IT HAS dominated the countryside between two South Oxfordshire villages for the past 250 years.

But after decades of deterioration and neglect, the stone tower of Great Haseley windmill is being fully restored to its original working order as one of the UK’s largest remaining stone mills.

The Great Haseley Windmill Trust has so far raised £300,000 towards the mill’s full restoration.

Last month witnessed a key moment in the restoration work when the new cap was hoisted by crane on top of the old mill`. The sails still need to be added, with another £50,000 remaining to be raised.

The project is being co-ordinated by John Alexander, a 71-year-old retired investment banker who lives in the village.

Mr Alexander said: “Like others, the Great Haseley windmill fell into disuse with the invention of the internal combustion engine. It stands in a very dominant position and has remained a significant landmark in South Oxfordshire.”

Unlike many of the tower mills that had once stood as landmarks in and around English villages, the Great Haseley Windmill had not been demolished for its stone, largely thanks to its isolated position.

Mr Alexander said the project would restore the mill to exactly how it would have been towards the end of its working life, having ground corn for 150 years – preserving as much as possible of the original structure.

Once restored it won’t be a commerical mill but will be capable of grinding and will offer demonstrations.

Mr Alexander said that the windmill could be open to visitors, including thousands of schoolchildren, from next year.

The restoration work has involved putting in new floors, replacing beams and repointing the stone tower.

Significant financial help came from the Oxfordshire Building Trust and the CPRE Oxfordshire Buildings Preservation Trust.

Debbie Dance, director of Oxford Preservation Trust which also contributed said: “It is a delight to see it being restored, as part of Oxfordshire’s history in the landscape.

“The inside workings of the windmill have been restored and are a real treasure house of skill and engineering.”

Sir Martin’s fight to save it

Superconducting magnets and pioneering technology are what most people would associate with the name Sir Martin Wood, the founder of Oxford Instruments.

The company was founded in 1959 by Mr Wood and developed the first MRI scanner for hospitals.

But as a teenager Mr Wood developing a more old fashioned interest, after he was given access to Great Haseley Windmill by its then owner.

When the chance arose he bought it in the 1950s, carrying out extensive repair work, and then seven years ago he became a pivotal figure in the fight to restore it., gifting it to the trust.

A date stone exists, marked 1806, but it is thought that the mill was constructed in 1760.

Ironwork dated 1889 suggests repairs at that time, involving winding gear and curb cogs but it is thought the mill came to the end of its working life sometime before the First World War.

Another smaller stone tower mill exists at nearby at Wheatley, which underwent a major restoration over 30 years, completed four years ago.

The same millwright, David Empringham worked on both projects.