Tide mill

Tide mill

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A tide mill is a water mill
Watermill
A watermill is a structure that uses a water wheel or turbine to drive a mechanical process such as flour, lumber or textile production, or metal shaping .- History :...

 driven by tidal
Tide
Tides are the rise and fall of sea levels caused by the combined effects of the gravitational forces exerted by the moon and the sun and the rotation of the Earth....

 rise and fall. A dam with a sluice
Sluice
A sluice is a water channel that is controlled at its head by a gate . For example, a millrace is a sluice that channels water toward a water mill...

 is created across a suitable tidal inlet, or a section of river estuary
Estuary
An estuary is a partly enclosed coastal body of water with one or more rivers or streams flowing into it, and with a free connection to the open sea....

 is made into a reservoir. As the tide comes in, it enters the mill pond through a one way gate, and this gate closes automatically when the tide begins to fall. When the tide is low enough, the stored water can be released to turn a water wheel.

Tide mills are usually situated in river estuaries, away from the effects of waves but close enough to the sea to have a reasonable tidal range
Tidal range
The tidal range is the vertical difference between the high tide and the succeeding low tide. Tides are the rise and fall of sea levels caused by the combined effects of the gravitational forces exerted by the Moon and the Sun and the rotation of the Earth...

. These mills have existed since the Middle Ages
Middle Ages
The Middle Ages is a periodization of European history from the 5th century to the 15th century. The Middle Ages follows the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 and precedes the Early Modern Era. It is the middle period of a three-period division of Western history: Classic, Medieval and Modern...

, and some may go back to the Roman period.

A modern version of a tide mill is the electricity generating tidal barrage
Tidal barrage
A tidal barrage is a dam-like structure used to capture the energy from masses of water moving in and out of a bay or river due to tidal forces....

.

Early history


Possibly the earliest tide mill was located in London
London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

 on the River Fleet
River Fleet
The River Fleet is the largest of London's subterranean rivers. Its two headwaters are two streams on Hampstead Heath; each is now dammed into a series of ponds made in the 18th century, the Hampstead Ponds and the Highgate Ponds. At the south edge of Hampstead Heath these two streams flow...

, dating back to Roman
Ancient Rome
Ancient Rome was a thriving civilization that grew on the Italian Peninsula as early as the 8th century BC. Located along the Mediterranean Sea and centered on the city of Rome, it expanded to one of the largest empires in the ancient world....

 times.

In recent years, a number of new archaeological finds has consecutively pushed back the date of the earliest tide mills, all of which were discovered on the Irish
Ireland
Ireland is an island to the northwest of continental Europe. It is the third-largest island in Europe and the twentieth-largest island on Earth...

 coast: A 6th century vertical-wheeled tide mill was located at Killoteran near Waterford
Waterford
Waterford is a city in the South-East Region of Ireland. It is the oldest city in the country and fifth largest by population. Waterford City Council is the local government authority for the city and its immediate hinterland...

. A twin flume horizontal-wheeled tide mill dating to c. 630 was excavated on Little Island
Little Island, Cork
Little Island is mainly an industrial area to the east of Cork City, Ireland. It is no longer an island, since the northern channel separating it from the mainland has filled over. To the east and south is Cork Harbour; across a channel to the west is Fota Island.-Development:Many of Cork's...

. Alongside it, another tide mill was found which was powered by a vertical undershot wheel. The Nendrum Monastery mill
Nendrum Monastery mill
The Nendrum Monastery mill was a tide mill on an island in Strangford Lough in Northern Ireland. It is the earliest excavated tide mill, dating from 787. Its millstones are 830mm in diameter and the horizontal wheel is estimated to have developed 7/8HP at its peak. Remains of an earlier mill dated...

 from 787 was situated on an island in Strangford Lough
Strangford Lough
Strangford Lough, sometimes Strangford Loch, is a large sea loch or inlet in County Down, Northern Ireland. It is separated from the Irish Sea by the Ards Peninsula. The name Strangford is derived ; describing the fast-flowing narrows at its mouth...

 in Northern Ireland
Northern Ireland
Northern Ireland is one of the four countries of the United Kingdom. Situated in the north-east of the island of Ireland, it shares a border with the Republic of Ireland to the south and west...

. Its millstones are 830mm in diameter and the horizontal wheel is estimated to have developed 7/8HP at its peak. Remains of an earlier mill dated at 619 were also found at the site.

