Windmills and Ivy Covered Churches

On Thursday 21st March the Society welcomed a friend and former chairman, Mr Mike Knights, to talk to us about the role of his team in "working with buildings in Norfolk". He is the Historic Buildings Officer for Norfolk County Council, a County in which three are some 10,000 listed buildings. It was a wonderful occasion. For an hour we were taken on one of those educational holiday tours which are widely advertised these days. We trekked across the whole length and breadth of the country, looking at fine buildings and engineering structures without the discomfort and inconvenience of the travelling itself. What we saw through the slides was an enormous richness of buildings and bridges, many of which are still in a state of disrepair. Mike Knights explained how the County Council, in association with other organisations, was making efforts to restore and preserve these structures; e.g. the oldest concrete bridge in England (1869), Wraxham Great Barn, Tell Barn Cottages. The record of achievement is impressive, helped by a level of patronage by the worthy which is more readily associated with bygone centuries.

We will all have our memories of what we were shown and told. For me, two aspects of Mike Knight's talk will remain in my memory. Firstly, there is the local craftsmanship; handling local materials in the restoration of the buildings - the sedge, the reeds, the mud, the lime wash. Secondly, there are the windmills and the work of the Norfolk Windmill Trust. In the past, to me, a windmill has been a windmill, has been a windmill etc. Not any more. I shall now look upon such structures with a different perspective. It was fascinating to learn about a variety of uses to which windmills were put; about the different designs, including Old Buckham "the fattest mill in England", about the materials in which they were built and about the ingenious engineering which they incorporated.

The evening was a kaleidoscope of enjoyment, enrichment and learning. The talk was delivered with colour, humour, enthusiasm and expertise. If this talk is an example of what is to come in the forthcoming programme, then the Civic Society will have a very good year. It was a memorable occasion.

Mike Tole
March 1996