Last year, our summer programme included a visit to the restored windmill at Heage. This year, we went to a different mill, this time powered by water.
The Brindley Mill at Leek in Staffordshire was built in 1752 by James Brindley and was restored to operation in 1974. It is situated on the A523 Macclesfield to Ashbourne Road in the centre of Leek, with road parking round the corner in Abbey Green Road. The motive power source is the River Churnet, the available head of water being increased by a small weir and by dropping the water wheel into a pit. The Mill is a designated Ancient Monument and listed by English Heritage.
The name of James Brindley is often associated with canals but he trained as a millwright, being apprenticed under a master called Bennett. The latter was involved in building a papermill at Wildboarclough in Derbyshire but ran into insurmountable problems. On his own initiative, Brindley went to see for himself and was able to reach a solution. This established his reputation at an early age.
Water to the wheel is controlled by a valve on the millís ground floor where the gear wheels which transmit the power to the millstones can also be seen. From here, it is also possible to adjust the spacing between the fixed lower millstones and the rotating upper stones.
On the next floor, there are two sets of stones although in the past there were three. These can be operated independently by engaging their drive gears and their spacings can also be adjusted individually. This enables different grains to be processed at the same time and different grades of flour to be produced.
The top floor contains the hoist mechanism (no longer operating) for raising the sacks of grain for feeding under gravity to the millstones on the floor below.
Opening times at the Mill are from Easter to the end of September, Saturdays, Sundays and Bank Holidays 2 pm to 5 pm. It is also open on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays from the 3rd Monday in July to the end of August. Private parties can also be arranged (01538 483741)
For more information about the Mill visit www.brindleymill.net
Secretary Ashbourne Section CROCA