Redecoration and small repairs to the cap of Hickling tower mill in Norfolk were carried out in Summer 2006. This impressive mill is jointly owned by brother and sister Mike Forbes and Fiona Hancock. It has been in the Forbes family since 1934 and has been privately maintained ever since.
The mill was probably built shortly before 1818 and had ceased work by 1904. The sails, fantail and flyposts were removed a few years afterwards. The original boat-shaped cap was progressively patched and repaired and remained in place until 1989 when it was craned off, as a prelude to the restoration of the top of the mill. The uppermost brickwork was removed almost to dust floor level before being rebuilt, and a new curb made and installed. The cap itself was rebuilt by local millwright Richard Seago at his workshop at South Walsham. The components were then transferred to the site and assembled at ground level, before being hoisted by crane onto the tower on 24th October 1990.
Redecoration of the cap, gallery and fantail frame was completed inside three weeks during July and August 2006 by Luke Bonwick and Adam Marriott (of Cotswold Millwright Co), assisted by Fiona’s husband Mike Hancock. The 1990 work was found to be in excellent condition, and only slight deterioration was visible in the areas most vulnerable to the effects of the weather. However, the whole cap was covered in several species of lichen which appeared to have colonised on the guano left by several birds that perch on the cap on a daily basis! This was carefully removed before repainting began. The mill, with its 8 storeys, is 60ft high to the curb track and a 66ft cherry picker was needed to allow paint to be applied to the areas which could not be reached from the cap gallery and fan stage. An angled ladder, fabricated by Mike, enabled the curved sides of the cap roof to be reached in safety.
Hickling Mill is one of the few windmills in the country to have been preserved in an unrestored state. It contains almost a complete set of main machinery. Several original timber fittings, including three sets of millstone furniture, also survive. The mill’s owners have made sterling efforts over the last seventy years to ensure the mill’s survival in this ‘mothballed’ state, and the recent maintenance work should secure its existence for several more years.