A CENTURIES old windmill has been restored to its former glory thanks to the efforts of a local preservation group.

In July last year a sail of the Wheatley windmill fell off its support, which failed due to a piece of rotted timber, making the historic windmill inoperable.

The Wheatley Windmill Preservation Society was quick to spring into action and launched a fundraising campaign to repair the structure in Windmill Lane at a cost of more than £10,000.

Last Sunday society members were joined by people from the local area and former Lord Lieutenant of Oxfordshire Sir Hugo Brunner to re-affix the damaged sail so that it could be preserved for future generations.

Society member Geoff Stephens, 61, said: "It was very well attended and we had a very good response to our appeal overall.

"It was very nice to see so many people there and to have a VIP come along too."

After the sail broke the society met straight away to come up with a way to repair it.

Father-of-two Mr Stephens added: "We decided we would have a go at getting it all put back together over the winter.

"The first snag was having new timber cut.

"It isn't the sort of wood you go down and get from B&Q."

The group had to wait until the spring to cut down the timber needed to install the supports for the brand new sail and put it up alongside the existing ones.

Mr Stephens praised the generosity of both the society's volunteers and other local people who helped fund the project.

He said that the work of one volunteer in particular – Caroline Dalton – had been instrumental in ensuring the windmill was kept in a condition which could be appreciated by both current and future generations.

Mr Stephens said: "It is thanks to the volunteers that we got the sail back.

"The danger of not repairing the mill immediately was for it to become something of a vicious circle of not being able to generate sufficient funds to repair it.

"If we had not got the sail back on quickly there was a real risk that the mill might have needed even more work and it might have gone by the wayside causing it to return to dereliction."

The mill dates back to at least 1671, when it was first mentioned as being 'in a ruinous condition' according to the society.

It was used until about 1914 when it ceased operation, falling into disrepair.

The preservation society was formed in 1976 and set about restoring the windmill.

It holds regular open days at the windmill on the second Sunday of the month up until October as well as regular visits from schools.