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Restoring Woodbridge Tide Mill, 1968 - 1982

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The content of this page is Copyright © Michael Weaver and Robert Cawley

After years of progressive deterioration, the tide mill was near to collapse. The foundation brickwork was cracked and decayed and the corner most vulnerable to the elements, at the river side of the wheelhouse end, was slowly slipping into the estuary. The bases of the main wall posts and the timber sole plate resting on these uncertain foundations had been attacked by wet-rot. The main posts were bowing outwards by as much as nine inches in places as the weight of the roof pressed heavily on the timber frame.

Uneven loading, especially after 1957, when for a decade the mill was little more than a storehouse, had caused twisting of the frame so that many of the key joints had moved apart. The most surprising aspect was the discovery that 'solid' 9in. by 9in. posts were in some places hollow. For many years rats had gnawed a pattern of runs in them, with nests at various junctions. Emergency concreterepairs had not deterred them.

ruin

Before restoration. The water wheel has decayed completely and the cracked and rotten brickworkthreaten to throw the mill into the River Deben. The riverside outhouse is on the point of collapse.

Not only was the basic timber frame in a state of serious decay; doors and windows needed total replacement; floor beams and boards were unsafe, the latter worn thin by steel-tyred trucks and sack barrows. The river-side outhouse was derelict and the lucam framing rotten and dangerous. The outside walls needed complete reboarding and much of the rood strengthening and retiling. The timbers throughout had been attacked by woodworm.

The first and most pressing need was to stabilise the structure and prevent further deterioration especially through tidal erosion. Beneath the ground floor a concrete slab was laid on the mud to keep out rising tides and a rough concrete apron was also laid on the shore in front of the mill to protect the base wall from erosion.

restoration

The first stages of restoration. The water wheel has been removed, and the cracked and rotten brickwork exposed. At the west end, a decayed main beam has been shored up.

The foundation wall brickwork was extensively repaired, strengthened and its level raised. On top of this a 9in. by 9in. reinforced concrete ring beam was formed which runs continuously around the mill, ensuring that the building rests evenly on the foundations and acting as a lateral tie. The new sole plate is fixed to the ring beam and the extra height of this foundation wall will keep out the high tides.

image
The new water wheel is nearly installed.

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