The earliest recorded tide mill in England
England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

 was in Dover
Dover
Dover is a town and major ferry port in the home county of Kent, in South East England. It faces France across the narrowest part of the English Channel, and lies south-east of Canterbury; east of Kent's administrative capital Maidstone; and north-east along the coastline from Dungeness and Hastings...

 harbour, mentioned in the Domesday book
Domesday Book
Domesday Book , now held at The National Archives, Kew, Richmond upon Thames in South West London, is the record of the great survey of much of England and parts of Wales completed in 1086...

 (1086). The book also mentioned the mills on the River Lea at Three Mills
Three Mills
The Three Mills are former working mills on the River Lea in the East End of London, one of London’s oldest extant industrial centres. The largest and most powerful of the four remaining tidal mills is possibly the largest tidal mill in the world...

 Island, now in London's docklands (see House Mill
House Mill
The House Mill is a major Grade I listed building on the River Lea in Bromley by Bow, London. Although the Three Mills date back to the Domesday book, the present house mill was rebuilt in 1776 by Daniel Bisson. It was damaged by fire in 1802, and then rebuilt by Philip Metcalfe.It is one of only...

). By the 18th Century these had become the largest in England. There were about 76 tide mills in London, including two on London Bridge
London Bridge
London Bridge is a bridge over the River Thames, connecting the City of London and Southwark, in central London. Situated between Cannon Street Railway Bridge and Tower Bridge, it forms the western end of the Pool of London...

.

Woodbridge Tide Mill
Woodbridge Tide Mill
Woodbridge Tide Mill in Woodbridge, Suffolk, England is a rare example of a tide mill whose water wheel still turns.The mill has been preserved and is open to the public, its machinery reflects the skills and achievements of the early Industrial Revolution. The mill is a three storey building...

, an excellent example, survives at Woodbridge, Suffolk
Woodbridge, Suffolk
Woodbridge is a town in Suffolk, East Anglia, England. It is in the East of England, not far from the coast. It lies along the River Deben, with a population of about 7,480. The town is served by Woodbridge railway station on the Ipswich-Lowestoft East Suffolk Line. Woodbridge is twinned with...

, England
England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

. This mill, dating from 1170 and reconstructed in 1792, has been preserved and is open to the public. Its water wheel can be seen turning. Carew Castle
Carew Castle
Carew Castle is a castle in the civil parish of Carew in the Welsh county of Pembrokeshire. The famous Carew family take their name from the place, and still own the castle, although it is leased to the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park, which administers the site.-Construction:The present castle,...

 in Wales
Wales
Wales is a country that is part of the United Kingdom and the island of Great Britain, bordered by England to its east and the Atlantic Ocean and Irish Sea to its west. It has a population of three million, and a total area of 20,779 km²...

 also has an intact, but unused, tide mill. The only working tide mill in the United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 is Eling Tide Mill
Eling Tide Mill
Eling Tide Mill, situated on an artificial causeway in Eling in Hampshire, England, is one of only two remaining operating tide mills in the United Kingdom. The other is Woodbridge Tide Mill. Whilst a mill is mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086, there is no evidence that there is any connection...

 in Eling
Totton and Eling
Totton and Eling is a town and civil parish in Hampshire, UK, with a population of around 28,000 people. It is situated on the eastern edge of the New Forest and on the River Test, close to the city of Southampton and part of the city's urban area...

, Hampshire
Hampshire
Hampshire is a county on the southern coast of England in the United Kingdom. The county town of Hampshire is Winchester, a historic cathedral city that was once the capital of England. Hampshire is notable for housing the original birthplaces of the Royal Navy, British Army, and Royal Air Force...

. Another example, now only visible in historic documents, is the mill in the hamlet
Hamlet (place)
A hamlet is usually a rural settlement which is too small to be considered a village, though sometimes the word is used for a different sort of community. Historically, when a hamlet became large enough to justify building a church, it was then classified as a village...

 of Tide Mills, East Sussex
Tide Mills, East Sussex
Tide Mills is a derelict village in East Sussex, England. It lies about two kilometres south east of Newhaven and four kilometres north west of Seaford and is near both Bishopstone and East Blatchington.-The old village:...

.

