Row after historic 125-year-old windmill turned into 'Dalek'

Nicola Harley
Historic 125-year-old windmill in a picturesque village has sparked fury after new owners turned it into a

A historic 125-year-old windmill in a picturesque village has sparked fury after new owners turned it into a "space age Dalek".

Despite being an award-winning conversion, residents in the Suffolk village of Cockfield near Bury St Edmunds claim their windmill has been turned into a Dalek or something from the "War of the Worlds".

Supporters describe it as a "stunningly imaginative" project but critics claim the historic mill has been transformed into a blot on the landscape.

The 60ft tall tower has been topped with a futuristic metal pod in a unique £300,000 renovation and turned into a luxury holiday home.

A historic 125-year-old windmill in a picturesque village has sparked fury after new owners turned it into a "space age Dalek".

But not everyone is keen on chartered surveyor Steve Roberts' conversion.

A member of the Suffolk Mills Group that helps preserve and maintain the county's old mills, said: "While we are glad to see a mill being saved this should be done in such a way as to preserve the traditional look of the building. The Cockfield mill has certainly now lost that."

Owners Steve and his wife Natalie who live in the house next door, insist that the new-look mill will prove a unique and striking addition to the surrounding landscape of rolling meadows.

Cockfield Mill was built in 1891 by one of the county's leading millwrights but its giant sails stopped turning in 1900 and its traditional rounded "cap" was removed nearly 20 years later.

How the 125-year-old windmill originally looked.

For the next 100 years it stood semi-derelict, losing its sails, and was used as a simple store. But then Mr Roberts and his wife saw the opportunity to save the building combining traditional techniques and the very latest in materials.

As a result of the  facelift, the mill now boasts two bedrooms, a kitchen diner, bathroom - and spectacular hand-built elliptical-shaped pod covered with more than 200 zinc-panels that offers breath-taking views.

"It was never going to be an easy job," admitted Mr Roberts, a chartered surveyor. "Because of the round shape of the tower everything inside like floors, stairs and furniture had to be hand-made so that it would fit the walls. But the planners were happy and with the help of Ron Hill an experienced local builder we set to work.

A historic 125-year-old windmill in a picturesque village has sparked fury after new owners turned it into a "space age Dalek".

"It has taken more than 18 months to complete. We wanted it to look like a windmill but with a 21st century twist. The planners were quite happy about the idea and with the help of a structural engineer I began doing much of the work myself.

"It is now been carefully converted into an extremely comfortable two-bedroom holiday cottage with a difference."

Building and architectural experts agree - the mill won one of the major categories in the 2016 National Roofing Awards and also reached the finals of the Structural Timber Awards best commercial project last year.

The distinctive mill has also reached the final six in the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors awards for this year in the East of England tourism and leisure category. 

Architect Craig Beech said: "It was a challenge but with the help of the latest materials like plywood laminate from Sweden we have been able to create something truly unique. The planners were very enthusiastic about the pod and there were no objections from anyone in the village."

Inside the historic 125-year-old windmill.

In the early 19th century there were almost 500 working windmills in Suffolk, mostly used for grinding corn grown on the surrounding farmland - East Anglia is still known as the "bread basket" of England.

But from the 1840's onwards the numbers of windmills - and watermills - at work in the county declined in the face of competition from large steam-powered mills. The decline gathered pace with the introduction of roller milling in the 1880's - and the arrival of motor vehicles which improving transport to outlying rural areas.

More than 200 Suffolk windmills were still at work in 1900, but only half that number by 1916 and a mere 13 by 1939. Today just 20 complete windmills survive with most or all of their machinery, and among them are examples considered to be among the finest in the country.

Suffolk Mills Group secretary Mark Barnard said: " Windmills and watermills remain a unique combination of building and machinery- they are costly to maintain but are still fascinating to visit. And traditionalists do like to see them in an original state as possible."

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