The Project Starts - July 2006
In July 2006 Glyn Buckle, of Buckle Chamberlain Partnership Ltd and Geof Wallis of Dorothea Restorations Ltd were commissioned to prepare the drawings and details for an application to restore & re-use the windmill as a single holiday unit, available for rent.
The details were drawn and, towards the end of September 2006, the application was submitted to Monmouthshire Planning and Conservation Officers.
Both the planning and conservation officers were extremely helpful, and in January 2007, permission had been granted, subject to various conditions.
Over the next few months Glyn worked hard and managed to get the various conditions discharged, so that, come May we were ready to erect the scaffold.
After obtaining various quotations for the scaffolding we decided to use JED scaffolding, a local company we had used previously on various projects. As promised, JED arrived on time and within a matter of weeks the scaffold was up.
The next few weeks were then spent hacking out and re-pointing the main tower. Considering its age, the stonework, other than the very top 450mm, was in very good condition. Obviously all the timber lintels had been burnt in the fire, so Oak replacements were sourced from C & G Barrett, a local sawmill. New steel beams and timber joists were craned in from above to match the position and dimensions of the long gone floors.
15th July 2007
From the remains of the original pieces of cast iron track, which were still perched precariously on the top of the tower, we were able to determine that the diameter of the original track on which the cap rotated was 4540mm. The original track comprised of 16 separate sections which would have been screwed to oak timbers which would have been bedded onto the top of the stone tower. The top 450mm of stone work was in such a poor state that, due to safety issues, we decided to replace the damaged stone work with a poured mass concrete ring beam and set the new track to this. The new track was fabricated in one piece from 80mm x 50mm profile cut to the correct diameter welded to a 250mm x 10mm plate, like a very large washer. The new track, weighing around 760kg, was craned into position. Shuttering was secured to match the profile of the tower and 16 runs of T16 reinforcing were wired into position. All this was then cast within 8 tons of concrete.
New Oak windows were made by a local joiner, Lyndon Hawkins. The windows fitted perfectly, but no such luck with the glass. Phil the carpenter will have to learn how to read the drawings properly!
One of the planning stipulations stated that the tower must be lime rendered with materials to match the original. A sample of the original render was sent to Ty-Mawr Lime so a match could be blended complete with Horse hair. As the weather forecast was good John Edwards and his team were eager to get the tower rendered from the top down to balcony level. This was subsequently achieved without any difficulty.
It will be 2008 before the cap is made, therefore we decided to fabricate a temporary roof to keep out the elements during the winter months. This has been fitted, complete with a Skull & Cross bones flag now flying high above the Monmouthshire countryside.
During September the walls of the drying store, which had collapsed over the years, were re-built using stone and lime mortar. It was possible from the existing pockets in the walls to work out both the first floor and apex level, enabling the re-built walls match exactly the original profile.
A new box section balcony was fabricated and galvanized in sizes to match the original. The size and section of the balcony was determined by the sole surviving strut which had been left protruding from the tower since it had burnt down all those years ago.
The new balcony steelwork was assembled in 18 sections on the ground and subsequently craned into position. Once weather permits it will be primed and painted, so it should look as close as possible to the original.
We bought a set of 8’x1/4” pyramid rolls off ebay so Bob was keen to start rolling the stringers for the first flight of stairs. Due to the size of the stairs (first flight 21 steps) and the fact that this flight is both curved & tapered we decided to weld the stairs together ‘in-situ’. It took a lot of hands and G clamps to hold all the various bits ‘in-situ’, but overall the steps seemed to follow the wall fairly well.
A new timber roof was “cut” onto the drying store supported on new steel ridge beams. The roof was then slated using Spanish slates, set in diminishing courses. Gareth took great pride in the curved section of roof which looks good now it’s completed.
With the stringers and step supports in place on the first flight of stairs, 80mm thick stone treads were cut and shaped ready to be fitted at a later date.
With the roof now complete on the drying store we were able to work in the dry, excavating approximately a foot of soil by hand under the watchful eye of Monmouth Archeology, who carried out the archeological survey. Various cast iron articles were found including gears, hinges, nails & bits of track off the mill.
