Elmwood Projects: creating a visitor experience for an historic Lake District water mill

In 2019 Elmwood Projects was appointed by The Eskdale Mill & Heritage Trust (EMHT) to deliver a building restoration and Exhibition fit out of the historic Eskdale Corn Mill in Cumbria, parts of which date from the early 16th Century

The Grade II listed mill and its outbuildings form the last operating water-powered mill in the Lake District. The Trust urgently needed to take action to stabilise the structure of the buildings, and associated machinery and artefacts. Simultaneously, the organisation hoped to create a refreshed, engaging visitor experience to promote this well-preserved historical site.

The mill’s location, while outstandingly beautiful, presented Elmwood with several challenges for access. At the end of a very long and narrow country road in the Eskdale Valley, the mill is one of a small huddle of buildings on the north side of the fast-flowing Whillan Beck just outside the village of Boot.

The original buildings and their setting create an idyllic rural atmosphere and many historical features and working parts of the mill still survive. Through the new visitor experience and exhibition, the EMHT sought to tell the story of how alterations and improvements in technology over time can be seen in how the mill developed and still operates today.

As specialist museum & heritage fit-out contractors, Elmwood was familiar with delivering exhibitions and visitor experiences at many locations similar to this historic site. The team’s knowledge and understanding meant the particular need for environmental sympathy during the project was no surprise, with careful planning and co-ordination necessary to protect this unique building.

Elmwood’s works for the mill’s fit out included joinery and setworks, plus graphics, wayfinding, audio visual, interactives and showcases provided by supply chain partners. The company also ensured protection to existing building fabric, finished doorways, walls and floors and had materials for install delivered in compact component form for simple on-site assembly, minimising noise and dust.

The newly revived mill has been a hit with visitors even in its tucked-away location, offering as it does a unique and interactive new visitor experience. “This place is really amazing to see, beautifully restored, great informative displays and stunning scenery,” said one visitor on a recent Tripadvisor review.