Over the last couple of weeks Frank has been in the UK commissioning various hydropower schemes around the country. During this time he also carried out some maintenance work on the Archimedean Screw Hydro Turbine which was recently installed at the award winning Mapledurham watermill to generate clean green elcetricity which is being sold to the national grid. The watermill is the last working corn and grist watermill on the River Thames and is still producing high-quality stone-ground flour today.
Mapledurham Watermill with working waterwheel and Archimedean Screw
A mill was already situated at Mapledurham at the time of the Domesday Survey. The central section of the current mill building dates back to the 15th century. Originally the mill had a single water wheel, on the river side of the building. The mill was increased in size in the 1670s, and a leat was constructed to drive a second water wheel on the village side. It is this second wheel which is still in use today. At its busiest it employed five people, and the miller was prosperous enough to rent the finest house in the village street.
In 1690 the mill was leased to James Web for the sum of £60 per year. Around 1700 he expanded the mill again, to allow him to install the equipment to produce the refined flour that was becoming popular. His son Daniel Webb took over from him in 1726 at a rent of £100. Thomas Atrum took over the mill at a rent of £150 p.a. in 1747, which was raised to £205 in 1776. In 1777 a barn was added on the mill island, and a wharf built to allow the mill to supply flour to the London market by barge. However by 1784 Thomas Atrum was bankrupt.
The mill continued to flourish, and as late as 1823 plans were drawn up to rebuild the mill in classical style. The advent of cheap imported flour from North America damaged the mill’s prosperity, but it remained in use until just after the Second World War. It was restored and brought back into use in 1980.
Original Waterwheel at Mapledurham watermill built in 1670
Built in 1670 the waterwheel at Mapledurham watermill still grinds flour today
Over the years some of the paddles of the existing original wheel were beginning to show their age so these paddles were replaced so as to extend the life of the waterwheel and to allow it to continue to grind the flour. A new waterwheel is currently under construction and it is hoped that it will be installed during the Summer. The main reason for replacing the wheel is the appearance of a number of splits in the wheels framework and also many of the joints are showing signs of decay and movement. The wheel will be as exact structural copy of the existing one and will be made out of oak which has been sourced from the Mapledurham Estate.
The new oak waterwheel in construction ~ Photo Credit: www.mapledurhamwatermill.co.uk
An Archimedean Screw hydro turbine was designed and installed in 2011 to replace the original turbine that had fallen into disrepair. The 7.27 m Open Compact Archimedean Screw has a capacity of 5,000l/s and a predicted output of 99.95kW. It is estimated that it will save 221 tonnes of CO2 per annum. Over the course of a year, the screw will produce approximately 500,000kWh of renewable electricity which is being bought by Marks and Spencer via the national grid. The electricity generated is sufficient to power one of its stores.
The mill produces stone-ground flour using a waterwheel. Wholemeal and white flour, bran, semolina and Millers Mix, a blended combination bran and semolina, are all produced at the mill. The Mapledurham estate also produces milk for Marks and Spencer. When the sale of the electricity has covered the cost of the turbine, the profits will go towards renovating the mill and its outbuildings to how it was 200 years ago.
Parts of the original machinery from the watermill
On our return visit to the watermill this week we were delighted and surprised to see that the new wheel had been installed.
The mill is located in the grounds of Mapledurham House, and like the house is open to visitors on weekends and bank holiday afternoons from April to September. The water mill is normally working on opening days, and visitors can visit both main floors of the mill, and see its operation.
The watermill is perhaps best known for its starring role in the 1976 film, The Eagle Has Landed, where the mill leat is the scene of the dramatic rescue of a local girl by a German paratrooper that results in the unmasking and ultimate failure of the raid. It is also the backdrop in the image on the cover of Black Sabbath (album), by the band of the same name.
If you’re interested in getting an existing water wheel refurbished or own the site of an old mill that has the possibility of reinstating a water wheel and would like more information please contact us here.