to cover about one half. We will use new douglas fir boards to complete.

Sunday, 21 April 2013


How time flies. So, after a few months of inactivity, we are all hands to the pumps again. The fan has been finished, and its staging has been trial fitted to the cap.
Rear of cap, with fan booms fitted and doorway made. Beginnings of fan gearing supports also visible.

The fan, 12 feet in diameter, with associated ironwork.

The next major task is to take down the cap, and reassemble it next to the mill. It can then be weather-boarded and lifted onto the mill. For a previous project at Wheatley windmill, the cap was completed at the workshop and transported as a whole unit to the mill. However, the Great Haseley cap is significantly larger, so this was not viable.

Meanwhile, another crucial piece of the cap, the finial, has been made by David Field

Making the GRP finial
 This will sit atop the wooden base portion of the finial (into which the cap ribs are located), the fit between the two having been designed to provide weatherproofing at this vulnerable part of the mill.