Grace's Guide

British Industrial History

Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 147,170 pages of information and 233,417 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.

Three Mills

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Looking downstream. House Mill on right
Clock Mill
Clock Mill
Slabs to aid passage of horse-drawn carts on road, and hand carts between House Mill and wharf immediately downstream of mill
Traditional millstones on right, casings of Fairbairn type on left
JD 3 Mills06.jpg
The largest wheel
Operating gear for large wheel's penstock
Operating gear for smaller wheel's penstock

on the River Lea, in Bromley-by-Bow, east London.

See Wikipedia entry

One of the tidal mills - House Mill - is now a museum, owned and managed by The River Lea Tidal Mill Trust. This is a Grade I listed building, bearing a 1776 datestone. See The House Mill website. The adjacent miller's house was destroyed in an air raid, and has been rebuilt as a shop, cafe and offices of modern design, apart from the original stone/tiled ground floor and replica facade.

House Mill - Water Power

House Mill had four undershot waterwheels driven by the controlled release of penned-up water as the tide went out. The wheels remain, in poor condition. Most of the following information is taken from a display board in the mill, numbering the mills from east to west:-

1. Early 19th C iron wheel with curved vanes, 19 ft 10 ½ in dia., 2 ft 11 wide.
2. Older iron wheel with flat wooden floats, 18 ft 8 dia., 2 ft 11 ¾ wide.

Wheels 1 & 2 drove two pairs of traditional millstones, and either could power the hoist. The gearing survives.

3. Iron wheel 19 ft 10½" dia., 2 ft 11" wide, 3 ft 3¾" wide, driving 3 pairs of Fairbairn-type stones.
4. The largest wheel, 19 ft 9" dia., 7 ft 10" wide driving 5 pairs of Fairbairn-type stones.
The gearing for the Fairbairn-type stones was scrapped in 1954.

Machinery in other Mill Buildings

George Watkins visited the mills in 1936 to photograph the machinery at ‘Nicholson’s Distillery’, Stratford, and subsequently published photographs and descriptions[1]. He recorded three waterwheels in the Clock Mill, 16-20 ft diameter, used for malt grinding. He also included photographs of five steam engines:-

1. Woolf compound beam engine by J. and E. Hall of Dartford. C.1840. This had previously driven coining machinery at the Mint.
2. Compound beam engine by J. Foster and Co of Preston, 1901. This and the previous engine replaced two side lever engines.
3. Vertical compound engine by Hunter and English of Bow, c.1870s. It had previously been at Curries Four Mills Distillery.
4. A single cylinder oscillating engine by Hunter and English of Bow, 1850
5. An 1810 bell crank engine by Boulton and Watt, now preserved at the London Science Museum.

The last two engines drove machinery in the workshop.

G Watkins noted that the distilling plant was driven by one main shaft over 150 ft long. The two beam engines were at one end, between the waterwheel-driven grinding mills and the distillery plant, and could drive malt grinding as well as milling plant. The inverted vertical compound was at the opposite end of the main shaft, driving it through double reduction gearing.


See Also

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Sources of Information

  1. 'Stationary Steam Engines of Great Britain, Vol 9', by George Watkins, Landmark Publishing