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Fears over Broads' last remaining smock mill

PUBLISHED: 12:00 16 September 2009 | UPDATED: 13:44 06 July 2010

Hayley Mace

Standing alone on marshes next to the River Waveney, Herringfleet smock mill is the last remaining mill of its type on the Broads.

Now villagers living nearby are concerned that the 190-year-old mill could fall into disrepair unless the lease which helps to keep it maintained is renewed.

Standing alone on marshes next to the River Waveney, Herringfleet smock mill is the last remaining mill of its type on the Broads.

Now villagers living nearby are concerned that the 190-year-old mill could fall into disrepair unless the lease which helps to keep it maintained is renewed.

Built in about 1820 by Yarmouth millwright Robert Barnes, the mill in the tiny village of Herringfleet, near Somerleyton, north of Lowestoft, was worked by wind until 1956, when it was then leased to Suffolk County Council to help pay for it to be preserved.

The council's lease from the Somerleyton Estate, which owns the land and the mill, ran out two years ago and now villagers have voiced concerns that the mill may fall into disrepair if no one is responsible for maintaining it.

Members of Somerleyton, Ashby and Herringfleet parish council have written to the county council to ask for more information and to find out whether anyone is planning to take over the lease.

Jennie Wild, who lives in neighbouring Somerleyton, said: “The 50-year lease ran out in 2007. There used to be a team of people who volunteered to maintain the mill, but they're not about any more.”

Jonathan Woodruff, head of corporate asset management at Suffolk County Council, said: “With increased financial pressures on our services, we have to focus on the essentials. We have to make sure we have the right buildings in the right places to deliver the high-quality services people expect of us, and also that the buildings we own are properly maintained.

“No decisions regarding the future of Herringfleet Mill have been made at present, but we do regularly review the properties we have. Any changes could actually mean more opportunities for local communities and interest groups to take an increased ownership of some of these properties.”

The octagonal smock mill, which was restored by Acle millwrights Thomas Smithdale and Sons in the late 1950s, has four sails on a cast iron shaft, which drive a 4ft 6in cast iron wheel with 47 cogs. It could once pump about 9,100 litres (about 2,020 gallons) of water per minute.

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