Penybont and District History Group Notes 6th November 2017 Meeting Main Topic: Water Mills of Radnorshire – Alan Stoyel

 

Geraint welcomed a very large group to the meeting. Sadly there were so many that 2 people were unable to stay for what would turn out to be an excellent talk on the subject of Watermills. We were privileged to have Alan Stoyel to talk to the group. As a national ‘expert’ he has written extensively on the subject. Elizabeth had kindly invited him to speak and she introduced him to the group. Alan now lives in Kington but his origins were in Kent.

 

Some of his publications include:

 

The Windmills of Thomas Hennell

 

Memories of Kentish Watermills: The Rivers Cray and Darent (Landmark Collector’s Library)

 

Images of Cornish Tin (Co-Author Peter Williams)

 

Perfect Pitch – The Millwright’s Goal: Aid to the Interpretation and Dating of the Working Parts of Watermills and Windmills

 

Bindon Mill and Mill House, Wool, Dorset: Analysis and Assessment of the Buildings and Mill Machinery (Research Department report series)

 

There is also an on-line catalogue at:

https://catalogue.millsarchive.org/stoyel-alan

 

Alan took us through an extensive number of pictures of Mills pointing out features that relate to the period they were built, and describing the mechanism/water system that applied to each of the Mills. Unfortunately this blog cannot do justice to Alan’s talk and may come across as a list, and without the pictures! It will, I hope however, show the wide range of Mills that once were the heartbeat of the community here in Radnorshire.

 

Monaughty Mill has been converted into a house and the mill-stone can be seen as a feature in the garden. At another waterwheel site at Monaughty the threshing machinery was driven by a long rotating shaft. Said to have been a ‘bit lethal’! Picture at: https://www.google.co.uk/search?q=Monaughty+mill&client=firefox-b&dcr=0&tbm=isch&source=iu&pf=m&ictx=1&fir=d7vzEqD5AyAmcM%253A%252Cegbz3DzGRPbw6M%252C_&usg=__lKXlqCOwuSaBBS3GB1B6bYHavZw%3D&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiWyOuk483XAhVFIsAKHcfnCQEQ9QEIUDAH#imgrc=d7vzEqD5AyAmcM:

 

 

Bleddfa Mill is a three story building containing some fine 18th century machinery. An important feature is the very wide loading door. There is a brief reference to this mill at: http://www.cpat.org.uk/ycom/radnor/bleddfa.pdf

 

Bettws Mill demonstrates a good example of a leat which can be still seen. As a corn mill it probably had a roasting kiln at one time. See: https://archwilio.org.uk/arch/query/page.php?watprn=CPAT17240&dbname=cpat&tbname=core

 

Parkstile Mill west of Kington has an oatmeal roasting Kiln

 

Argoed Mill has the loading door, as above and an aqueduct at the rear. It once had a 26-foot waterwheel. There is also a kiln which Alan feels was adapted for the purpose. See: http://a-day-in-the-life.powys.org.uk/eng/work/ew_mills.php

 

Tregoyd Mill has an ‘overshot’ wheel, using the weight of the water to do the turning. In this type of wheel the head of water is more important than the volume.

 

To get diagrams and explanations of the different types of wheels see:

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Water_wheel

 

Mortimer’s Cross Mill is a breast-shot wheel – in this system there is a high volume but the head is low.

 

In more recent times some Mills have been converted to efficient turbines but some of the water mills were themselves extremely efficient. The High Breast wheel where the water enters about ¾ of the way up the wheel was very efficient. The estate at Abbeycwmhyr operated a turbine-driven Saw Mill.

 

The mechanism for different wheels was generally quite similar. The water wheel would turn the pit wheel and in turn a number of gearing wheels could get the spin of the wheel up to high speeds in order to turn a central shaft. Several mechanisms could often be run off the same shaft.

