14th May is the National Mill Day in UK and majority of mills are opened for free to people who want to visit them. A working mill is something very interested to see, mainly because nowadays most of the mills you can visit are not working and few times we have the opportunity of see one.
One working mill is situated in High Wycombe, in one end of the big park The Rye. This park is a huge extension of grass with 1 mile perimeter where people can go to walk, run, cycle, play with children and do sports. It is a very nice place beside the river Wye where I have been multiple times and didn’t know that a mill was there.
When I knew there was a working mill in the park and that it was open I quickly decided to go and have a look. I was greatly surprised. At one time there were 37 water mills on the River Wye side and Pann Mill is one of the few remaining and the unique still in operation. The mill is located on the A40 London Road, at the Eastern end of High Wycombe (Buckinghamshire). The first record of a mill in this site dates from 1086. From that time the ownership of the mill changed several time and the mill was rebuilt few times. Last mill was built in 1759. Commercial milling ended in 1967 and in 1971 the mill buildings and house were demolished as a part of a road widening scheme. The restoration of the mill has been carried out until our days and the mill is now operating and looking nice.
Front and side views of the mill.
The way the mill is working is very simple.
Scheme representing how the mill works.
The mill is powered by a cast iron breast shot water wheel where the water feeds into the wheel at breast height, as opposed to an overshot wheel where the water falls from above onto the wheel. The water wheel is approximately 5 metres in diameter and has 48 buckets around its edges. It turns at about 5 revolutions per minute and it is believed that the wheel generates around 7 horse power.
Water wheel working.
The water wheel turns a large cast iron cog in the mill called the pit wheel. The pit wheel is fitted with 60 oak teeth. Although most of the machinery in the mill is made from iron, the teeth are generally wood and these mesh with a smaller cog is called the wallover. This is because the wood is more easily replaced than iron. A modern drive belt transfers power from the wallover shaft to the second shaft, the spur shaft. The spur shaft turns the grinding stone on the floor above.
Mill stones are on the first floor. The stones work in pairs, one above the other. The lower stone is fixed while the upper stone rotates driven by the water wheel. The mill stones were not open to visit as they were continuously working but a miniature scale representation of them is outside the mill. The working wheels look the same but so much bigger than the one shown.
Miniature scale representation of the grindstones.
A very important part of the mill is the part which feed the grain into the grindstones. That part is called the Mill Furniture. In the mill furniture we can define different parts, one to store the grain ready for grinding, an other to send the grain into the centre of the stones and finally the support for all of these. This part is operated by the miller. The miller has to control three things, the speed of the water wheel, the gap between the grindstones and the amount of grain fed. The grain need to be moistured before going to the grindstones to avoid blockages on them. Each of these duties has an effect on the others and the miller needs to coordinate all of them to produce the flour in the required quality.
Mill Furniture were the grain is fed and miller.
After being processed by the grindstones the produced flour come through the tun to the collection box, where is ready to be packed and used. The flour produced in this mill is wholemeal wheat flour. This flour seems to be fantastic, it has a nice touch and smell. I bought few kilos to taste and make my breads.
Collection of the produces flour.
Flour produced in the mill packed for selling.
I would like to thank the Pann Mill Restoration Team, who kindly show me the mill and gave all the information necessary to write this article and the Pann Mill Society. Their unique source of income is public donation and flour sales. If you want information for visiting the mill or make a donation send a mal to Pann Mill Society.