Water mill

Mills as industrial buildings

Thursday 25 May 2017



The course

Windmills and watermills are a significant feature of the English landscape.  This day school will describe their mechanisms as well as the enclosing buildings, and also trace the development of buildings using water, wind and animal-powered industrial  processes.  The work of the Mills Archive Trust will also feature in the day.


9.30 am      A distinctive historical interest

By way of an introduction, this talk will give an overview of the grain milling industry, from hand-worked querns and millstones driven by natural power sources to the roller mills that were introduced in the later nineteenth century. It will also offer an appraisal of some of the unique buildings and machines that were developed to provide flour for our daily bread. Martin Watts

11 am     Coffee

11.15 am Not giants but windmills

Traditional windmills are a much-loved feature of the English countryside. Modern wind turbines provoke more polarised views, but a line of descent can be traced between the two. This talk will explore the development of wind power in England from the twelfth to the twentieth centuries, paying particular attention to distinctive regional variations in windmill design, discussing the effect that the technological innovations of the Industrial Revolution had on the development of machinery to harness the wind, and examining the further innovations of the nineteenth century which challenge perceptions of both the “traditional” windmill and its role in an era of mass production. Gareth Hughes

12.45 pm  Lunch

1.45  pm   Dark satanic mills?

Watermills and windmills have both benefited and suffered from a popular romantic view of their presence in the landscape resulting from their appearance and often picturesque locations. This session will explore some aspects of the use of natural power to drive machinery for a variety of industries and processes, and discuss the role of mills in the development of the factory. Martin Watts

3.00pm  Visit to the Museum’s Lurgashall Mill

3.30 pm    Tea

3.30 pm  Responsible research and reckless restoration

Looking at different approaches to the repair and restoration of historic wind and water mills over the past century, and discussing the importance of making a study of the available evidence before embarking on similar projects today. The need to carefully evaluate both archive material and physical remains will be explored.

5.00 pm   Close

The tutors

Martin Watts is a traditional millwright and historic milling specialist who has worked on the recording and repair of watermills and windmills in many parts of the country.  He is the author of several articles and books, including The Archaeology of Mills and Milling (Tempus 2002), Water and Wind Power (Shire 2005), the Shire colour albums Windmills and Watermills (new editions 2011) and Corn Milling (new edition, Shire 2008). He was a founder member of the Traditional Corn Millers Guild and a former chairman of the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings Mills Section.

Gareth Hughes is an architect and former chairman of the SPAB Mills Section. Now a conservation officer in the windmill-rich Broadland district of Norfolk, he has previously worked on mills from Sussex to Cheshire, in addition to publishing several papers on aspects of traditional wind and water mills in the journals of the Mills Research Group and The International Molinological Society (TIMS), the most recent of which discussed the survival of certain “early” characteristics in British tower mills

Participant information

Please bring warm outdoor clothing and sturdy footwear, as the day may include a study visit to some of the Museum’s exhibit buildings.


£99 per person, which includes tuition, teas & coffees and a light lunch. If all five courses in the series are booked together  a discounted price of £400 applies.

The Museum

The Weald & Downland Living Museum has over 50 historic building exhibits. It is also home to the award winning and innovative Downland Gridshell, which houses a conservation workshop and artefact store, and is also used for many practical courses. The Museum runs a full programme of courses in historic building conservation and traditional rural trades and crafts, along with MSc programmes in Building Conservation and Timber Building Conservation validated by the University of York. Please telephone for further details.



Please read our terms and conditions before booking.

If any of our courses are full and you would like to be added to a waiting list please email [email protected] or call 01243811021, we are sometimes able to arrange further course dates.