 

There is a short article on the water corn mills of Radnorshire in the ‘day out in Powys series’ at:

 

http://a-day-in-the-life.powys.org.uk/eng/work/ew_mills.php

Contributed by Geoff Ridyard of the Radnorshire Society

 

A further article by CPAT:

 

Later industries were mostly involved with the processing of agricultural produce, and generally involved the use of water power. Two early water corn mills are recorded at Hay in the 1330s, one being mentioned in the 1340s as operating on a leat diverted from the Dulas Brook. Numerous other mills are recorded, many for the first time in the later 18th or early 19th century, including the following: one on the Cilonw at Llanigon; one at Llowes using the stream in Garth Dingle; three mills on the Clyro Brook, Pentwyn Mill, Paradise Mill and Clyro Mill itself, to the south of the village which ceased operating in about the 1920s; Little Mill, east of Maesllwch, operating on the stream running through Cilcenni Dingle, first mentioned at the beginning of the 17th century; at least four mills on the river Llynfi at Glandwr, Pont Nichol mill, Porthamel and Three Cocks; Trebarried Mill on the Dulas and at Felin-newydd on the Triffrwd, a tributary of the Dulas west of Bronllys. The history of some of the mills is reasonably well documented, though little is known of some of the others, such as former in Felin Cwm on the Nant yr Eiddil south of Talgarth. Only one corn mill within the historic landscape area was sited on the Wye itself, a mill by the bridge at Boughrood, though a water-driven sawmill was built on the north bank of the Wye at Glasbury. The function of some of the mills changed through time. Talgarth Mill, for example, is thought to have started as a weaving mill, but was later used as a corn mill and then as a mill for animal foodstuffs, and finally ceasing operation in the 1970s. In a similar way, Tregoyd Mill began life as a corn mill but was converted to a sawmill which operated between about 1920-60. The water supplies to many of the mills were poor or seasonal and many ceased operation in the later 18th to early 20th centuries due to competition with mills elsewhere once better road transport available. By 1900 only about six or seven water corn mills remained in operation in the area, at Clyro, Talgarth, Three Cocks/Aberllynfi, Hay, Llanigon, Trebarried, all of which ceased to be used for milling corn during the first few decades of the 20th century.

 

Water power was also harnessed at an early date to power fulling mills, which had hammers for beating cloth after weaving in order to clean and consolidating the fabric. A handful of these mills are recorded in the area in the 14th century including one in the parish of Glasbury, one in Bronllys, probably on the Dulas, one in Hay, probably on the Dulas Brook, and one in Talgarth, probably on the Ennig. Some of the fulling mills had probably already disappeared by the end of the medieval period, although a mill at Bronllys continued in operation until the 1760s. Several paper mills were built on the Dulas Brook, one near Llangwathan and one near Cusop, both of which were probably short-lived and had probably ceased production before the end of the 19th century. Water power was occasionally harnessed for use on farms. Old Gwernyfed Farm included a water-powered threshing barn installed in 1890s, fed by leat.

 

A number of 18th- to 19th-century stone mill buildings survive, as in the case of Talgarth Mill, some of which have been converted to other uses, as in the case of Llangwathan Mill. Tregoyd Mill is one of the few mills within the historic landscape area which retains former machinery. Traces of ancillary structures such as weirs, leats and millponds have survived in many cases, even where the buildings themselves have fallen into disrepair or have been demolished”. http://www.cpat.org.uk/projects/longer/histland/midwye/mwindust.htm

 

The Mill at Bleddfa has very nice 18th century machinery that shows how the different controls  manage the separation and speed of the stones and at the same time the amount of corn passing through the stones.

