A £1.8m restoration of an 18th century grade II* listed watermill near Peterborough won Project of the Year at the East of England Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) awards last week.
Sacrewell Mill near Wansford reopened last July after a 12-month project supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund and the William Scott Abbott Trust, which owns Sacrewell Farm.
The mill, which before the restoration was listed on Historic England’s ‘at risk’ register, also won awards in Building Conservation and Tourism and Leisure, entering the project into the RICS Awards Grand Final in London in October, where it will compete with other regional winners, including Hampton Court Palace.
Mill Project Officer Jane Harrison, who oversaw the project said: “We are absolutely thrilled and delighted to have won Project of the Year. It’s a testament to how well we worked together as a design team.
“It was lovely to bring something that had been classed as ‘at risk’ back into use.”
The mill was nominated for the awards by architectural practice Purcell which worked alongside Jane, project and cost managers The Clarkson Alliance and building firm, Messenger Construction.
Zoë Skelding, Partner at Purcell added: “An enormous amount of work has gone into bringing together all the elements essential to make the project work; the funding, the business plan, the involvement of local people and volunteers, the consents, the drawings and specifications and the contract works.
“Everyone who played a part in this process will be as delighted as us that our collective efforts have been acknowledged and rewarded with the RICS Awards.”
As part of the project supported by money from National Lottery players, the back wall of the mill was waterproofed, the waterwheel was repaired thanks to the expertise of Lincolnshire firm Traditional Millwrights, the walls were secured and the Collyweston slate roof was removed, cleaned and restored.
Paul Gibbons, Managing Director at Messenger Construction in Tinwell, which carried out the work, said: “Getting recognition from RICS is a huge honour and a just reward for many people’s hard work and the vision of the leadership and trustees at Sacrewell.
“The Messenger team is delighted – particularly Jonathan Leftley and Brian Hembrow who oversaw the restoration and conservation work. Our fingers are crossed for October and the national finals.”
The judges from RICS were particularly impressed with the mill’s educational offer. The mill and mill house have been interpreted throughout to reflect Victorian and Second World War working conditions, using the testimonies of people who worked at the mill during both periods found during extensive research by the team. A hydro-electric water turbine has been installed inside the stables to boost the educational value of the mill and to help cut the cost of powering it.
RICS Director in the South Lynn Robinson said in her summary: “The regeneration of this historically important building has not just preserved the past but is part of a broader education programme that aims to teach people all about the agricultural history of the UK.
“There are also opportunities for people to fully submerge themselves in the atmosphere with campsites situated on the surrounding land. The conservation of an eighteenth century watermill will also be historic, but the way this project has combined conservation with education is part of what sets it apart.”
Managing Director of The Clarkson Alliance Graham Clarkson added: “Since the initial stages of supporting William Scott Abbott Trust with two successful rounds of Heritage Lottery Fund grant funding, through to delivering the project on time and within budget, this has been a fascinating and rewarding journey for ourselves and the project team we managed.
“We are thrilled the project has achieved all of its conservational, educational and business case objectives. This has been an exemplary project, client and project team which has saved a building on the ‘at risk’ register. The restoration at Sacrewell Watermill has brought its vivid history to life for future generations.”
Robyn Llewellyn, Head of Heritage Lottery Fund East of England, said: “These awards are an appropriate recognition of the hard work and creativity that has gone into this fantastic restoration project, and it is wonderful that, thanks to National Lottery players, we have been able to support it. The mill now offers a great opportunity for people to explore how people worked from the Victorian period to the end of the Second World War”.