For the last three years since a storm ripped off the sails of Dobson’s Mill it was almost as if the village had lost its identity, with every brochure and sign still featuring the historic Grade 1 listed building in all its glory – even the local primary school continue to use it as its logo.
So when the ribbon was cut for the grand re-opening of the newly-repaired Granary Heritage Displays, part of which had been wiped out when the 16 tonne blades came crashing through the roof, it was inevitable there were loud cheers and applause.
Villagers gathered on Saturday to celebrate the milestone moment – enjoying a free buffet and music from Skegness Silver Band.
Malcolm Ringsell, treasurer of Burgh-le-Marsh Heritage Group, described the occasion as the beginning of a long road. “Knowing what I know, when the storm happened I could have gone," he told the crowd.
"But after the incredible efforts of teams at Lincolnshire County Council (LCC) who own the mill and local supporters I feel duty bound to go on.
"Today is just the start . 2025 is the year we expect the sails to turn again. And when that happens there really will be a party.”
Storm Ciara hit in February 2020 and in addition to the damage to the heritage building, the mill itself also suffered structural damage.
Mr Ringsell said the wind had been so strong it snapped the wooden sleepers used to hold the mechanism in place to stop the sails spinning.
"The sails were facing the wrong way because they were waiting for repair. The wind turned them round, closed the shutters instead of opening them which would happen normally, then increased speed with the sails,” he recalled.
"At that the sails went backwards and faster and faster – it’s an engineering fete to make the sails go round and the mill cap then came out ad fell forwards damaging the roof of the adjacent heritage centre.”
Nearby residents were evacuated just minutes before the sails were ripped away.
It had been the second blow for the volunteers in a short space of time.
In November 2019 a public meeting was held after Lincolnshire County Council has decided to offload Dobson's Mill to save money as part of its heritage site policy.
The authority claimed the changes would ensure the county's heritage was protected for future generations.
At the time volunteers feared without the public’s support it will close.
However, the storm and a review of LCC policy changed everything – and since then a plan for the renovation has been put in place.
Lincolnshire County Council sent in specialists to assess the structure, which was built in 1844 and was operated commercially until 1965.
Mr Ringsell pointed out that if you took out the two years lost with the pandemic, it had taken just a year to get to this point.
"That is an incredible achievement,” he said.
The cost of repairing the mill and buildings is being met by Lincolnshire County Council, with the heritage group taking care of funding the displays.
"It’s looking good,” he continued. “We still have one or two bits to tidy up but the chaps who have been helping have been absolutely superb.”
Cutting the ribbon at the ceremony were 95-year-old Mavis Stone, who for several years was a volunteer tearooms assistant and baker, and former Skegness Standard correspondent Eileen Chantry, whose late partner Les Osborne was president of Lincolnshire Mills Group and oversaw the training of several millers and was instrumental in the renewal of the History Group’s museum display.
After the ceremony Mavis, who was back baking for the day, said: “There was quite a long time when we thought this day would never happen and the council would close the whole site down,” she said. “It’s really wonderful to be here.”
Eileen agreed. “It feels really special to be asked to open the heritage centre.”
Mayor of Burgh-le-Marsh Coun Neil Cooper, who is also chairman of the heritage centre, was another guest at the re-opening. He said: “It’s great to see so many people turn out to witness the first step in the restoration of the mill.”
One of the villagers was Aisha Rahman Habib, whose six-and-a-half year old daughter attends the local St Peter & St Paul C Of E Primary School.
"It is nice to come here and be present at this important time in Burgh-le-Marsh’s history.
"My daughter goes to the local school and her uniform features the logo with the windmill when it still had its sails.
"It’s so nice to hear they will be replaced..”
BURGH-LE-MARSH WINDMILL FACTFILE
- Built in 1844 on the site of a previous mill in High Street.
- Refurbished post Second World War.
- The Dobson family owned the mill and parts of the surrounding farmland from 1930 to 1965.
- During this time the mill was functioning commercially.
- In 1965 Lindsey County Council purchased it to preserve it.
- Lincolnshire County Council acquired it on transfer in 1972.
- The property was rented to various adjacent restaurant owners until 1990.
- The restaurant was then sold and LCC resumed responsibilty for mill and outbuildings.
- Friends of Burgh Windmill Group took over custodianship
- An amalgamation to Burgh-le-Marsh Heritage Project became full custodians in 2011