Supplementary notes on watermills in Jersey

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This article, written by G S Knocker, was published in the Annual Bulletin of La Société Jersiaise in 1960

An article Some Jersey watermills and their machinery published in the Societe Jersiaise Bulletin for the year 1934 concludes with the words "I fear the death warrant of the water power mill in Jersey is written out and that this generation will witness its execution".

The Gargate millwheel

German Occupation

Having commenced with an expression of regret at the probable entire disappearance of the mills and with them the art and craftmanship of the millwright, the prediction of 1934 was in a fair way of being fulfilled during the following six years, but the occupation of the Channel Islands by the Germans in 1940 and the consequent setting back of the standard of civilization by at least a whole generation put a different aspect on the situation and by 1941 the inhabitants were once again largely dependent on the water mill for the supply of their daily bread.

Once again the Jersey farmers abandoned, but only under compulsion, the growing of potatoes for export, and cultivated grains, wheat, barley and oats, for local consumption, and so a fresh lease of life was vouchsafed to the water mills.

A note written on 2 May 1941 reads:

”It is decided to put this mill (Quetivel Mill) into operation once more and the necessary repairs and replacements have commenced. The building itself is in so bad a condition that considerable parts of the walls have had to be rebuilt and the floors are so rotten that they will have to be entirely renewed both in the mill and in the dwelling house adjoining.
”The machinery also is in such a dilapidated state that it will have to be practically replaced. There is no water wheel whatever, the only remaining trace of it being the two shapeless iron rims. The main shaft is bad and will have to be renewed, while the spur wheels are all hopelessly broken up, the only servicable pieces of machinery being three iron bevel pinions. The vertical shaft is wormeaten and dry-rotten and past repair.
The millwheel of Malassis Mill, which was demolished in 1961

Minor alterations

Tesson Mill, Gargate Mill and Baxter's Mill, which had never really ceased work, only needed slight attention to put them into regular running order again, and the States Engineer undertook a proper overhaul and repair of the respective waterways and storage ponds serving these, and it was decided to put into commission Malassis Mill in Grand Vaux and Quetivel Mill in St Peter's Valley, and this necessitated a considerable amount of work, more especially at the latter site for really there was little more than the site worth consideration.

”The mill room is very small, being 20ft by 16ft and it contains only two stones and no other machine. It is difficult for me and others to understand why it has been decided to put Quetivel Mill in order, as the amount of work to be done would suffice to build and equip an entirely new one, and furthermore, while there are other derelict mills in the Island in a lesser state of delapidation.

The compensating advantages are the site, which lying on a main road midway between Tesson and Gargate, reduces transport difficulties to a minimum, and the ample supply of water available owing to the completion of the work of clearing the stream from the head of the valley, which serves first Gargate, then Quetivel and lastly Tesson. Although here again there is a serious drawback as the fall is only sufficient to allow of a 12ft diameter water wheel.”

Some six months later, on 9 November 1941, considerable progress had been made with the work and the position at Quetivel was as follows:

”A completely new water wheel 12ft in diameter had been made and was erected in position. The only parts of the old wheel used being the two cast iron bosses and some parts of the iron rim bands. All the buckets were fitted, and a new shoot (by the way only single width, not double as at Tesson) was in position and awaiting final adjustment and setting. The wheel race wall has been rebuilt and the floor of the race cleared and concreted. The waterway channel above the wheel has been cleared, as already noted, and the banks made good. The bridge over the road has been rebuilt, and a new culvert and stone wall erected.
”The whole of the stonework of the walls of the mill has been repaired, and pointed, and some bad parts rebuilt entirely, the whole of the roof has been retiled and new floors have been fitted throughout.
”With regard to the machinery, an iron water wheel main shaft, taken from the Kings Mill in Waterworks Valley, has been fitted and as it was a few inches short of the original wooden one taken out, some skilful alterations to the bearings was required. The old bevel spur pit wheel was found to be hopelessly past repair so an entirely new one was being made with greenheart segments and oak teeth, the more usual lignum vita not being obtainable, and a beautiful piece of work it is, being a splendid specimen of the millwright's craft; greenheart being most difficult wood to work but one that takes an exquisite finish and which can be fitted and assembled as closely as metal.
”All this work has been carried out under the direction of Mr P P Day, and great credit is due to him for the energy displayed in finding the necessary material in this time of shortage of all machine parts. The renovation and repairs to the waterways and ponds have been under the superintendence of Mr C W Rice, the States Engineer and he has had several awkward problems to deal with.

Visited water mills this afternoon, 6 June 1941.

Malassis

The water wheel has been entirely repaired and looks like new, all the woodwork having been renewed and the old ironwork dressed. The main shaft has had some bad wood on the surface cut away and it has been trimmed down to sound stuff. The wheel is the biggest in the Island. It is 19ft 9in in diameter. The gear wheels inside have been re-toothed and all is now ready to start work, but the waterway is giving so much trouble with leaks that the steam roller has been taken there and is now being fitted to drive with a belt. There are three pair of stones and a very spacious floor. There is a leak into the wheel pit and another outside the wall of the pond. They have the appearance of coming from the waterway above the upper sluice of the pond. The pond wall has been rebuilt, but they did not go low enough.

Baxter's Mill

Baxters

A steam roller has been fixed here and is driving the mill today. It has about 20 hp and this is only sufficient to drive one pair of stones and the flour machine. Jersey wheat is being ground and making a very fine white flour. One pair of stones will grind 2 ton 5 cwt a day and last week they turned out 20 tons.

Quetivel

The stone wall of the building is being replaced.

Gargate

Stopped for want of water!

Tesson

Going well; nothing to report.

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