A WINDMILL which has stood unused for nearly 100 years came back to life today.

It was the culmination of more than 30 years work for Wheatley villagers, as all four canvas sails were attached to the rebuilt timber frame of Wheatley Windmill and the restored mill creaked back into action.

Caroline Dalton, chairman of Wheatley Windmill Restoration Committee, said: “It looks stupendous.

“It is very satisfying to see it all happening.”

The mill was last used regularly in 1914 and a restoration society was formed in 1977 by Wilfred Foreman to repair and rebuild the mill.

It has cost in the region of £150,000, with funding coming from open days at the mill and a £38,000 grant from South Oxfordshire District Council.

Mrs Dalton, who has been involved in the campaign since about 1989, said: “Since 1977, people have been beavering away, doing work and raising money and so on and so forth.

“Just about everything has had to be done, there was a lot of machinery when we first began but the building was useless and the tower was cracked right down the middle because it had been struck by lightning.”

Originally the mill, parts of which date back to the 18th century, was used to grind wheat and ochre and it is hoped that on special occasions the mill will now be used to grind flour.

But first the 150-strong restoration committee needs to find someone who can operate the mill stones.

Mrs Dalton said: “So far the only miller we know who does this kind of work, Ken Lidbette, has a volunteer job in Lincolnshire.

“But he has a son in Wallingford so we are hoping we can tempt him to do some stuff for us.”

Millwrights David and Stephen Emperingham and Karl Bettles have been helping redevelop the mill. Today, Mr Bettles and Stephen Emperingham got the 25ft long sails rotating for the first time in decades.

Mr Bettles, who had to apply the brakes after blustery wind conditions got the sails moving rather faster than the recommended eight revolutions per minute, hailed yesterday’s test run as a success.

He said: “It is fantastic, especially for these people who have been working on it for so long.

“You’re a little bit concerned when it’s first run because there is a lot of old gear in there but it has gone pretty well.

“The more mills going and producing local flour, the better.”

A small part of the mechanism broke during its first run. Mr Bettles said it would not cause major difficulties — but would need replacing before it could be used again. The mill is open on the second Sunday of every month from May to October and it is hoped it will be up and running at an open day soon.