They have oddly shaped rooms, need constant maintenance and are riddled with safety hazards.
But despite all this, watermills and windmills are some of the most sought-after properties on the market.
‘Some people are absolutely passionate about them,’ says Dawn Carritt, of Jackson-Stops country house department. ‘We have people on our books just waiting for a mill to come up for sale, others collect them.’
New life: Burnham Overy Staithe windmill, Norfolk, is a holiday let owned by the National Trust
Cut Mill House in Bosham near Chichester is one of the most impressive converted watermills for sale (£2.495 million, Jackson-Stops).
Dating back to the reign of Henry VII, the watermill was reinvented in the 1920s in the arts-and-crafts style of the day.
Inside there are period features such as wooden beams, a stone mullion porch and a chequered wooden floor, while outside there is a lily pond, an Italianate courtyard and, the icing on the cake — the original mill, draped in wisteria.
Windmills are similarly sought-after but they attract a different type of buyer.
I love the sense of history attached – this is where farmers would bring their corn
Windmill resident Brian Smith
‘Windmills don’t make good full-time homes as being conically shaped makes them difficult to furnish and their stairs are often steep,’ says Carritt. ‘But they are fun and make great holiday lets or B&Bs.’
Last year, Natalie and Varian Bush bought Cley Windmill in Norfolk, previously owned by the singer James Blunt’s uncle. It cost about £3 million, but already looks like repaying the investment. In between lockdowns, they received 95 bookings in three days.
‘The views over the River Glaven and the marshes are exceptional,’ says Natalie, 40. ‘You get the sense of being on the ‘edge’ and it’s particularly popular with bird watchers.’
The windmill in the grounds of Mill Cottage on the outskirts of Fulmer, near Gerrards Cross, Buckinghamshire, would similarly make an ideal holiday let.
The four-bedroom family home has a converted tower windmill in the garden, dating from the 1800s, which is topped by crenellations, like a child’s sandcastle.
With their river views and quirky features, converted mills make ideal holiday lets
On the ground floor of the windmill there is an open-plan kitchen/living room with windows on three sides and above there is a bedroom and shower room.
A second set of stairs leads up to the roof terrace. Mill Cottage is for sale for £1.75 million (Strutt and Parker).
Not all mills are eye-wateringly expensive. Brian Smith has lived in the Old Mill, Moylegrove, Cardigan, since 1990.
‘I love the sense of history attached,’ says Smith. ‘This is where farmers would bring their corn. Although that all finished in 1926 when it was converted.’
With three bedrooms and just three miles from the coast, The Old Mill is on the market for £450,000 (West Wales Properties).
The homes in the Flour Mill development, Burton-on-Trent — the conversion of a Grade II-listed mill into four homes — are also reasonably priced. The development has an acre of Trent-side communal gardens and residents can use the river. A four-bedroom townhouse is for sale for £300,000 (Fine and Country).
Hardcore mill enthusiasts will have a wish list of features. If it’s a windmill, there should be sails, while for a watermill the waterwheel being intact is key.
A pleasant outlook adds value and the stream should be flowing, preferably with electric sluice gates to guard against flooding. The more of the original workings, the better.
Dating back to the Tudor period, Boddington Mill, near Cheltenham, has an interesting history. Sections of it were bought by a millionaire who collected bits of buildings, including a cast-iron balustrade and a wooden staircase. The original mill, which comprises the cast-iron wheels and cogs, runs vertically through the centre of the house.
Boddington Mill is for sale for £895,000 (Fine and Country).
But what is it like living in a mill? ‘You undoubtedly have extra maintenance but it is worth it,’ says Smith, 76, who is selling his mill near Cardigan as he finds it too big. ‘Mills make such lovely, quirky homes — they are beautiful.’