A mediaeval tidemill still operates at Rupelmonde
Rupelmonde
Rupelmonde is a town in the municipality of Kruibeke, in the Belgian province of East Flanders. It stands on the bank of the river Schelde opposite the confluence of the eponymous Rupel, and is famed for its sundials as well as having what is probably Belgium's only tidemill...

 near Antwerp, and there are several still in existence in the Netherlands
Netherlands
The Netherlands is a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, located mainly in North-West Europe and with several islands in the Caribbean. Mainland Netherlands borders the North Sea to the north and west, Belgium to the south, and Germany to the east, and shares maritime borders...

.

At one time there were 750 tide mills operating along the shores of the Atlantic Ocean: approximately 300 in North America, 200 in the British Isles, and 100 in France. The Rance
Rance River
The Rance is a river of northwestern France. It flows into the English Channel between Dinard and Saint-Malo.Before reaching the Channel, its waters are barred by a 750 metre long dam forming the Rance tidal power plant....

 estuary in France
France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

 was also home to some of these mills.

By the mid 20th Century the use of water mills had declined dramatically. In 1938, an investigation by Rex Wailes
Rex Wailes
Rex Wailes OBE, FSA, F I Mech E was an English engineer and historian who published widely on aspects of engineering history and industrial archaeology, particularly on windmills and watermills....

 discovered that of the 23 extant tidal mills in England, only 10 were still working by the own motive power. Of one of the few remaining by the 1940s, at Beaulieu
Beaulieu, Hampshire
Beaulieu is a small village located on the south eastern edge of the New Forest national park in Hampshire, England and home to both Palace House and the British National Motor Museum.- History :...

, H. J. Massingham
H. J. Massingham
Harold John Massingham was a prolific British writer on matters to do with the countryside and agriculture. He was also a published poet.-Life:...

 wrote, "Part of the mill is built on piles into the riverand is weatherboarded, while the rest of the building is a warm red brick roofed with lozenge-shaped and rounded tiles which I believe are called fish-tiles. All the interior is of wood - ladders, bins for the meal, floor-boarding, square pillars, beams, narrow passages, fittings, shaft rising to the first floor and all. So ramshackle is the arrangement of the props and supports that it is a wonder that the whole edifice does not tumble about the miller's ears like a pack of cards. The point is that it has stood in this way for something like six centuries, and that gives the explorer into its dusky depths a more penetrating notion of how the old builders could build, more than does a Gothic church or even a cathedral. The pulse and swing of the great wheel sets the whole building in an ague, but it will still be standing when all the flimsy excrescences of development between Beaulieu and Poole have fallen down."

Modern examples



Newer types of tidal power
Tidal power
Tidal power, also called tidal energy, is a form of hydropower that converts the energy of tides into useful forms of power - mainly electricity....

 often propose a dam across a large river estuary. Although it represents a source of renewable energy
Renewable energy
Renewable energy is energy which comes from natural resources such as sunlight, wind, rain, tides, and geothermal heat, which are renewable . About 16% of global final energy consumption comes from renewables, with 10% coming from traditional biomass, which is mainly used for heating, and 3.4% from...

, each proposal tends to come under local opposition because of its likely impact on coastal habitats. One proposal, which came to fruition in 1966, is the Rance barrage
Rance tidal power plant
The Rance Tidal Power Station is the world's first tidal power station and also the world's second biggest tidal power station. The facility is located on the estuary of the Rance River, in Brittany, France. Opened on the 26th November 1966, it is currently operated by Électricité de France, and is...

 which generates 250MW. Unlike historical tide mills which could only operate on an ebb tide
Ebb Tide
"Ebb Tide" is a popular song, written in 1953 by the lyricist Carl Sigman and composer Robert Maxwell.-Recordings:* The best-known versions are by Frank Chacksfield & His Orchestra , Vic Damone , Roy Hamilton , Frank Sinatra , The Platters , Lenny Welch and the Righteous Brothers...

, the Rance barrage can generate electricity on both flows of the tide or it can be used for pumped storage
Pumped-storage hydroelectricity
Pumped-storage hydroelectricity is a type of hydroelectric power generation used by some power plants for load balancing. The method stores energy in the form of water, pumped from a lower elevation reservoir to a higher elevation. Low-cost off-peak electric power is used to run the pumps...

 depending on demand. A less intrusive design is for a 1MW free standing turbine, constructed in 2007 at Strangford Lough
Strangford Lough
Strangford Lough, sometimes Strangford Loch, is a large sea loch or inlet in County Down, Northern Ireland. It is separated from the Irish Sea by the Ards Peninsula. The name Strangford is derived ; describing the fast-flowing narrows at its mouth...

