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Major heritage project about to start in the Humber Bridge Country Park - Quarry to Country Park

Work gets under way on Wednesday (2 October) on a major project in the Humber Bridge Country Park. 

Whiting Mill

Quarry to Country Park is a heritage project funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund and delivered by East Riding of Yorkshire Council and their contractors, Ashcourt Construction.

The main aim of the project is to improve physical and intellectual access to the natural, industrial and social heritage of the Humber Bridge Country Park, a former chalk quarry known fondly in the locality as Little Switzerland.

The project will see the refurbishment and re-opening of the Humber Foreshore’s Hessle Mill, a rare example of an early nineteenth century whiting mill that once ground chalk from the nearby quarry.

A £724,000 grant from the National Lottery Heritage Fund will fund most of the £968,869 project, with the council covering the remainder of the costs.

Once open, the mill will form part of ‘The Chalk Walk’ heritage trail, which will follow a path through the oldest area of the quarry, continuing on four levels inside the mill’s tower. Construction work is due to start on 2 October, with completion by Spring 2020.

A schedule of fun and interesting learning events for schools and the community will follow the opening of the Chalk Walk trail throughout 2020 and 2021.

There are also opportunities to get involved in the project, either as a volunteer to steward at the mill or help with learning events, or by contributing oral history for a new archive of recorded memories about the quarry, mill and Little Switzerland.  Anybody wishing to register an interest in volunteering can do so via the project website (www.quarrytocountrypark.co.uk) or for more info can contact Dr Alex Ombler on (01482) 392713 or alex.ombler@eastriding.gov.uk 

Unlike the windmill at Skidby, which ground corn and wheat to make flour,  Hessle Mill was an industrial ‘whiting windmill’ designed to crush chalk  from the nearby quarry  that  now forms the Humber Bridge Country Park.  The exact date of the mill’s construction is not known, but based on the design of the tower and the cap and sails (which were removed in 1925) it was likely built sometime between 1810 and 1815, when it replaced an earlier horse-powered mill. The crushed chalk was used to manufacture a purified powered form of chalk called whiting. During the nineteenth century this was mainly used as a filler in paint or mixed with linseed oil to make putty; later it was used more extensively in the production of rubber, paint and plastics.

Chalk extraction stopped in 1970 and the wider quarry area returned to nature. The construction and opening of the Humber Bridge in 1981 brought a new focus to the site, which had been purchased by Humberside County Council during the previous decade. In 1982 the whiting mill acquired grade II listed status and four years later the Humber Bridge Country Park was opened by the local council as an attraction for the thousands who visited the area. In 2002 the Country Park was also designated a local nature reserve due to its wildlife value and importance to the local community.

During the improvement scheme, diversions for visitors to the park will be in place and will be signposted on site.

Councillor Shaun Horton, portfolio holder for tourism, culture and leisure at East Riding of Yorkshire Council, said: “We’re delighted that we’ve received this support thanks to National Lottery players. The project will unlock the tourism potential of this beautiful nature reserve, which is already popular with local people, by investing in the country park’s heritage assets. This major project will help showcase the area in a visual way and allow people to explore the park’s history.”

David Renwick, Director, England, North, for the National Lottery Heritage Fund, said: “The combination of rare natural, and industrial heritage is an important part of the Humber Estuary. We are delighted that National Lottery players can support the preservation of Whiting Mill, improve access to the site, and enable a programme of activities to help uncover the geological, natural, and industrial heritage of the area, providing greater accessibility and understanding for the community, volunteers and visitors.”