Ballycopeland Windmill to be refurbished

The Ballycopeland Windmill was last restored around 1978
The Ballycopeland Windmill was last restored around 1978

An historic Co Down windmill which fell into disrepair in recent years is set to feel winds of change after news the DoE is set to carry out a refurbishment.

News that Ballycopeland Windmill in Millisle, a plastered and white-washed tapering tower is set to be upgraded came after a Belfast man wrote to the Environment Minister asking for permission to restore it.

Built in the late 18th or early 19th century, the windmill was worked by the McGilton family until the 1914-1918 war.

After being acquired by the NI Government it was later restored around 1978.

But its recent demise as a tourist attraction led to Andy Wilkinson, who “enjoyed visiting the site with my daughters”, writing a letter to the DoE minister asking for his permission to refurbish it with other interested parties.

When the News Letter asked the DoE about Mr Wilkinson’s request a spokesman said: “Environment Minister, Mark H Durkan, has instructed his officials to urgently progress the refurbishment of Ballycopeland windmill.

“The specification process for the work, with the assistance of a specialist conservation engineer, has already begun.

“It is hoped that a working specification may be agreed and that works on site will be commenced by the department in the autumn.”

Mr Durkan said he is “committed to ensuring that our state care monuments continue to be accessible to the visiting public and tourists alike”.

“While Ballycopeland windmill itself has had to be closed for health and safety reasons, the adjacent Miller’s Cottage and Drying Room, which is part of the mill complex, remain open to the public Thursday–Monday, 10.00am-4.30pm until the end of September.”

Mr Wilkinson said: “That is fantastic news.”

“Our pressure has paid off,” he added. “I am surprised that the minister has been able to turn it around this quickly as we had only written to him last month. It is just great news.”

A typical Irish stone tower mill, Ballycopeland has a moveable cap turned by means of an automatic fantail, ensuring that the sails are always facing into the wind. When the wind blows directly on to the sails the blades or vanes of the fantail are not moved; if the wind veers, it catches these blades and the whole cap turns slowly on an iron ring or ‘curb’, bringing the sails back into the wind.

In addition to the ground floor the mill has three storeys – a ‘drive’ floor, ‘stone’ floor and ‘hopper’ floor, from the first to third level respectively. The rotating cap sits above the hopper floor.

Three pairs of millstones sit at the ‘stone’ floor.