In 1993 Wealden District Council were instrumental in upgrading the Windmill from Grade II to Grade II* Listed status. They required that the building not be allowed to fall down and a steelwork was constructed to support the mill.
In 1996 the Windmill Hill Windmill Trust was established and an application made to the Heritage Lottery Fund for a grant for the restoration of the windmill.
The conservation phase
The conservation phase consisted of:
– buying and constructing a scaffold to completely cover the mill,
– making a photographic record of the exterior and interior,
– a survey of timber decay,
– beetle and rot treatment carried out to the worst affected areas.
– a condition survey of the mill,
– drawing up a budget estimate of the cost of restoration.
The Trust submitted a detailed proposal to the Heritage Lottery Fund in January 2001and in December 2001 the Heritage Lottery Fund awarded a grant of £577,000 towards the total cost of £770,000 for the restoration of the Windmill at Windmill Hill. This remains the biggest-ever grant given by the Heritage Lottery Fund in the UK for the restoration of an individual windmill.
The restoration 2003 to 2006
In October 2003 work was started. The roof was lifted off, then the windshaft with brake wheel, and remaining timbers and components of the mill body. These were all transported to the workshops of IJP Building Conservation Ltd of Henley-on-Thames in Oxfordshire – a distance of almost 160 km (about 100 miles).
Once repairs had been completed, a trial assembly was performed to ensure that all jointly fitted together. It was then dismantled, transported to Sussex and constructed on a temporary platform next to the mill. In September 2004 straps were placed around the crown tree and the post bearing was greased. The mill frame was lifted by a crane and lowered gently into the scaffolding space until it settled onto the oak post.
Next followed two pairs of millstones, the windshaft and finally the roof.
The millwrights work on site to fit out the mill with its exterior weatherboarding. The body was covered with zinc sheeting to return the mill to the way it looked in 1894.
The enormous tail ladder with 34 treads was added together with a new tailpole. An automatic turning device, designed to rotate the mill according to the wind direction, was fitted to the bottom of the ladder, a modern addition to the otherwise authentically restored mill.
Four new sweeps were fitted in November 2005 and the mill was opened to the public in September 2006.