Apprentice-led mill restoration project through to National Construction Awards Final

6 Mile House before restoration ©Broads Authority

6 Mile House during restoration ©Broads Authority

6 Mile House after restoration ©Broads Authority

Brandon Jarvis ©Broads Authority

Tom Allen ©Broads Authority

An award-winning project to train young people in Broads’ mill restoration skills has made it through to the prestigious Constructing Excellence National Final Awards, administered by the Building Research Establishment (BRE).

Two Broads Authority apprentices have spent a year of painstaking work restoring a 200-year-old drainage mill, ‘6 Mile House’ for future generations to enjoy. After the quality of their workmanship was acknowledged at the Norfolk Constructing Excellence Awards in the Preservation and Rejuvenation category (May 2021), they subsequently won the Regional award in the category of Conservation and Regeneration (August 2021). The project is now through to the National Final Awards.

The vast majority of the work was completed thanks to the enthusiasm, perseverance and professionalism of Heritage Construction Skills Apprentices, Brandon Jarvis and Tom Allen, and their dedicated Supervisor, Sean Grimes.

Brandon and Tom, whose training is supported by City College Norwich, carried out the restoration of Six Mile House drainage mill, on Halvergate marshes.

The project saw the apprentices restore the whole 4-storey mill. They replaced the mill’s doors and windows, as well as repairing and re-coating the brickwork. In addition, they reinstated the stairs and floors inside the structure. They then built a unique cap to put on top of it.

Careful consideration was given to ensuring that the restoration of the mill was sympathetic with both the heritage and ecological needs of the Broads. The mill now features new bat boxes, part of a wildlife enhancement scheme for bats and owls, and will hopefully will become a haven for many birds, mammals and reptiles.

The grade II listed mill dates back to the 1800s and was originally used to drain land south of the River Bure. Its restoration is part of the Water, Mills and Marshes: Broads Landscape Partnership, supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, to repair several of the iconic drainage mills on Halvergate marshes – an area which boasts one of the greatest concentration of such mills in Europe.

Andrew Farrell, Broads Authority, Water, Mills & Marshes Programme Manager, said of the achievement:

“We are so grateful to have won the Regional award and then make it through to the Final. It is a testament to their outstanding work, what our small team was able to accomplish over the past year, in spite of the many hurdles to overcome during the pandemic.

“We’re continuing on our mission to help preserve and restore more of the iconic drainage mills in the Broads, and integrate heritage skills and innovative solutions to ensure that they will continue to stand for generations to come.”

A spokesperson for Constructing Excellence said of the project:

“This winning submission, as part of the Conservation and Regeneration Award demonstrates just how much the construction industry is progressing. Nonetheless, it shows that you and your team are very much at the forefront of that.”

Carpentry Apprentice, Tom Allen, 27, said:

“The mill was pretty much hollow before, the only thing left in it was the main shaft. We put a new roof on it and made stairs from scratch, which I hadn’t done before. Because the mill was a bit wonky, as some of the building had sunk, it required a bit more playing around with things.”

Reflecting on the pair’s award-winning restoration work, bricklaying apprentice Brandon Jarvis, 25, said:

“Obviously I took pride in seeing the end result. It was pretty cool to see, knowing we’d done it all ourselves. I’d like to stay in this line of work, working on heritage buildings. It’s just something I’ve always been interested in. I’ve always preferred historic buildings over modern ones.”

Tom also plans to continue working in heritage construction after his apprenticeship.

The Water, Mills and Marshes team head to the Constructing Excellence National Final Awards on 28 January 2022 at the London Marriott, Grosvenor Square.

 

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