Once the documentation had been carried out a concrete floor was laid with insulation, under floor heating and a liquid screed.
Bob had got the hang of making staircases and before Christmas had reached the top floor.
To hide the steel floor and ridge beams 10” x 8” oak beams were hollowed out, which was a fair amount of work, but it was well worth the end result.
Bob started fabricating the main frame for the cap. The original frame would have been made from timber but, as usual, we made ours from steel box section. We were keen to keep the cap looking as near the original as possible, so all the steel used was matched in physical dimensions to what the original would have been.
We managed to find some old steel wheels on a scrap gantry crane which have now been re-packed with grease and fit neatly to the cap frame. These re-cycled wheels should allow the cap to rotate smoothly, fingers crossed.
Once the cap frame was fabricated it measured 25’ long x 11’ wide! We transported it to Hereford Galvanizers and had it dipped in one piece.
Once the cap frame returned from the galvanizers, the fly spears, back stays and handrails were welded in place and it now weighs 4.4 tons.
A sprinkler system was fitted throughout the mill and drying store. This enabled all five floors in the mill to be utilized for living purposes without the need of a fire escape. It will also enable us to use oak doors, rather than fire doors throughout the building.
We had to lift off the temporary roof so that the tanks for the sprinkler system could be fitted on to the very top floor. It’s surprising how much lighter the building appears with no roof.
Under-floor heating has also been fitted to all the upper floors as well as the ground floor. This has now been installed and boarded out with chipboard. The final flooring will be engineered oak glued to the chipboard.
Internal partitions have now been constructed to form six double bedrooms, three of which have on-suite shower rooms and one with an on-suite ‘wet room’. All of these will keep Gareth tiling for a good few weeks. The lead flat roof and valley have now been laid to the drying store and it looks really good.
Mark has started plastering inside which is a really slow process. The first two coats comprise of a 3 to 1 mix of QV blended sand & hydraulic lime (NHL) with the addition of synthetic hair. The final coat is a traditional fat lime finish. The new partitions, which have been plaster boarded, have had a coat of Carlite bonding to give the same appearance as fat lime.
An axle was bolted onto the cap frame so that it could be towed to site ready for a trial lift.
Bob made the fantail. It is 3700mm diameter but looks much larger, stood in the workshop, and weighs 803kg. We had a technical error, which resulted in the wrong size shaft being used (I must learn to use the right scale rule). To overcome this, Bob had to substantially stiffen the centre of the fantail and hopefully it should now be ok.
The blades of the fantail have been made from 3mm thick steel which has since been galvanised and sandwiched between two layers of exterior grade MDF board. Grooves were routed in the MDF board to give the appearance of T&G boarding, which, from a distance should look somewhere near the original.
To help with the carpentry, Wieslaw and Krzysztoe have joined the team. As you might possibly tell by their names, they are Polish.
40mm thick Oak boards have now been fitted to the balcony. We are not yet sure what to use as balustrade, however toughened glass would now appear the best choice.
Bob was busy with the windshaft, which was fabricated from circular hollow section, 4500m long x 272mm diameter x 12mm thick. The cross on the front of the windshaft is 2000mm wide x 20mm thick; this along with the locating spigots will hopefully hold the sails securely in place.
A local company, Freemont Baxter, who specializes in fiberglass products, was commissioned to make the outer skin of the cap. This consists of 16 identical segments cast in a mould, with the door and windshaft aperture being formed later.
Dave and Mark were busy with the services. Gas and electric are finally in the mill, so we can now, at long last, work without the generator. The second fix for the electrics, plumbing and carpentry are well underway and it wasn’t long before the en-suite rooms were finished too.
There was much excitement, as we finally got to lift the cap, to make sure it fitted. The deal was that, if it fitted, I had to buy steaks for all the boys, so as you can see from the picture of everyone on the cap it was an expensive lunch followed by Pavols’ Stag night.
As we couldn’t seem to go more than a few days without rain we had to take the cap back down and fit the temporary roof back on, hopefully for the last time.
