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Windmill & Lifeboat Museum

Mills, Lifeboats and Local History



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Date: 19 September 2011                                                              


Huge bid to get Lytham windmill sails turning again 


The sails and millstones of Lytham’s windmill could be turning again by summer 2014 in a £500,000-plus plan to upgrade it into a working museum.


The famous windmill and the former RNLI boathouse will both be refurbished and modernised in a Lytham Heritage Group project that aims to more than double visitor numbers to approximately 60,000 per year.


The windmill is owned by Fylde Council and run by Lytham Heritage Group volunteers who aim to bid for Heritage Lottery Fund cash for the windmill and boathouse.


The windmill last worked in 1919 when a fire forced the miller out of business. It was last refurbished in 1988 and has since hosted a number of static displays of Lytham life.


The adjacent former RNLI boathouse was home to the famous Lytham lifeboat named Charles Biggs that launched to rescue the 12 man crew of the German-registered barque Mexico in 1886.  The events of that cold December evening cost the lives of 27 crew men when the St Annes and Southport lifeboats capsized in very heavy seas caused by a full West North West gale – the "Mexico disaster" as it became known was the worst tragedy in the history of the RNLI since its formation in 1824.


Councillor David Eaves, Fylde Council leader, said: “The windmill and boathouse are known across Lancashire and the nation. This is a superb proposal by the Lytham Heritage Group that will massively boost visitor numbers to the area.


“The vision involves getting the windmill sails turning again and converting it into a working museum. The boathouse will be turned into a museum dedicated to the Mexico disaster.


“The cabinet will discuss this proposal on Wednesday night. Council officers are already looking at the plan.


“The volunteers are now going to put together a formal bid to the lottery.


“We are very excited with the concept. Everyone knows the windmill, but relatively few people visit it. Having it working again will generate tens of thousands of visitors who we hope will then go on to visit the town centre and Lytham Hall.”


At full speed, the windmill sails will rotate fully once every four seconds.


Modern audio-visual and interactive displays will be installed to bring the windmill up to the standards of a modern museum.


The plans include a glass front for the boathouse. Seats inside the boathouse will be arranged in the same layout as the seats used by the boat’s oarsmen. A reconstruction of the famous boat will also be featured on the slipway.


John Hayfield, Lytham Heritage Group spokesman, said: “There are very nearly five million vehicles that enjoy a clear view of the windmill as they pass along the A584 annually – and they will see the windmill sails revolving. Imagine the delight of passers-by.


“There are a lot of static windmills, but very few working ones and we expect to get visitors from across the country.


“We also expect to increase the number of opening days from 90 to 180.


“The knock-on effect for the wider area will be huge. We hope the windmill and lifeboat house will be the start of a series of heritage trails. Tourist information staff will be able to direct people to Lytham Hall and beyond.


“Returning from Lytham Hall they will pass through the town centre where we expect they will stop off to visit local amenities such as shops, restaurants and cafes.”


The windmill sails will rotate through the use of an electrically powered operating system.  In favourable conditions, the wind will assist rotation but the motor will still govern the maximum speed of the sails.


It is expected that a Heritage Lottery Fund grant application will be lodged in November this year. Volunteers expect that they will have to raise further funds themselves. If the bid is successful work will start at the end of the 2013 summer season with completion expected in mid 2014.


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