A historic watermill located at Paultons Park is currently undergoing an extensive £50k refurbishment project to return it to its original 19th century condition. The water wheel was built around 1860 and it is one of the few remaining working Poncelet Breast-Shot wheels in the UK. It was used to drive a rack saw bench in the saw mill where trees from the estate were brought for cutting.
It is the first time in the last 30 years that the mill has been fully refurbished with work due to be completed by September 2014. As part of the refurbishment the team have drained, dredged and cleared the mill pond and water channel that helps power the machinery. Other work includes repairs, re-painting, cleaning and maintenance of parts to safe guard it for the future.
Upon investigation of the site the team uncovered a hidden pipe and drainage system blocked with debris and foliage, historic brickwork showing dates from 1800’s, markings on the cart showing it was made in Leeds and a birds nest where a family of Wrens had been taking shelter!
A water wheel consists of a large wooden or metal wheel, with a number of buckets or blades arranged on the outside rim. Most wheels are mounted vertically. An axle is attached to the wheel which turns a series of cogs and drive wheels. Attached to the drive wheel are drive belts which power the machines. A mill pond is formed when a flowing stream is dammed to feed a water wheel. A channel for water flowing to or from a water wheel is called a mill-race.
Water mills have been around since the Roman times in the UK and over 5,000 water wheels were listed in the Doomsday book. From the 12th century onwards the number of watermills increased significantly with most of them belonging to either the manor or monastery. Cistercian monasteries, in particular, made extensive use of water wheels to power grist (corn) mills and sawmills. The water wheel remained competitive though with the steam engine well into the industrial revolution.
Jean-Victor Poncelet (1788-1867) was a French engineer and mathematician. He re-designed the shape of the buckets (curved not straight) and altered their angle to the incoming water to make the wheel work better.
- The water wheel is 4.5 metres in diameter
- There are 56 metal buckets
- When the wheel was originally rebuilt it involved replacing over 1000 bolts
- The wooden teeth on the cogs are made from Hornbeam trees, which can be seen growing by the side of the mill
- There are 4 cogs of different sizes with different numbers of teeth. The second cog has 102 teeth and the smallest cog has 12 teeth.
- A total of 260 teeth!
Guests at Paultons Park will be able to visit the mill and see it in action later this year.