Richard has been busy making the fiberglass segments for the top dome, I wonder if they will fit?
The kitchen arrives, so that keeps Neil and Phil busy for a couple of weeks.
Richard delivers the fiberglass segments and bolts the dome together; we then lift it onto the cap and secure it to the framework. The front three segments need a bit of modification as I had forgotten to allow clearance for the windshaft to rotate.
The fantail gets fitted to the cap and we’ve found a 3:1 reduction gearbox to connect to it, off an old grain blower, but for now it remains tied off.
I managed to buy two old wheels off ebay, which Bob creatively makes into lights for the dining room and hall.
We decide to make wooden shutters for the windows as they will be more durable and look better than curtains.
The kitchen is fitted; we are just waiting for the granite tops to arrive.
September 10th 2008. The big day has arrived and there’s not much wind, so at 7.00am we decide to go for it and try to get the cap fitted. Off comes the roof, for the last time, and then the cap is lifted. After the cap the windshaft is lifted and maneuvered into position. Next to be fitted is the fantail, followed by the fiberglass dome. It’s been a long busy day, but Phil still finds time for a cup of tea.
With Bob back from holiday he eagerly starts work making, and fitting the six horizontal centering wheels, which hold the cap central on the track and, (fingers crossed) stop it from lifting off!
We still can’t find any suitable wall lights for the dining room so Bob ends up making those too.
With the rendering complete, the outside of the mill is treated to a few coats of lime-wash. It really stands out now.
The team head off to have a few months renovating a barn, which was originally built in 1616, on my Father’s farm.
Bob fabricates the sails. The ‘whips’ are 9000mm long, made from steel channels that taper from 300mm to 125mm over the length. Each of the nine sail bars are 40mm x 40mm box section, set on a gradual curve, starting at 21.5 degrees at the root and finishing at 6.5 degrees at the tip. Each sail weighs 664kg, and that’s without the shutters!
We have the 14 sections of rack, (the mechanism which the fantail turns the cap by) profiled from 30mm steel, and Bob makes a ‘lantern’ pinion to match.
Dave starts work on the parking area, which we have positioned in such a way that parked vehicles are not visible from the road. We used stone for the base from an old quarry on the farm.
The sails are taken to the galvanizers at Hereford. It will be a far better job to have them galvanized rather than just being painted as the galvanization process ensures that, not only the outside, but also the inside of all the hollow sections get treated.
Bob fits the rack & pinion mechanism, the fantail now winds the cap around to face the wind, and it seems to work just fine.
The original mechanism would have required 750 turns of the fantail for one complete revolution of the cap, whereas ours requires 2240 turns. It is far lower geared which has the added benefit of producing a very smooth movement.
The drive and parking area receive a coat of base tarmac. Gareth and Mark lay the stone paths around the outside and build a BBQ area.
The sails arrive back from the galvanizers, but unfortunately the process has caused them to bow by around 50mm, so Bob has to make an improvised straightening device using a weigh bridge and a 30 tonne jack.
Helen has been busy with the interior. Most of the furniture is now in place, so it almost looks finished.
Dave has been busy planting shrubs around the outside of the mill, however he did have to draft in help from Jon & Rob Morgan to help him with the grass.
With the sails finally straightened it’s time for fitting. The first was hung vertically below the shaft, with the second being secured opposite, those were then rotated 90 deg and the third and fourth sails were fitted in precisely the same way as the first pair.
We had a few problems with the sails at first, as we had not made the faceplate. I didn’t think that they would spin without the shutters, but they did, and we had to stop them from spinning by hanging an anvil on the front.
Once the faceplate was fitted and the anvil removed there was no wind so it was over a week before they started to spin. The following week they spun extremely well, infact the fasted we recorded was 18 revs per minute! We have now anchored them off with the brake, until we sort out a generator.
Phew, it’s ready to rent out! Toughened glass has been fitted to the balcony, which looks great; it doesn’t however seem to offer any shelter from the wind. Time to have a well deserved breather before we tackle our next project, Pencoed Castle,… now that promises to be a whole new adventure!