Outside interest: windmill restoration

Written by: Jez Abbott
Published on: 18 Feb 2015

Jan Molyneux

Molyneux Planning principal Jan Molyneux has helped restore and look after Brill Windmill, a grade II*-listed building in Brill, Buckinghamshire. She wrote a funding application for refurbishment funding in 2009 and around £300,000 has been spent restoring the landmark structure. As chair of the Brill Society, which opens the windmill to the public, she has been pushing to transfer ownership from the county to the local parish council to allow management by the society.

How did you get into restoring the windmill?

When I saw the dreadful state the windmill had fallen into I wanted to do something. It had everything: wet rot, dry rot, wood worm and death watch beetle. We undertook a major restoration after securing funds, mostly from English Heritage.

What does it involve?

Most of the restoration is now complete but we still have to look after the windmill. This involves turning the sails four times a year and checking the lightening conductor. We have to keep the inside of the windmill free of rats and mice and ensure the fixings don't rot. We also have to improve interpretation materials and try to get the community involved. The society pays for external lighting for the windmill.

Why do you do it?

I love the building, it's fantastic. It's like a ship stranded in the countryside, sails moving in the wind. Some of the original machinery dating back to the 1600s and 1700s remains and it's amazing the building is still there. It is without doubt an iconic structure.

What’s the toughest thing about it?

Coaxing volunteers to open the windmill on a cold Sunday afternoon is not always an easy task – it can be quite a bleak location and, as you would guess, windy.

What’s the most rewarding thing about it?

Seeing how much pleasure the windmill gives to children who visit makes all the hard work worth it, and watching the building transform over several years into what it is now is a reward that continually endures.

Are there any similarities between this and your day job?

There are quite a few similarities between planning and my outside interest: dealing with funding applications for the windmill has definite echoes, while there's a fair amount of management and strategy involved in both.

Do you have any unusual interests or hobbies that you would like to tell us about? If so, please email planning@haymarket.com