Watermills - A Shire book


Watermills, Martin Watts, Shire Books Like the recently published book on windmills, by the same author (Martin Watts), this Shire Album on Watermills is the larger format version of a popular title from the same publisher's long running Discovering series of pocket books. Martin Watts is a working millwright who has been researching, working, and restoring mills (with a heavy emphasis on watermills) since the 1960's, and as one would expect from such an expert, he has produced a very thorough and useful introduction to the subject.

The book starts with a good historical background section (from Roman mills onwards), followed by a discussion of the all important water supply, and the siting of mills in relation to that supply. Next, the types of waterwheel are considered, well illustrated with plenty of photographic examples, and drawings from the author's professional work on such wheels. Mill buildings are given a similar coverage, with more photos and careful line drawings, before the machinery inside is described - for corn milling, fulling, metalworking, textile production, and other uses. The general descriptive section of the book then concludes with a look at the conservation of watermills.

The rear of the book is given over to reference material, with a glossary, suggestions for further reading (including some more detailed books by the same author), and a list of around 120 UK watermills that can be visited. As with the windmill book, this list includes website address for many of the mills, though quite a few of these are rather vague - again all National Trust owned mills simply reference the National Trust home page, rather than a page specifically about the particular mill. The publisher has contacted me to say that this was because they feared that more specific URLs would not remain valid for long enough, and it is certainly true that the National Trust website does get redesigned fairly regularly. I also commented on the lack of grid references to help in precisely locating the mills, which the publisher has indicated is being looked at for future editions of the books.

The book is illustrated with numerous colour photos, with very fine line drawings and plans showing some of the more technical arrangements of watermills (with an acknowledgemt given that a number of these are as a result of the author's professional work undertaken for the National Trust and English Heritage). The mill on the cover, with its seemingly overlarge waterwheel, is Daniel's Mill, Eardington, near Bridgenorth, Shropshire.

Watermills, Martin Watts, Shire Books. ISBN 0-7478-0654-3

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