IT is one of Scotland’s oldest surviving windmills that has long been tilting towards a perilous future.
But plans to safeguard one of the hidden gems of central Scotland’s industrial heritage have been given a second wind, thanks to a new tranche of donations and support from prominent figures.
Standing tall in the South Lanarkshire town of Carluke, the 18th century High Mill is regarded by heritage experts as a building of national significance.
The most complete windmill of its type in existence in the country, it has endured a torrid time since falling out of use around 1930, shortly after being converted to gas power.
Now, with the structure in danger of collapsing entirely, the likes of Newsnight presenter, Kirsty Wark, and Sir Angus Grossart, the veteran merchant banker, are among those offering finance and support to a grassroots campaign to safeguard the mill for future generations.
A wider fundraising drive has been launched with the aim of transforming the building into Scotland’s only working historic windmill, while also reviving its role as a functioning community space.
Built by the Dick family, the mill has stood sentinel on Carluke’s Chapel Street since 1797, but architectural surveys by the Strathclyde Building Preservation Trust have shown it is in a critical condition.
Last March, there was a partial collapse of the masonry on its imposing tower and there are fears the entire structure could crumble at any given moment.
Sir Angus, the chairman of Noble Grossart, the Scottish merchant bank he jointly founded in 1969, is one of three patrons of the scheme. He is joined by Sir Robin Biggam, the businessman and former chairman of the Independent Television Commission, who grew up in the town’s Langshaw Crescent, and Lex Gold, a one-time executive director of the Scottish Premier League and chairman of Hibernian, who stays in the neighbouring village of Braidwood.
Sir Angus, who grew up in the town and can trace his family’s involvement in Carluke life back generations, told Scotland on Sunday: “The campaign to restore the mill is not only a heritage project of considerable significance, but a leadership project for the town to focus on. It brings together a number of aspirations and there are a lot of possibilities surrounding.
“It will boost the confidence in Carluke’s past but also its future. We need to foster this sense of identity and community and a lot of that can come from recognising what was handed down to us. There’s a torch there that’s gone out and it’s up to our generation to light it and carry it forward.”
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The Carluke Development Trust High Mill Steering Group hope to not only preserve the building’s fabric, but reinstate it to full working order so that it mills local grain to produce flour for sale in the community.
Restoring the windmill to its former glory is just the beginning of the group’s plans, with numerous ideas for its use under consideration such as a wedding venue, cafe, museum space or educational facility. In all, it is estimated it will cost around £250,000 to acquire the mill and the land, with the overall budget for the scheme somewhere in the region of £4m.
In the space of less than two months, organisers have raised £12,000, a rate of fundraising that has given them confidence in meeting their ambition of completing the project by 2020.
Wark is among several key individuals who have contributed to the initiative, and has also sent a letter of support to trust’s organisers.
A draft stage one application has also been lodged with the Big Lottery Fund for potential grant funding, while Historic Scotland has offered to provide assistance to carry out temporary repairs that would stabilise parts of the A-listed mill structure that are at greatest risk.
Kathleen Feeney, development manager with the trust, said the support of high profile figures was a major boon.
“There’s a lot of networking involved in fundraising and as well as contributing undisclosed amounts, these individuals can help generate interest among their own contacts, it has been very positive,” she explained.
“We all have absolute confidence in this project. The fact it took under seven weeks to raise £12,000 is just astonishing and gives us all real hope. If we can do that in seven weeks, what can we do in seven months?”
Christine Warren, the chair of the steering group, who lives opposite the mill, agreed: “This is a unique treasure in the middle of our town and when it was first built, it was a tourist attraction. The support we have received has been greatly encouraging - we’ve had money sent from the US, Canada, Germany and Australia - and it will be a draw again.”