The death has been announced of well-known Bunbury resident Ernest Croley.
Ernest, who was 83, was perhaps best known for his work as a volunteer with Bunbury Mill, which he worked on restoring right up to his death.
The village holds many prominent and long-lasting memorials to his undaunted determination and commitment to major schemes for its enhancement and preservation, including the village hall, Sadlers Wells wood, and the village playing fields.
The present Bunbury Mill was built in about 1840 on the site of a previous mill destroyed by fire. It operated commercially until 1960, when it was put out of action by a major flood. The living was by then so sparse that the mill was not worth repairing, and it was boarded up and left to go derelict. The land was later sold to the local authority, then passed to the NW Water Authority, for the construction of a waste water treatment plant. The NWWA drew up plans which included demolition of ‘the old buildings on the site’.
Enter Ernest Croley – he led a group of men who discovered what was in the buildings, and successfully lobbied the NWWA to sponsor a Job Creation Scheme, which instead of demolishing the mill, restored it to operational status, and opened it in 1977 as a working heritage museum.
Without his intervention, this unique heritage would have long since disappeared, and thousands of visitors would have been deprived of the evocative experience of our operational Victorian mill.
For many years the mill was operated by NWWA then United Utilities until 2009 when they ended their subsidy of the mill, and it was again closed down and left with no plans for the future.
Enter again Ernest Croley – he formed an Action group which led to the creation of a charitable trust, the Bunbury Watermill Trust, and negotiated to buy the mill and grounds from UU and assemble a team of volunteers to manage, maintain and operate the mill. A mind-boggling undertaking, but undaunted, Ernest led the team that re-opened the mill in 2012. We are proud that since then over 6,000 people have enjoyed and learned from their step back into the environment of a working 19th century corn mill.
Ernest played many roles in the volunteer force – he was the founder and until recently Chairman of the Bunbury Watermill Trust, he was active in maintenance work around the mill, a relentless fund raiser, a well informed and genial tour guide, active in publicising the mill, and above all leading and coordinating the many diverse activities required of the mill team to ensure the continuation of the mill’s active existence.
Quite simply – but for Ernest, there would no longer be a Bunbury MIll. The Watermill Trust said in a statement: “We remember with affection his work at the mill, and we resolve to continue his work in preserving Bunbury Mill as a cultural heritage for the foreseeable future in his memory.”