After a massive lightning strike, Barbados’ Morgan Lewis Windmill Gets Help

Repairs are finally commencing on the historic Morgan Lewis Mill, which was rendered inoperative by a lightning strike in September of 2008.

Can another lightning strike be prevented? No, nature can’t be controlled. But this time, the Trust is installing a lightning conductor, to minimize the impact from any such freak event in the future!

Can another lightning strike be prevented? No, nature can’t be controlled. But this time, the Trust is installing a lightning conductor, to minimize the impact from any such freak event in the future!

Anyone who has examined a Barbados 25-cent coin would know what the iconic St. Andrew structure looks like. Its awesomeness, however, is only revealed by seeing its huge sails turn in the wind. This experience is what the repairs will restore.

Built in the 1700s, Morgan Lewis Mill ground canes until the 1940s. By 1996, it was listed at the number five position of endangered sites by the World Monument Watch. When the Barbados National Trust restored it to working order in 1999, the enormous mill became a true rarity—the only historic, working sugar windmill in the world. Barbadians and visitors alike turned out by the hundreds for its monthly winter turnings, to witness the amazing technology at work and to drink fresh cane juice.

Routine inspection in 2007 revealed some degradation to wooden parts, and local enthusiasts undertook repairs. Less than a year later, their efforts were thwarted by the force of nature, when lightning struck the sail frame spine, an arm, and the spindle.

Further problems then set in, delaying major repairs. Gigantic greenheart logs had to be sourced and transported from Guyana. Specific experts needed to be available to direct the work.

But first there was the matter of settling the insurance claim. “It is impossible to put a replacement value on the mill,” said William Gollop, General Manager of the Trust. “How do you measure the worth of something that’s the only one of its kind in the world?

While generous, the insurance settlement will not cover the full cost of restoration. The Trust thanks those who have already contributed in-kind or cash gifts, and now invites the public to make generous donations, earmarked for Morgan Lewis restoration. The target amount is $100,000.

For expertise, the Trust turned to the director of the mill’s original restoration, Mr. David Nicholls of Chiltern Partnership. He has just arrived on island, along with Mr. Paul Sellwood of Owlsworth IJP, Ltd., a company whose specialty is the care and repair of historic structures. They will spend a month on the project, working with steadfast National Trust volunteers who have maintained the mill so far. They welcome the involvement of groups such as educational institutions, and associations of engineers and architects. Interested parties are advised to phone Mr. Gollop at 426-2421.

Work on Morgan Lewis Mill is expected to be completed within two months. Anyone who appreciates feats of engineering will find it interesting to observe.

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