 

At Rhoscoch Mill a listed building:

When it was Listed in 1995, Rhos Goch Mill was described as an unusually well-preserved watermill with its machinery intact. It had worked until the 1950s, one of the last Radnorshire mills to do so. It was a combined mill and mill house of two storeys, built of rubblestone with a roof of stone tiles. It had an overshot iron waterwheel on a wooden axle, a cast iron pit wheel, cast iron wallower and spur wheel on a wooden upright shaft, and there were two pairs of French burr stones. http://www.coflein.gov.uk/en/site/40317/details/rhos-goch-mill-rhos-goch-mill-rhosgoch-mill

 

“The best and most popular stone ever discovered for grinding wheat into white flour is the French Burr. This stone is a freshwater quartz and was quarried at La Ferte sous Jouarre near the town of Chalons in the Marne Valley in Northern France, the stone from this district became world famous. The remarkable thing about this stone from La Ferte sous Jouarre was that it was only found in small pieces ranging from about 12 to 18 inches long, from 6 to 10 inches wide, by 5 to 10 inches thick, usually embedded in layers of clay. There were sometimes pieces of a larger size, but none large enough to make a complete millstone of the usual size 4 feet to 4 feet, 6 inches diameter, so that the French millstone of popular size, had to be built up. One reason why French stones were so successful was their high percentage of porosity. Some pieces were simply a mass of porous cells and as the stones wore away, new cutting edges appeared which could be worked without being refaced or redressed. Other pieces of La Ferte sous Jouarre stone were extremely hard and of close texture. The more porous pieces of stone were often light brown in color and called “nutmeg” burrs. The hard, close textured pieces were usually of lighter color and called “white” burrs. French stones produced a whiter flour from wheat because the extremely hard nature of the stone was far less abrasive than any other stone used. An abrasive stone tends to shred the outer part of the grain of wheat, the bran, into a powder. This fine powdered bran dresses through the fine mesh silk or woven wire of the flour dressing machinery or bolters together with the white part of the wheat meal and the flour thus produced is of a darker color.” http://www.angelfire.com/journal/pondlilymill/paper.html

 

The Three Cocks Mill has some millstones outside which come from the Penallt area of the Wye valley. These stones show where ironwork was fixed in the central part to enable the stone to turn. The pattern of this ironwork can be used to date the stones. The patterns in a millstone at Mortimer’s Cross suggest that it is older than the mill, i.e. earlier than about 1750.

 

French burrs were the best millstones. These were made using many stone blocks, jointed with plaster of Paris and then clamped together by bands of steel.

 

Rhayader Mill is shown on: http://history.powys.org.uk/school1/rhayader/wyemill.shtml

It had two Water Wheels. One had a single-step drive to the millstones, as was used in Roman times.

 

New Mill at Presteigne has been converted into a house but it includes the machinery in the Drawing Room, and the vertical shaft can be seen in one of the bedrooms. More information can be found at:

http://history.powys.org.uk/history/prest/newmill.html

 

Boughrood Mill still has the basic machinery inside and 1 wooden water wheel. More information about this and othe Corn Mills can be found at: http://www.glasburyhistoricalsociety.co.uk/lifestylecornmills.htm

 

A mill at Aberedw is a former corn mill that has been converted into a domestic house. A picture was shown of the mill during conversion to a house, with discarded machinery on the ground outside.

 

Alan was somewhat sad about the Rhosgoch Mill which had been well preserved but is now in quite a state. At one time the owner had been quite antagonistic to Alan and other people concerned about the preservation of the Mill. It is currently being converted quite sensitively. It was one of the last Mills in Radnorshire to still be working and only stopped operating in the 1950s.. There was a mill and two storey mill house built of rubble stone. The roof was made with stone tiles. It has an overshot iron waterwheel on a wooden shaft, a cast iron pit wheel, cast iron wallower and spur wheel on a wooden upright shaft, and there are two pairs of French burr stones. http://www.coflein.gov.uk/en/site/40317/details/rhos-goch-mill-rhos-goch-mill-rhosgoch-mill

 

The Mill at Hundred House is a Grade 2* building that has been converted into a domestic building but Alan has not been inside to see the results of this work. One of our members’ grandfather was the miller at this Mill.

