Labour of love to restore Wellingborough watermill

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A town’s last remaining watermill has become a labour of love for a man who wants to preserve it for years to come.

Hidden away just off the A45 on the River Nene in Wellingborough is Turnell’s Mill.

Trevor Stainwright with the water mill he has been restoring at Turnells Mill in Wellingborough

Trevor Stainwright with the water mill he has been restoring at Turnells Mill in Wellingborough

The watermill, which is almost 1,000 years old, was one of four in the town but is the last one remaining and Trevor Stainwright of Wilby has taken on the project of preserving it.

His labour of love started six years ago when he contacted Whitworths, who own the land it is on, and Wellingborough Council, and since then he has been regularly visiting the site, researching its history and working to restore it to its former glory.

Although it will never be a working mill again, he hopes it can be preserved as part of the town’s history.

Mr Stainwright said: “A good friend of mine was commissioned by the county council to do a survey in 2002 of the remaining watermills in this area.

“He said there were about 200 of them in the county, and four of them were in Wellingborough.

“The other three have gone now.

“This is the last one which is why it is important.”

The building was pulled down in the 1970s but the wheel remained.

After raising £2,500, Mr Stainwright has put up a fence to keep the site secure, built a wooden bridge to access it, removed some of the mill paddles for safety reasons and started de-rusting the wheel before painting it.

He has had support from his employer, Tingdene, which has donated materials for the project.

He said: “My strategy is to doll it up as best as I can, get people interested and then go to bigger charities and maybe they can see the potential and make donations.

“It’s been very frustrating at times – up until putting it on Facebook, I’ve been on my own.

“People are starting to take me seriously now.

“All of a sudden I’ve got other groups interested.

“It’s still early stages but I know where I am going, I didn’t six years ago.”

History of the mill

The origins of Turnell’s Mill go back almost 1,000 years when it was recorded in the Domesday Book of 1086.

In those days it would have been very small, constructed of wood, possibly with a thatched roof.

As time went on it would have been updated and improved, structurally altered and re-equipped.

In 1874 it was rebuilt as a three-storey mill packed full of iron machinery.

From 1848 to the early 20th century it was run by the Turnell family and for a while was operated by the Whitworth Brothers flour milling company.

All work at the mill ceased in 1966 and over the next few years the neighbouring mill-house and outbuildings were pulled down.

The watermill became derelict, and in 1975 the mill building was demolished but the cast-iron waterwheel and other parts of the mill spared.