A HISTORIC 300-year-old mill is set to receive vital repairs after volunteers discovered a damaging leak.

Alderford Mill in Sible Hedingham needs urgent repairs due to a leaking crack which could destroy the building’s foundations.

Volunteers with the Friends of Alderford Mill group will conduct the repair work over the course of a week starting on August 2.

The leak is below the water level of the mill’s neighbouring river so volunteers are going to drain the water flow in order to reach the damage.

The mill’s sluice gates are also in need of repair after years of wear and tear.

Owen Hawkes, chairman of the FOAM group, said: “Alderford Mill needs a vital repair that is going to require the opening of the sluice gate to lower the river level to its minimum at the input to the mill.

“At the same time the sluice gates will be worked on to prevent further deterioration of the mechanism.

“Weather permitting, no heavy rain is forecast, the sluice gates will be opened on August 2 for seven days allowing time for the work to be completed.

“Last year we replaced the mill’s water wheel and we were going to have an official opening ceremony before Covid-19.

“There is water leaking in under the mill and it is causing quite a few problems.

“It’s leaking into the pit and is filling up a large void under the mill which could ruin the foundations.

“We’re going to be draining the river and we think we know where the leak is. When the water is drained, we’re going to seal up any holes. They’ll take about four days to dry.”

The work will undoubtedly have an effect on the water flow through Sible Hedingham and Halstead.

It has been predicted the water level along the riverside walk in Sible Hedingham will be low. Halstead will also experience some fluctuating water levels.

Alderford Mill is one of the best preserved watermills in Essex.

It was built in about 1720 although there has been a mill on the site for many centuries.

Throughout its existence the mill has seen many changes, including extensions to house new equipment and to respond to the demands of new technology.

Originally powered by a water wheel the mill was converted to steam power in the 19th century and later to diesel power.

Mr Hawkes added: “The gates will be opened in stages over a two hour period to prevent a wave flowing down the river towards Maplestead Mill and Halstead. 

“Following that, the flow will continue as normal until the gates are closed when there will be a period of little flow until the water level in the lead reaches the top of the gates when it will return to normal.”

All the work on the mill is being carried out by FOAM and has been funded by volunteers.