House Mill: How a Tidal Mill is Powered

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…

tide-rises

As the tide rises, the water flows through the open sluice gates underneath the red-roofed mill, collecting in the mill-pond behind.

mill-pond

As the tide turns, the sluice gates are closed, trapping the high tide water in the mill-pond.

sluice-cranksluice-wheelsluice-winders-and-water-wheel-doors

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.

water-wheels

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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 🙂

See my other posts on House Mill here and here 🙂

 

House Mill: The Milling Process

Like many other traditional 18th Century mills, House Mill in Bromley-by-Bow, East London used gravity to facilitate the efficiency of its milling processes.

House-Mill-exterior

First, sacks of grain were hoisted by ropes and pulleys through one-way trapdoors from the lowest floor to the uppermost floors of the mill, where they were stored until needed.

grain-storage-1grain-storage-2

The sacks of grain were then tipped into hoppers in the floor, which led directly through to the floors below and allowed the grain to be gravity-fed straight down into the grinding stones.

grain-hopper-above

grain-hopper-below-1grain-hopper-below-2to-millstones

House Mill had multiple pairs of grinding stones, so the noise and the dust and the rattling vibrations when the mill was in full production must have been overwhelming.

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The ground flour then dropped straight through into sacks on the next floor down, graded by fineness, which could be altered by changing the gap between the mill-stones by turning the metal ‘spiders’ on the wall above the sacks: The closer together the stones, the finer the resulting flour 🙂

flour-sacks-1flour-sacks-2

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 🙂

See my other posts on House Mill here and here 🙂

Three Mills Island, Bromley-by-Bow

Three-Mills-Island-1Three-Mills-Island-2House-MillClock-MillThree-Mills-TV-Studio-

Three Mills Island in Bromley-by-Bow was named after three mills that once stood there.

The red-roofed House Mill (built in 1776) still stands, and is currently in the process of being renovated for historical interest (more about this mill later – far too much of photographic interest for one post!). Clock Mill (with its clock tower and two drying kilns) was built in the early 1800s and is now a school premises. The third mill referred to was a windmill, but this has since long gone although the name remains. The building immediately behind Clock Mill (through the blue gates) is now a TV Studio, aptly named ‘3 Mills Studios’.

It seems there have been mills of some sort or another recorded in this area of East London at least since the 11th Century, as they have even been recorded in the Domesday Book of 1086!

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 🙂

PS See further posts about House Mill here and here! 🙂

London Stadium, Stratford, East London

London-Stadium

Looks pretty in the distance, doesn’t it? The London Stadium, previously known as the Olympic Stadium, looking deceptively calm and quiet. This was as close as I came to it earlier today, but I’d planned to come back from my walk along the River Lea from Stratford to Bow right past the foot of the stadium, a shortcut I take regularly.

However, I seriously miscalculated, because on my way back a few hours later I found the tow-path blocked off – in fact, the entire stadium was cordoned off due to a Robbie Wiiliams concert being held there tonight. So not only did I have to take a thoroughly inconvenient detour the long way round, but also I found myself in a contraflow of one, walking in the opposite direction of 70000 excited Robbie fans looking forward to the show.

Oh well, c’est la vie! To be honest it was really good to see security so tight around such a major venue, with no traffic allowed within a surprisingly wide cordon. And from the heavy bass beat thudding in the distance as I write, it sounds like it’s all going really well… 🙂

Red Pillar Boxes – Minus the ‘Curly George’

While completing this year’s April Blogging from A-Z Challenge with the theme of photographing everyday things taken locally, I chose ‘V for Victorian Pillar Box’ and with fingers crossed went in search of the perfect contender. As we live in Leytonstone in East London which is mainly Victorian-built it seemed a reasonably achievable task to set myself.

As it happened I found one relatively easily, but until I particularly started looking I realised I’d never really paid attention to the different Royal Ciphers on the pillar box doors before. In Scotland where I come from, all pillar boxes I’ve ever seen have the Scottish crown on them, regardless of when they were made, so being able to chart the history of pillar boxes through Royal Ciphers really captured my imagination.

Scottish Pillar Box

scotland

I was intrigued, and so began my self-appointed quest to find an example of each successive monarch’s insignia on local pillar boxes all within a reasonable walking distance from home, from Queen Victoria to Queen Elizabeth through King Edward VII, King George V, King Edward VIII and King George VI. And suddenly I have become a pillar box nerd, checking out every one I see…

Victoria Regina (1837-1901)

Apparently the very first post boxes to appear on our streets (from 1853 onwards) were a variety of shapes and colours, all with a VR cipher on them but as far as I can see none of these are to be found around Leytonstone. However, I suppose as many of the houses around here weren’t built until the 1880s, it’s possible they simply weren’t needed much before then.

The earliest example of a round red Victorian pillar box I found is actually only about 100 yards from our flat, and is one of the so-called anonymous boxes that were cast in 1879. This was apparently a mistake, as a new standard design of pillar box had been drawn up with a blank door plate to accommodate whichever monarch was to be on the throne, and the manufacturer, misunderstanding the instruction, simply cast all the boxes with blank doors – oops!

 

Barclay-Road

The mistake was eventually rectified and the later round Victorian pillar boxes from 1892-1901 again have the delicate VR intertwined, like the one I used for my A-Z Challenge

Colworth-RoadColworth-Road-1

 

Edward VII Rex (1901-1910)

This old pillar box on Leytonstone High Road clearly shows the EVIIR of Edward VII – it doesn’t seem to have been painted very often which actually helps – over the years lots of coats of thick paint tend to mean lost definition of the underlying design.

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George V Rex (1910-1936)

This lovely rotund example on Leytonstone High Road with its very solid GR (but no V, for some reason?) originally sold stamps, too.

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Edward VIII Rex (1936)

Although Edward VIII was never actually crowned – he abdicated the throne in order to marry divorcee Wallis Simpson after only 11 months as King – there are still some pillar boxes surviving with his insignia and I found this one just outside Wanstead tube station.

Wanstead-StationWanstead-Station-1

George VI Rex (1936-1952)

Apparently George VI has an entwined GVIR in a cursive script – I’m imagining something that looks rather similar to that of Edward VII – but so far any locally-situated ‘curly George’ pillar boxes have eluded me… I’ll keep looking, though, and will report back with an update as and when I find one.

Elizabeth II Regina (1952-present)

This early EIIR box also has an oval-shaped sign-holder on top – not sure what the original sign would have said, though.

James-LaneJames-Lane-1

So there we have it, a very short history of Royal Mail red pillar boxes courtesy of examples found locally in Leytonstone and Wanstead in East London (apart from the Scottish insignia, which was taken in Inverness).

And as all these Royal Ciphers are set into the pillar box doors, I thought they might make for a novel Thursday Doors post, too! 🙂

Weekly Photo Challenge: Transient

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I walk under this underpass regularly, and recently it seems to have become someone’s temporary home – how sad to be in such a desperate situation that you have no option but to resort to sleeping on the streets. Hopefully this will prove to be a transient rather than a permanant situation for the poor unfortuate person concerned…

Underneath the Green Man Roundabout, Leytonstone, East London

Weekly Photo Challenge: Transient

A Buttercup’s-Eye View

buttercups

Today’s intended walk was cut short a mere five minutes from home – instead of wandering over to the duck pond as planned I changed my mind and simply sat down on the short mowed grass on Wanstead Flats for a while and watched the world go by…

Feeling much refreshed and relaxed, spending quality time in nature doing little more than enjoying the good weather never fails to cheer me up  ❤