 

Coed Trewernau Mill is a remarkable survival. The ancient mechanism can be seen: https://www.google.co.uk/search?q=Coed+Trewernau+Mill&client=firefox-b&dcr=0&tbm=isch&source=iu&pf=m&ictx=1&fir=wbQxCd1ejkeipM%253A%252CR2_UDSd–_NO7M%252C_&usg=__OAdZ-d-qRvGdHT3hYi56lQgECRw%3D&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjcloPJ9MzXAhUIBsAKHd33DU8Q9QEIRTAF#imgrc=DpGl5a_58ub3aM:

 

It has a very old domed millstone.

Neil confessed that he had had the Bible and a cupboard from Sam Brown who was at the mill.

 

The Mill at Discoed, known as Walk Mill, was a ‘fulling mill’ for felting woven woollen cloth. There were once in addition: Dye-House, Carding and Spinning machines, Weaver’s Looms, with Drying Racks and Workman’s Cottages. They specialised in felted blankets for insulation purposes. For more detail see: http://history.powys.org.uk/history/prest/walkmill.html

 

There was another Woollen Mill at Knighton – Silurian Mill, A detailed article on this Mill can be found at:

http://terrydrayton.wixsite.com/knighton/silurian-woollen-manufactory

 

Another use of Water power were the tanneries. There was a Tannery in Presteigne, for details see: http://history.powys.org.uk/history/prest/barkmill.html

 

The Rhayader Tannery is now at St. Fagans in Cardiff. https://millsarchive.org/explore/mills/entry/12361/tannery-rhayader#.WhLyJzenzIU

 

Another use of the water wheel was to drive a Saw Mill. Court Farm Mill at Evenjob was a saw mill with a waterwheel by Meredith at Kington. For more details see: http://coflein.gov.uk/en/site/420930/details/saw-mill-court-farm-evenjobb

 

Alan finished his excellent talk at this point and Geraint thanked him on behalf of the group.

 

Alan was asked about Paper Mills which is a particular interest of his. He has not come across any in Radnorshire but there were 4 such mills in Herefordshire. https://htt.herefordshire.gov.uk/herefordshires-past/the-post-medieval-period/agriculture-and-industry/herefordshire-industry/mills/

 

There is a suggestion that a Silurian Paper Mill did exist at Knighton, see:

http://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/details/c/F200445

 

Alan was asked about Talgarth Mill which was of course restored thanks to funding that came through the Lottery in conjunction with a BBC television series. Alan had reservations about the authenticity of the restoration, but it is at least now a working Mill. See: http://historypoints.org/index.php?page=talgarth-mill

Neil Richards is from a family of Millers who were involved locally at Llandegley and at Howey. Information on Llandegley Mill can be found at: https://archwilio.org.uk/arch/query/page.php?watprn=CPAT34967&dbname=cpat&tbname=core

There is a picture of Howey in: http://a-day-in-the-life.powys.org.uk/eng/work/ew_mills.php

 

Patricia formerly lived at Trelowgoed Mill which has a clearly defined leat and some features in one of the bedrooms. More information at: http://www.coflein.gov.uk/en/site/40320/details/trelowgoed-mill-near-crossgates-penybont

 

Alan was asked about the early history of Mills and he told us that the Romans introduced them to Britain.  The article by CPAT gives a fuller history but it also has a comprehensive list of Mills in the area. http://www.walesher1974.org/herumd.php?group=CPAT&level=3&docid=301365661

 

In Bedfordshire there were some extremely powerful mills, one with 8 pairs of millstones.

 

John A had no memory of the Water Mill at Llandegley except to say that the metal in the mechanism was taken for the war effort in 1939.

 

There is a Welsh Mills society which can be contacted through:

http://welshmills.org/

 

Finally Jackie Smith lives at Haines Mill at New Radnor. Alan had been to visit but he saw Eric who showed him round. Jackie welcomed him to visit again. For information see: http://www.coflein.gov.uk/en/site/40294/details/haines-mill-new-radnor

 

Geraint, after thanking Alan again, reminded members that we would meet again on 4th December 2017 when Lizzie Evans will give a talk on the Myths and Legends of Radnorshire.

 

 

 

 

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