How the Watermill used to Work


The Watermill of Tourteron has been built as a gristmill in the early 19th century, in 2013 200 years ago. In 1808 the French government did a country wide research and discovered that the mills were not all producing the same quality of flour. Because of this the government developed a new law to control the quality all over France. It’s probably why they built the mill of Tourteron. Maybe on top of a previous one – we don’t know.

The Watermill of Tourteron used to divert the water from an impoundment between Tourteron and Guincourt. The force of the water’s movement drove the blades of the wheel, which in turn rotated an axle that drove the mill’s other machinery. The water leaving the wheel drained through the tail race what is now the stream running next to the house. The passage of water used to be controlled by sluice gates that allowed maintenance and some measure of flood control. The mill-pond, the wheel and the sluices are all gone. Now only the fountain that runs from underneath the mill fills the tail race.

The mill

The Mill and appending houses

The watermill has probably had a breast-shot system .. meaning the water fell half way the axe on the wheel and rotated it downwards. The horizontal rotation of the wheel was converted into the vertical rotation by means of gearing. This big wheel was based in the basement room behind the current kitchen.

The breast system

The breast-shot system

The waterwheel turned a horizontal shaft on which is also mounted a large pit wheel. This meshes with the wallower, mounted on a vertical shaft, which turned the (larger) great spur wheel (mounted on the same shaft). This large face wheel, set with pegs, in turn, turned a smaller wheel known as a stone nut, which was attached to the shaft that drove the runner stone. This took place on the first level of the mill, the current bedroom 1.

The way the first floor might have looked 200 years ago

How it must have looked 200 years ago

In the 19th century it was common for the great spur wheel to drive several stone nuts, so that a single water wheel could drive as many as four stones. Each step in the process increased the gear ratio which increased the maximum speed of the runner stone. Adjusting the sluice gate and thus the flow of the water past the main wheel allowed the miller to compensate for seasonal variations in the water supply. Some research shows that this mill must have had more than two stones. The smaller stones and other machinery were placed on the second level , the current bedroom 4.

The different levels of the original mill

Section explaining the mill

Another pulley drove the sack hoist. To set it in motion, the miller tightened the belt on the pulley – not unlike a slipping clutch – by pulling on the hoist rope which passes through each floor. The end of the chain was looped round the neck of the sack of grain which was then raised by the hoist from the ground floor, through two sets of clapper doors to the bin floor for emptying into the storage hoppers and bins. The clapper doors were to prevent from falling in. One set of clapper doors is still visible at the attic.

The original clapper doors at the attic of the mill

The original clapper doors still at the attic

The living room has probably been two small houses and some flour storage at the attic. The two sided chimney is the proof. One next to the mill with the monumental door that show the year * 1813 * must have been the miller’s house. The house at the front must have belonged to the blacksmith who used the barn for his job.

Bedroom 2 and 3 have certainly been a bakery – so we were told by the older people in the village.

The whole placement of the mill, the small houses and the barns are called an hameau (hamlet). That’s why the whole Supergite feels like a small village all to yourself.

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Filed under All, History

One response to “How the Watermill used to Work

  1. Pingback: 2010 in review « Supergites' Blog

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