Kent Archaeological Review extract

The Eden Bridge Watermill.
by Alan Dell.

This highly interesting watermill is situated in the centre of the town where it is known to all as Honour's Mill. It derives its water-supply from the confluence of the Kent Brook and a leat which may have been dug in the 16th century or earlier to divert water from the River Eden. Currently, water from the Kent Brook only flows through the mill whilst that from the leat now flows back to the Eden through a serious breach in its wall.

The extensive 19th century additions to the mill and millhouse conceal earlier buildings beneath. The original mill was on the north side of the leat; the extant timber- framing there suggests a possible mid-16th century date. The main two-storey timber-framed building across the leat, which now houses the machinery, was set at right-angles to the original building and was probably built in the mid-18th century. An additional storey was added in the 19th century as a massive storage area (bin-floor) and it appears that timber and tiles from the rebuild were then reused.

When functioning, local farmers would bring their corn to the mill in carts which would be offloaded upwards by means of a projecting sack-hoist. The corn, up to an estimated total of 80 tons, was then stored in a series of deep wood-lined bins on the top floor. From here the grain was tapped as required through a series of small shoots directly onto the grinding stones placed on the first floor. The flour so produced would be stored and later lowered through a trap-door to the ground floor for loading onto carts waiting at the front door. The drive for turning the millstones was provided by the huge water-wheel which was connected to them by means of a major horizontal shaft, a major vertical shaft and related gearing. Indeed the low breast-shot wheel was capable of turning two pairs of large millstones. The extensive use of cast-iron here suggests a possible date of c. 1780. The all- important pit-wheel was fractured in the bad 1968 floods and the mill closed at the end of the following year. After lying derelict the wooden frontage was repainted for European Architectural Heritage Year and permission was then given by the owner, A D Honour Esq, for the present project work to commence.

The aim of the project is to renovate the mill building and to restore the machinery to working order. The building will be opened at week-ends for visitors and exhibitions and during the week by appointment for educational visits. It is hoped that a permanent exhibition of local interest will be mounted. Work to date, in addition to the painting of the front exterior, has consisted of emergency repairs, general clearance, particularly of the spoiled grain on the bin floor; this latter exercise has denied the rodent population of their sustenance. The fractured pit-wheel has been strapped together so that the shaft can be turned for renovation work to commence on the water-wheel.

With professional assistance, a schedule of items essential to the renovation has been prepared. Detailed specifications of necessary work are under way. Outline estimates for the major items are 1500-2000 for repairing the roof, which was in reasonable condition until recently, 285 for timber and bolts for the wheel, 250 for repairs of the Pit-wheel, 210 for renewal of ground floor.

An appeal for funds to finance the restoration will be made to various authorities and organisations when estimates have been obtained.

I should like to acknowledge the assistance of the volunteers who are helping me with this interesting and taxing scheme, of whom Charlie Cragg, Ian Crothall and Michael Morgan deserve special mention. May I also thank members of the Kent Archaeological Rescue Unit for making a vertical measured survey of the mill and for providing the accompanying drawing.

ED. What readers will not know is that Alan Dell started this scheme single-handed and that not only is he doing the greater part of the work himself, but he is also providing most of the money from his own slender resources.

DRAWING: Section through the watermill.

Section through the watermill.

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