Jack did not fall down or break his crown, but the landmark Clayton windmill had plenty of people scratching their heads after refusing to yield his 147-year-old cap in a day of technical drama on the South Downs.
Hard engineering facts replaced the fantasy of the nursery rhyme as Jack proved too stubborn when engineers tried to remove his rotting white cap for repairs last Friday.
The first attempt on the most dire of days of rain and mist failed because the cap surprised everyone by being stuck firmly on its curb. The unexpectedly strong resistance made the load potentially too heavy for crane driver Gary Turner, from Littlehampton, of the firm Coussens, to safely lift.
So Jack kept his jealously-guarded cap, topped by snow on Monday, at least until the arrival of a much heavier crane planned for this morning.
Jeremy Hole, of JHE engineering company, comes from a family of generations of wheewrights and millwrights and is used to the unpredictability of mill work out in the elements. He was returning to Jack this week to inspect it for hidden snags in readiness for today’s attempt.
A 60-tonne crane with a lift capacity at the site of about 4.7 tonnes proved unable to budge the cap and an 80 or 100-tonne machine is likely to be there today.
Mr Hole, in charge of the lift, told the Middy earlier this week of Jack’s refusal to budge in front of the media: “It’s a mystery. Going on comparisons of other caps we have lifted off that was the crane for the job. But you never know with windmills.
“There must be something around the back of the cap that is fouling it up.
“It’s very difficult to know what it actually weighs until we do lift it off, and until then we are all scratching our heads.”
When the cap is eventually lifted it will be to the relief of owners Claire and Jolyon Maugham.
The complete overhaul of the lapped-ash wooden cap is expected to take about two years.
A temporary wooden cap made was ready to be lifted into place by crane to keep the windmill waterproof while the repair is done.
Keymer roofing firm PDF did the felt work on the replacement cap and guaranteed the work for ten years.
Jolyon said as the rain beat down on Friday afternoon: “The removal of the cap and the installation of the temporary cap is an important part of the improvements we will be making. I hope we will be able to make some headway on the work inside fairly quickly now that the mill is being made waterproof. It’s a really substantial amount of work to be done.”
The lifting and repair of the cap is likely to cost Jolyon and Claire about £10,000.
Gentleman Jack, the dark, shy retiring partner to the equally famous and far more glamourous Jill, had not doffed his white cap since being built in the 1860s.
After some cautious lifting attempts and a technical huddle the day was abandoned and plans laid for a bigger crane to be squeezed down the narrow lane for today’s planned lift.
Jack’s cap was due to be taken off today (Thursday, March 14) but it has been postponed.
For more on Jack read the full story in today’s Mid Sussex Times
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Weather for Haywards Heath
Thursday 23 May 2013
Temperature: 4 C to 11 C
Wind Speed: 18 mph
Wind direction: North west
Temperature: 5 C to 10 C
Wind Speed: 20 mph
Wind direction: North west