In 2002 Brixton Windmill was described as a shadow of its former self, located in the corner of a run-down garden, intimidating and uninviting to visitors. In that year it was placed on English Heritage’s Buildings at Risk register.
In 2003 several local residents formed the Friends of Windmill Gardens, with the aims of restoring the windmill to its former glory, creating a park that would benefit local residents and attract visitors to the windmill, and offering an education programme for schools and the local community that would put the windmill and its history into context.
Straight away, the Friends began a programme of annual free festivals and other community events. In September 2005 they opened Brixton Windmill for London’s annual Open House weekend for the first time.
In 2008 Lambeth Council and the Friends submitted a joint funding bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), and in 2010 the HLF awarded £397,700 towards the restoration of this unique building. This grant was combined with match funding from the Council and money raised by the Friends.
Restoration began in October 2010 and took seven months to complete. The windmill was completely overhauled, with specialist architects and contractors employed to undertake much of the work.
The restoration of the mill was celebrated with a May Day parade and festival organised by the Friends in 2011. In September that year, the windmill reopened to the public for free tours during the summer months, welcoming up to 1,200 visitors a year.
In 2012, the Friends won the Museums and Heritage Award for restoring an industrial building.
In 2014 the Friends started training volunteer millers to grind flour, which is now sold on open days and also through local retailers.
In 2015 the Friends ran a high-profile campaign to build an education centre in Windmill Gardens. A year later, Lambeth Council approved plans for the construction of an education centre; planning permission was granted in March 2017. In summer 2018 the Friends ran a successful crowdfunding campaign to raise funds to kit out the building. After several delays, construction work started in December 2018.