Cap that! Jack windmill loses his crown

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It’s lift off! After 147 years, Jack windmill’s cap has been removed for major repairs but it proved to be an engineering challenge that required skill and perseverance.

The first attempt to remove the rotting cap from the iconic windmill on the Downs above Clayton had to be aborted two weeks ago when the cap became stuck. A crane, being operated in thick fog, was unable to lift it.

Jack windmill's cap is taken off for repair. Pic Steve Robards

Jack windmill's cap is taken off for repair. Pic Steve Robards

A heavier crane was brought in today and the cap was removed for major repairs. Our photographer, Steve Robards captured the historic moment.

A temporary cap is being lifted into place to protect Jack from the elements and repairs to the original cap are expected to take about two years.

Gentleman Jack, the dark, shy retiring partner to the equally famous and far more glamorous Jill, had not doffed his white cap since being built in the 1860s.

The mill is owned by Jolyon and Claire Maugham who are keen to restore the mill to its former glory.

Claire said: “We’re not going to turn it into a cafe or a hotel- we’re not changeing its use, we’re literally repairing it.”

Claire and Jolyon are drawing up plans for the whole site and are in close discussion with the National Park Authority and the district council about sensitive changes they want to make to the historic granary as well as the Mill House, which was built in the 1960s.

Claire said: “Part of the house can be seen from Wolstonbury Hill. We want to remove the PVC cladding that was put on at a later date and put on wooden cladding that was there originally and will look much better.”

Claire and Jolyon want to retain the oldest parts of the granary that is linked to Jack by a tunnel, but they will make structural changes, with a functional space that can be used for chamber music recitals and family gatherings.

Claire said: “It will cost a significant six figure sum - who knows what the total will be but it’s a very special place and we want to keep it that way.”