Until its closure in 1941, the Grade I Listed Building House Mill in Bromley-by-Bow, East London was the largest tidal mill in the world – basically a traditional water mill, but powered in bursts by the tidal river over which it sits. I found it a fascinating place to visit, so I’m keen to share what I’ve learned about the mechanics of it all…
As the tide rises, the water flows through the open sluice gates underneath the red-roofed mill, collecting in the mill-pond behind.
As the tide turns, the sluice gates are closed, trapping the high tide water in the mill-pond.
To power the mill, the sluice gates are opened enough to allow water through under pressure to turn the undershot water-wheels, which then through a system of gears and cogs powers the mill-stones located high above to grind the grain.
PS If I’ve got anything wrong in my understanding of the process, many apologies! 🙂
House Mill is currently open on Sundays between 11am-4pm for guided tours only – it’s little more than a shell of a mill at the moment, but at least it still exists, and is well worth seeing round. It closed in 1941, with much of the original interior being sold off as salvage, and the building itself then sat derelict for almost 50 years before it was bought in the late 1980s in order to be saved for posterity rather than pulled down for redevelopment.
The guided tours of House Mill are run by volunteers, who also run the adjoining cafe and little gift shop and are very knowledgeable about the history of the mill. To be honest I’d never even heard of a tidal mill until discovering House Mill – apparently it got the water necessary to turn the water wheels from careful management of the ebb and flow of the tidal river over which it sits, the water wheels in turn powering the mill-stones to grind the maize.
Please see http://www.housemill.org.uk/ for the House Mill website and further information 🙂