All hands to the pump

Icons in the landscape: Alex Green explains work to reawaken a sleeping giant at Horsey, and updates on two other landmark buildings on the coast

Built in 1912, Horsey Windpump is a survivor, withstanding lightning strikes, gales and floods in her 105 year history. Playing a pivotal role in draining the surrounding farmland during the 1938 floods that saw much of the area under water for many months, she was put out of operation when struck by lightning in 1943.

This majestic mill has undergone many repairs and restorations over her lifetime but none as ambitious as the current project that will see her standing proud again with turning sails in the wide open coastal and Broads landscape.

On a sunny March day in 2016 we watched nervously as the cap and brake wheel were lifted from the windpump tower and carefully lowered to the ground. It was an impressive sight, and officially marked the beginning of the project.

Following the ‘big lift,’ scaffolding was put up around the tower to remove the timber wallplate (the curb) which supported the cap. All the timbers had suffered severely from water damage and rot.  Over the following twelve months, with millwright Tim Whiting, piece-by-piece we inspected, replaced and repaired the timbers which form the cap frame as well as refurbishing the metal parts and rollers.

It’s not until you get close to the building that you really see just how brutal the weather can be. Brickwork repairs to the tower, which had suffered heavily from the battering of wind and rain in this exposed part of Norfolk, were also undertaken.

This spring will see the newly restored cap lifted back onto the windpump followed by new patent sails in early summer. With over £244,000 invested in this phase of the project, it is planned that this important industrial heritage will be preserved for many years to come.

The National Trust are looking towards the next phase – to put in place the mechanism and machinery which will see the wind turning the sails, showing everyone the importance of these mighty structures. Fitting the shutters and the blades which catch the breeze and rotate the sails is a mammoth piece of work in its own right, and will continue well into summer.

The newly restored windpump will need a team of people to keep her maintained and sails turning. We’re are on the lookout for keen volunteers who will help bring the windpump to life for our visitors and manage this elegant building for the future.

The Staithe Stores Café is open and we can’t wait to re-open the windpump this summer. You may even get a chance to see Tim and his millwright team in action, as we plan to continue the conservation works whilst the windpump is open.

To keep up to date with this exciting project and to find out how you can get involved visit

Alex Green is National Trust digital media, marketing and interpretation Officer, Norfolk Coast

New lease of life: two more historic Norfolk coast buildings

WELLS MALTINGS: After six years of planning, fundraising, consultation and hard work a year-long building project to transform Wells Maltings is underway, with this handsome building, once the heart of the port of Wells, being extended and remodeled. The £1.9m Heritage Lottery funded work is being streamed by live webcam.

There are plans to produce traditional and digital community banners, record oral histories from local people, produce a community play about the life of Alderman Peel and a heritage art trail through the town.

A team of volunteers are needed to help, including curators, arts administrators, fabric artists, makers, arts educators, writers, bloggers, photographers, videographers, filmmakers, archivists and conservationists – so get in touch if you’d like to be involved.

WAXHAM BARN: Built in the last quarter of the 16th Century, this monumental thatched barn – the largest in the county – was restored by Norfolk County Council after compulsory acquisition in the early 1990s.

The complex is open to the public in the summer, and hosts weddings as well as other events. The Barn Café is open from 10.30am to 5pm 6 days a week, closed Wednesdays, from April to October. The café serves home baked cakes and cream teas as well as light lunches.