I visited Thurlaston Windmill in Warwickshire and witnessed a remarkable restoration project run by Sam McIntosh of SGM Construction Services Ltd. The aim is clear: rectify previous conversion missteps and breathe new life into this historical landmark, while adapting it for modern living.
Built in 1794, Thurlaston Windmill was decommissioned in 1925, left derelict for many years and converted into a residence in the 1970s. It was Grade II listed in 1987 but its previous conversion left much room for improvement. Now, a complete restoration is underway to that honour the windmill's heritage while ensuring its structural integrity for years to come.
Master Builder Sam, originally a carpenter, has taken on management of this project on behalf of his clients from conception, and embraced the challenge of restoring the windmill. Alongside his skilled team of tradespeople, Sam has also engaged specialist architects and structural engineers to ensure a solid and thoughtful build from the outset.
Challenges and solutions
The curved, tapering structure of the windmill presents multiple challenges. In tackling them, a comprehensive 3D scan of the windmill was carried out. This modern approach has provided the team with precise measurements. The resulting renderings from these scans have been crucial in designing this unique space and ensuring that the new internal structure, and stairs which are always a challenge, fit perfectly.
An intricate steel framework has been constructed to uphold the building while preserving the original timbers. A ring beam on each level is joined and supported using high-performance ‘111 GP’ Cementous grout from Sika. The grout ensures a strong bond between the steel and the existing structure, a crucial aspect given the windmill’s unique shape. All steel will eventually be hidden, leaving only the original timber visible, adding another layer of intricacy to the design.
Other bespoke solutions will feature, such as custom-made windows with tapered reveals and a bespoke, locally crafted, curved kitchen.
Sustainable and heritage-respectful practices
The restoration embraces sustainability, with lime-based mortars, plasters, and paints being used throughout to ensure breathability. Modern touches like air-source heat pumps, underfloor heating and managed ventilation are being introduced to ensure energy efficiency. Even hiding these modern services poses a challenge in this unique build.
The view from the top
Arriving at the top of the substantial, bespoke-designed scaffolding, the mist and drizzle didn’t obscure the breathtaking views over the rest of the village and Draycote Water. While at the roof, I admired the new hardwood timber fascia and soffits, as well as the strong nerve of the team working at height. The exterior demands attention to detail where a traditional guttering system is unsuitable, hence the neat leadwork cladding on windowsills.
The level of care and expertise shown by the team, and the commitment of the new owners to do right by this historical building are truly commendable. It's a blend of modern engineering, traditional craftsmanship, and a respect for heritage that promises a quality restoration that looks forward to the next 229 years. I eagerly look forward to seeing the result.
Contact Nicola De Sousa, FMB Central Director on 07769 687 239 or send an email.