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National Mills Weekend

PUBLISHED: 10:56 05 January 2011 | UPDATED: 14:32 20 February 2013

Fairford Mill

Fairford Mill

National Mills weekend is coming to a mill near you!National Mills weekend held in May of each year, gives members of the public an opportunity to visit the watermills and windmills that are such an important part of our architectural and indu...

The beginning of the 20th century saw decreasing numbers of both wind and watermills as they became threatened with disuse and decay, due to the overwhelming competitions from the large industrial steam mills, with whose technology they could not compete.


Fortunately for their future preservation, the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings founded by William Morris 130 years ago, stepped in. In 1931 a separate mills section was formed, and it is largely due to their efforts that so many mills continue to exist. Many are now in the process of being restored, either as working mills or as a means of demonstrating past skills.



The society's immediate concern was for windmills, and it later extended its remit, in 1947, to include watermills. Although windmills are more in use in the eastern half of this country, nationally the number of watermills is overall much higher; watermills were also in use much earlier.


The Domesday Book of 1086 recorded a total of 6083 watermills throughout the country, whereas windmills were not in use much before medieval times



One of the few working watermills to be seen locally is that at Lower Somerford, and it is only the second along the River Thames to have been brought back into operation. It stands just south of Somerford Keynes, and within the Cotswold Water Park where it has formed part of the 'mill village', a complex of properties encompassing both barn conversions and new buildings. The village also has its own farm shop.


The mill was built in the 19th century of brick construction. The machinery which is worked from time to time is the original cast-iron workings and the fabricated waterwheel.


A mill is currently under repair at Lower Kilcott, which is found down a turning from the A46, between Bath and Stroud, and near Hillesley. It is hoped that although it cannot be open for National Mills weekend, it may be open to visitors, by appointment at a later stage.



The old watermill at Lower Slaughter is one of the popular subjects of postcard scenes of the village, and it has a history worthy of note. It was first recorded as having been on its present site in the 11th century.


The buildings that can be seen today date from the 17th century, when a re-building took place. This mill is also undergoing restoration, but has a working waterwheel. It was last worked in 1958, but a continuous programme of activity to repair it has been taking place over the past 10 or more years.


The old watermill formerly produced flour; it stands on the River Eye, a tributary of the River Windrush.



Arlington Mill at Bibury is one of those mentioned in the Domesday Book. The present buildings date back from 1710, when a four-storey fulling mill was erected. Although it now has no waterwheel, the machinery is turned slowly by electric power.


This is not the original machinery - that was sold in 1914; the machinery now seen turning came from another mill at North Cerney. More of its history can be traced in the mill museum, where there are photographs and documents on show.


The museum has a restaurant and gift shop.



Egypt Mill at Nailsworth, is a restored building which is now a hotel and restaurant - but with the unusual feature of two internal waterwheels and machinery which guests can watch turning.



Gloucestershire's own industrial past can be seen in the mills of the Stroudwater Textiles Trust, which include St Mary's Mill at Chalford and Dunkirk Mills at Nailsworth. The trust plays an active part in keeping alive the traditions of textile milling in the valleys of the River Frome and the Nailsworth Brook. Another of its mills is the Stanley Mill, at King Stanley. There is only parking for disabled visitors at Dunkirk Mills, but it is just a short distance from Egypt Mill where there is parking available.



The Stroudwater Textile Trust's visitor centre is at the north end of Dunkirk Mills and there is also a small museum. A wheel dating from 1855 drives textile machinery and there are also two other overshot wheels



The most recently opened mill by the trust is the small Gigg Mill, near Nailsworth, an early example of a fireproof building. Carding and spinning takes place, and it has a collection of industrial handlooms ranging from table-top models to a factory loom, which dates from the 19th century. It is also home to a power-loom, used at Nailsworth in the 1890s.



In the weaving shed, visitors can try their own hand at skills such as using flying shuttle, an additional feature at Gigg Mill is a natural dye garden that was planted last year in which plants used in the dyeing process both well-known and more rare, are grown.



Among the mills open in Oxfordshire are those mostly with agricultural associations At Ascott-under-Wychwood, the three-storey watermill built in 1840 is now converted into a house, but it's owners welcome visitors at National Mills Weekend.


It has a wooden clasp-arm waterwheel of an early date and most of its machinery, but no water.




Coleshill watermill on the Oxfordshire-Wiltshire border of the River Cole was restored by the National Trust in 2005. Flour, last milled in the 1920s can be produced again. Here are two millstones and a low iron breast waterwheel. (01793 762209)


At Little Clanfield, the old mill of 1876 has been joined by a new timber-framed successor. Each has its own waterwheel.



As many of these mill s are cared for by volunteer groups, actual days of opening - where or not for the whole weekend - and timings, are often not finalised until close to the actual date, so it is advisable to check before visiting. The Stroudwater Textiles Trust opens its mills on a number of occasions during the summer months, but not necessarily during National Mills weekend. It can be contacted for details on.


Contact numbers for Cotswold mills:




Lower Somerford mill 01285 861056


Lower Kilcott mill 01453 843127


Lower Slaughter mill 01451 820052


Arlington mill 01285 740368


Egypt mill 01453 833449


Ascott-under-Wychwood mill 01993 831282


Coleshill mill 01793 762009


Little Clanfield mill 01367 810380


Stroudwater Textiles Trust 01451 766273.



Contact numbers for Cotswold mills:




Lower Somerford mill 01285 861056


Lower Kilcott mill 01453 843127


Lower Slaughter mill 01451 820052


Arlington mill 01285 740368


Egypt mill 01453 833449


Ascott-under-Wychwood mill 01993 831282


Coleshill mill 01793 762009


Little Clanfield mill 01367 810380


Stroudwater Textiles Trust 01451 766273.

By Ann Garcia

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