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Ulster’s only working windmill gets fresh wind with £1.2m investment

Ballycopeland Windmill, County Down

Regeneration work is due to get under way at Ballycopeland Windmill, Millisle – the only working windmill in Ulster.

The £1.2 million investment will see the construction of a visitor centre with coffee shop, new access road with car parking facilities and refurbishment of the existing miller’s cottage and kilnman’s house, with work due to commence in early September.

The Department for Communities will invest £700,000, with a further £500,000 coming from the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs’ Rural Tourism Fund and £30,000 from Ards and North Down Borough Council.

Computer generated images of the project show the new visitor centre/café, the car park and the landscaping works at the windmill

Communities Minister Carál Ní Chuilín said: “Ballycopeland Windmill is very important in many ways. It is the only roller-reefing windmill left in the world. It is one of only a small number of windmills still in working order on the island – despite the fact that there used to be dozens in east County Down - and even rarer as it still retains its original machinery inside, along with its ancillary buildings.

“This project will restore the range of buildings, update the interpretative material, and provide a visitor centre, café and play area. It will build on Historic Environment Division’s work on the windmill itself. It will deliver wide-ranging community and economic benefits to the area. I am therefore delighted that the Department for Communities, Department for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs, and Ards & North Down Borough Council are collaborating on this significant investment to the windmill.”

Computer generated images of the project show the new visitor centre/café, the car park and the landscaping works at the windmill

Welcoming the commencement of the regeneration work, DAERA Minister Edwin Poots said:

This is a great opportunity to invest in our rural built heritage and in so doing enhance this unique tourist offering in North Down. It will also show the link between farming and industry in rural Northern Ireland in days gone by. The project is one of a number of unique rural tourism projects being funded by DAERA, with more opening up over the next two years.”

The Mayor of Ards and North Down, Councillor Trevor Cummings said:

“Ards and North Down Borough Council is delighted to support the exciting development of Ballycopeland Windmill, which is a unique visitor asset situated on the Ards Peninsula that’s known for its iconic image. The partnership investment will allow restoration, enhanced facilities and allow more visitors to experience the wonderful site. The project will deliver both community and visitor benefits and we look forward to its successful completion.”

Lowry’s Building Contractors have been appointed to carry out the works, which are due to be completed by May 2021.

• The site will be closed to the public until it reopens in Summer 2021.

• The windmill sits on the Ards Peninsula of Co. Down which was an area in which a large number of mills were situated, due to the fact that it was an excellent grain growing landscape, it experiences consistent prevailing winds and it was close to ports from which grain could be transported. The mill began operation in the late 18th century and continued production of animal feed until 1915, when it ceased operations at the outset of World War 1.

• In 1937 it was taken into care of the State and since then it has seen various phases of conservation. In recent years the mill has suffered damage from excessive wind and a substantial conservation project to repair the mill was started by Historic Environment Division in 2015, the first significant phase of work since the late 1970s-early 1980s, exactly 100 years after the mill had ceased to operate.

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