 Narrows - also close to an old tide mill.

Surviving tide mills in Britain

  • Thorrington Tide Mill, Thorrington
    Thorrington
    Thorrington is a village and civil parish in the Tendring district of Essex, England. It lies 5 km east of Wivenhoe and 3 km north of Brightlingsea. The striking medieval flint church is dedicated to Mary Magdalene, and the patrons of the church are St John's College, Cambridge.On the...

    , Essex
    Essex
    Essex is a ceremonial and non-metropolitan county in the East region of England, and one of the home counties. It is located to the northeast of Greater London. It borders with Cambridgeshire and Suffolk to the north, Hertfordshire to the west, Kent to the South and London to the south west...

  • Eling Tide Mill
    Eling Tide Mill
    Eling Tide Mill, situated on an artificial causeway in Eling in Hampshire, England, is one of only two remaining operating tide mills in the United Kingdom. The other is Woodbridge Tide Mill. Whilst a mill is mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086, there is no evidence that there is any connection...

    , Eling
    Totton and Eling
    Totton and Eling is a town and civil parish in Hampshire, UK, with a population of around 28,000 people. It is situated on the eastern edge of the New Forest and on the River Test, close to the city of Southampton and part of the city's urban area...

    , Hampshire
    Hampshire
    Hampshire is a county on the southern coast of England in the United Kingdom. The county town of Hampshire is Winchester, a historic cathedral city that was once the capital of England. Hampshire is notable for housing the original birthplaces of the Royal Navy, British Army, and Royal Air Force...

     (working)
  • Three Mills
    Three Mills
    The Three Mills are former working mills on the River Lea in the East End of London, one of London’s oldest extant industrial centres. The largest and most powerful of the four remaining tidal mills is possibly the largest tidal mill in the world...

     tide mill, Bromley by Bow, London
    London
    London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

  • Woodbridge Tide Mill
    Woodbridge Tide Mill
    Woodbridge Tide Mill in Woodbridge, Suffolk, England is a rare example of a tide mill whose water wheel still turns.The mill has been preserved and is open to the public, its machinery reflects the skills and achievements of the early Industrial Revolution. The mill is a three storey building...

    , Woodbridge
    Woodbridge, Suffolk
    Woodbridge is a town in Suffolk, East Anglia, England. It is in the East of England, not far from the coast. It lies along the River Deben, with a population of about 7,480. The town is served by Woodbridge railway station on the Ipswich-Lowestoft East Suffolk Line. Woodbridge is twinned with...

    , Suffolk
    Suffolk
    Suffolk is a non-metropolitan county of historic origin in East Anglia, England. It has borders with Norfolk to the north, Cambridgeshire to the west and Essex to the south. The North Sea lies to the east...

     (working order)
  • Tide Mills, Newhaven
    Newhaven, East Sussex
    Newhaven is a town in the Lewes District of East Sussex in England. It lies at the mouth of the River Ouse, on the English Channel coast, and is a ferry port for services to France.-Origins:...

    , East Sussex
    East Sussex
    East Sussex is a county in South East England. It is bordered by the counties of Kent, Surrey and West Sussex, and to the south by the English Channel.-History:...

     (sluice only)
  • Carew Castle tide mill, Pembrokeshire
    Pembrokeshire
    Pembrokeshire is a county in the south west of Wales. It borders Carmarthenshire to the east and Ceredigion to the north east. The county town is Haverfordwest where Pembrokeshire County Council is headquartered....

  • Pembroke
    Pembroke, Pembrokeshire
    Pembroke is an historic settlement and former county town of Pembrokeshire in west Wales. The town and the county derive their name from that of the cantref of Penfro: Pen = "head" or "end", and bro = "region", "country", "land", and so it means essentially "Land's End".-History:The main point of...

     tide mill, Pembrokeshire
    Pembrokeshire
    Pembrokeshire is a county in the south west of Wales. It borders Carmarthenshire to the east and Ceredigion to the north east. The county town is Haverfordwest where Pembrokeshire County Council is headquartered....

    (mill ponds only)

Sources


Further reading

  • Minchinton, W. E. : "Early Tide Mills: Some Problems", Technology and Culture, Vol. 20, No. 4 (Oct. 1979), pp. 777-786
  • Rynne, Colin: "Milling in the 7th Century – Europe’s earliest tide mills", in: Archaeology Ireland 6, 1992

External links