Kersey Mill - Newsletter June 2013
After many hours of adjusting, lightly thumping and cajoling the waterwheel at the mill has once again turned after nearly seventy years stuck in its frame and silting up.
Brave George went into one of the narrowest pits on site and excavated buckets of silt by hand that allowed the rest of the volunteer team to disconnect the pit wheel and wallower from the rest of the drive units. This allowed the water wheel to then be worked on and released from the bearing that had been inserted back to front thus stopping the wheel from moving. Perhaps this was a deliberate way of keeping the wheel stable and fixed until now by the previous miller as a safety tool – we may never know.
Once the bearing was turned round and fitted to the drive shaft Steve, Paul Cuthbert and George were the first persons in all those years to make the wheel turn. What a sight – a great cheer went up and the wheel slowly yet surely rotated with the flow of the water and a little help from the gang. The tradesmen working on the house had by now downed tools and gathered to witness the sight. In turn the party of volunteers had a go at turning the wheel much to their delight. It was a milestone in the restoration of the mill and all the workings that will go on alongside the restoration of the mill building.
Whilst George was digging out what seemed to be endless buckets of silt from around the pit wheel he found a number of artefacts including the windless for engaging the wallower and the drive shaft, a rowlock, some pieces of china, shards of a Delft tile with a sailing ship design, parts of an older mill gearing and some bones. Given the story of the young boy Leech who died in the pit wheel cogs there was worry it could have been the missing parts of the poor boy. Thankfully the bones turned out to be no more than a long forgotten meal consumed by the workers at the mill before it closed down.
The water feed channel is next to be cleaned up and repaired ready for the huge iron plate that focuses the flow of the water directly to the blades thus improving the efficiency by 30%. Thanks to the work of the Frenchman Poncelet in 1838 that we have this style of water delivery that is ideal for the slower flowing rivers on East Anglia.