Restoration efforts under way at Mostert’s Mill

Mostert’s Mill in Mowbray was gutted by last year’s fire on Table Mountain, but restoration work is now under way.

The historic Mostert’s Mill is on the road to recovery one year after it was gutted by a massive wildfire on Table Mountain.

The fire swept from Rhodes Memorial to Devil’s Peak over three days, leaving the 226-year-old mill in ruins, along with other heritage landmarks – including the Rhodes Memorial Tea Room and UCT’s Jagger Library – and several homes (“Counting the cost of Table Mountain firestorm,” Southern Suburbs Tatler, April 22).

At the end of last month, the national Department of Public Works and Infrastructure gave the Friends of Mostert’s Mill (FOMM) approval to restore the old mill to its former glory.

Heritage Western Cape has also given the green light, saying the work must be monitored by an architect with heritage experience

FOMM has established a restoration team headed by John Hammer, its chairman; Andy Selfe, as technical manager in charge of manufacturing of the machinery; John Wilson-Harris, as a structural manager in charge of restoring the building; and Clive Thorpe, as the financial manager.

Mr Hammer said the organisation had so far raised R200 000, including support from private anonymous donors and Dutch windmill operator Sven Verbeek, who raised more than 5500 euros (R89200).

The mill’s components, such as the brake wheel, lantern pinion and windshaft have been made by local carpenters. “Before we put the thatch on, all the components of the machinery must be on the inside,” Mr Hammer said.

The mill’s interior is being plastered with lime plaster and a curb ring at the top of the mill will allow the roof to rotate.

A pipe has been installed up the tail pole of the mill to get water to the roof in the event of future fires. “The hose up the tail pole will have sprinklers on the thatch roof,” Mr Hammer said.

They hoped to have the work completed by next April, the second anniversary of the fire, said Mr Hammer.

Gabriel Fagan Architects is helping with the project. “Since the fire, we have been in contact with the Friends of Mostert’s Mill, discussing plans to repair the mill. We did the restoration of the mill in 1995, so we would have some insight into it,” said John Wilson-Harris, the firm’s director.

The Department of Public Works and Infrastructure did not respond to questions by deadline.

The public can follow the restoration process at mostertsmill.co.za.

The interior of Mostert’s Mill is being plastered with lime plaster.
The newly constructed brake wheel and lantern pinion that will go inside the mill.