Industrial and Rural Heritage
Britain’s watermills are a vital and fascinating part of our industrial and rural heritage. Before the invention of the steam engine waterwheels powered the cotton mills of Lancashire in the early days of the industrial revolution, and the windmills of East Anglia were essential to mill the flour to make the bread that was the staff of life that fed a growing population. In medieval times the miller was often the most numerate, literate and technically able person in the community, responsible for running and maintaining the most sophisticated machine in village or town. The more you visit mills and find out about their distinctive characteristics and quirks, the more fascinating they became, hence the existence of several bodies devoted to recording, preserving and studying mills, including:
- The Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings, Mills Section. SPAB Mills protects traditional and historic mills from demolition or unsympathetic repair, restoration or conversion; organises training in millwrighting and milling; organises events for those interested in mills; and raises awareness about mills and milling.
- The Mills Archive Trust was established in 2002 as a permanent repository for historical and contemporary material on traditional mills and milling, and to make that material available for public inspection and use in research and learning. It has rescued over 1 million documents and images that might otherwise have ended up in a landfill site.
- The International Molinological Society (TIMS) – the only organisation dedicated to mills on an international scale.
- Numerous regional mill societies and groups.