SPAB Fellows: "Being a Millwright is a Dream Job"

Type:
10/05/2024
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SPAB
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Ahead of National Mills Weekend, we caught up with Daniel Cheetham, carpenter and 2023 SPAB Millwright Fellow, to hear about the next steps in his journey with this endangered craft. 

What have you been up to since you finished the Fellowship in December? 

It’s been an incredible five months. I was lucky enough to be offered work by the Suffolk Millwright team who I spent a great deal of time with as a SPAB Fellow. I often have moments where I pause for a second and really take in what I'm doing, where I am and who I'm with. It's surreal to have joined the team professionally and I couldn't be more grateful. 

So far, I’ve been maintaining mills in Yorkshire, Lincolnshire, Norfolk and of course Suffolk. It has really opened my eyes to the mill vernacular and the vast differences in workings and terminology in each county. 

Can you tell us about a project you've worked on recently that you're particularly proud of? 

Recently, I was lucky enough to spend three months finishing a five-year project at Sibsey Trader windmill, which included a brand new cap and sails.  

We installed the shutters into the sails 30 metres in the air in the longest and windiest winter many of us have seen. We then fitted and assembled the critical machinery which operates the shutters in the sails, including fabricating missing parts using old photos.  

Once we had finally finished, I brought my son to the mill to see us work it for the first time. I must say seeing those shutters close perfectly and the sails start to turn effortlessly left me speechless and teary eyed.  

 

Millwright training is so important, especially now that it's an endangered craft. What would you say to someone considering going into this profession? 

As craftspeople, we all have that one craft that really drives us. But with millwrighting you need to be able to turn your hand to many things. Mills aren't just buildings, neither are they just machines. You have to really understand both.  

Being a millwright is a dream job but undoubtedly hard work. It involves working at height and in confined spaces, and a lot of travel. If you’re thinking about starting this as a career, the Millwright Fellowship means you can learn about building conservation on a broad scale and get enough millwrighting experience to decide if this is the path for you. If you want to develop your understanding of the mill world and what it takes to be a part of it, I’m not sure there’s a better way than the Fellowship! 

Applications for our 2025 Fellowship will open later in the summer. Find out more about the SPAB Fellowship.


Images: Daniel Cheetham

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