Kersey Mill - Newsletter July 2013
As another month passes at the mill there is little let up on the finds made, discoveries keep rolling in and the team are ever more excited by it all.
Recently, the specialist in watermills and mill wright, Vincent Pargeter spent a day looking at the wheel and the existing sluice gate. His opinion is that the existing set up is a bodge by an earlier owner or miller cutting back on maintenance of the mill. Vincent suggested that the team replace the remains of the bodged gate and replace with one that Whitmore of Wickham Market engineered for the mill soon after it opened. Whitmore & Binyon later went on to install a steam engine alongside the waterwheel running an additional 3 pairs of stones.
Vincent went on to say “The curved cast-iron plate and the concrete work beyond should follow fairly accurately the circumference of the wheel, and have a clearance of about one inch from it. I feel that the wheel will be under-powered if the gap is greater. It takes a fair amount of power to drive even one pair of millstones, and if the water is low in the summer, it can soon be used up.”
The work to be carried out is going to be time consuming but we hope that some progress will be made by the time the open day arrives at the end of June.
The process involves the filling of the trough formed under the wheel caused by erratic water flow and lack of maintenance.
With the help of Vincent, Chris Hulcoop and Mark Barnard worked up a plan of action to get the waterwheel floor reinstated and the repair of the sluice gates. Sketches were provided and a team put together – then the fun began.
A massive tree that had been placed across the tail race was the first obstacle to remove. Being sodden over the years it was not the lightest to remove yet we did so. The result was better than anyone could have hoped for – a 12 inch reduction in the depth of water entering the wheel channel. We then put in stop boards to further arrest the flow of water under the wheel before beginning to pump out the remaining water which we did to wader height. Great – we thought. Then we discovered that the pit was below the water table…Panic. The plan was to drain the wheel channel of all water and cement a new wheel guide to allow the wheel to turn with little water to flow under. Cement does not set under water…or does it. And this is when the next team of specialists joined the team. With the help of a local builder Richard Dyer of Academy Builders who has worked on projects with underwater concrete and an engineer from EuroMix we began to form the next part of our plan. With many huffs and umms the plan was drawn up to form the curvature very close to that of the wheel in concrete. A sump was used to draw the water out for most of the area and the former made up to cast the concrete in the Euromix of – we are told – 50 Newton to 50 Slump…you see we never leave the interesting stuff out do we! So the chain gang of Paul Cuthbert, Gary Bond, Gary Barnes, Callum Davies got to work and in no time at all the cast was full of the concrete. So we waited…every two hours checking the pump and water levels…sleepless nights…and the eventual outcome – it worked.
Kegan Jay and George made the most of the better weather and carried out some repairs to the slate roof. Not one for heights myself! Whilst they were up there they took this photo of the view.
That done the next stage is to start work on the buckets of the wheel that we shall be showing photographs of in the next newsletter…happy reading and happy summer from all at the mill.