The people who have been at the heart of a £1.8m project to restore Sacrewell Mill to its original glory were the first to see inside as it opened its doors.
After a year of restoration work, the 18th century Grade II* listed building, at Sacrewell near Wansford, was shown off on Friday last week to special guests, including Land Army girls who ran the farm during the Second World War and trustees from the William Scott Abbot Trust which owns Sacrewell.
And on Saturday, it opened to members, with the public being allowed the first glimpse on Sunday.
The project was made possible thanks to a £1.4m grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, which included the installation of a £40,000 waterwheel, incorporating a hydroelectric generator, as well as the restoration of the 18th century watermill.
The new waterwheel will feed electricity into the National Grid to make the farm, which was rebranded last year from Sacrewell Farm and Country Centre, sustainable.
Tinwell-based firm Messenger Construction worked to restore and conserve as many of the original features of the mill as possible, repairing everything from the waterwheel to the Collyweston slate roof. New electrics have been installed and the back wall has been waterproofed.
The floors and roof have been assessed and relaid, conserving as much of the original fabric as possible.
Mill project officer Jane Harrison told guests at Friday’s unveiling that the restoration project had been “timely” due to a rat infestation, which were destroying parts of the woodwork.
She said: “It is absolutely fantastic and I am very proud of what the whole team has achieved.
“We have, so far, had a very positive response. When the representatives from the Heritage Lottery Fund walked down the path, they said ‘wow’ and they were extremely complimentary about the project. That was the big thing for me.”
Jane said many people believed the first time they saw it, that much of the building was new, but in fact, the team worked hard to make sure that the original fabric and materials of the building were restored and reused.
She thanked everyone who had been involved in the project, in particular Messenger Construction which delivered the project “on time and on budget”.
She said the restored mill was down to the efforts of the entire team which worked on the project to ensure its success.
Jane said: “We have always worked together to find solutions.”
She said the “hairiest moment” was when a lively wall moved unexpectedly.
But Jane added: “Messenger is very skilled in historic building conservation and the quick thinking team of architects and conservators saved the project.
“This work really did take place at just the right time.”
She also paid tribute to all of the people that had shared their histories of the farm and the mill.
Jane said: “We have been incredibly fortunate to meet and interview the people who lived and worked at Sacrewell before the mill closed.
“Using their stories and our own knowledge through the trust’s archives, we have brought the mill back to life.”
Peter White, who lives in Langtoft with his wife Anne, was one of the first to see inside. His father George worked as a miller before the mill closed commercially in the 1960s and Peter was wearing with pride his father’s long-service badge, having worked for 47 years at the mill.
The mill has videos and boards recalling the history of the mill, which was originally built in 1755, and Peter’s father features in them following an appeal in the Mercury last year.
Peter fondly recalls working with his father at the farm when he was a child and is now looking forward to bringing his own 18-month-old grandson Oliver George to the mill to see the work his great grandfather once did.
Peter said: “I think my father would be very happy it is being preserved.
“To keep the history of it going is wonderful, especially for future generations.”
It is this the farm hopes to now expand on, to bring its heritage and educational value to the forefront of what it offers.
Jane said the farm is already popular with school groups to see the many animals that greet you as you make your way to the watermill - and now the children will also be able to learn about the farm’s historical value.
Land Army girls Edna Dixon and Mary Watson were also among those to see inside the mill.
Both women have extremely fond memories of their time spent at Sacrewell, which they called their home during the Second World War.
Mary said: “Everyone here was marvellous then and they still are now. It’s absolutely wonderful what they have done.
“If I had a property I would want it to be as beautifully preserved as this.”
Sacrewell will now be heavily relying on the skills of people in the community as volunteers, who will be gardening, wearing period costume and maintaining the building.
To find out more about the history of Sacrewell and for opening times and visitor information, visit www.sacrewell.org.uk.