1700’s - Tide Mill

Over the years watermills grew steadily in size, but their power was limited and they were unreliable in times of drought. Some mills were built on tidal estuaries where they took their power from the incoming tide. The water was stored in a pond and later released to drive the wheel. Careful opening of the sluice gate ensured a steady flow. What are the main drawbacks to a tide mill?

++Can we find the OS map of the Isle of Grain, with its Tide Mills?

In coastal areas watermills could be found on tidal creeks or estuaries, though the tide itself did not provide the power. Instead, the pressure of incoming water at high tide automatically opened sluice gates set into the bank and filled a large millpond. When the tide turned, the pressure of the impounded water kept the gates closed. By low tide, the water level in the creek would have receded sufficiently for a good head of water to have built up, and the trapped water could be released through a culvert or sluice to drive the water wheel, which was connected by a system of gears and shafts to the grindstones. The mill could only work for a couple of hours at a stretch on either side of low tide which, of course, happens twice a day. Once the pond was empty, the wheel stopped and the miller would have to wait for the next high tide. Because of the constantly varying movement of the tides, working hours could be very awkward, and no two consecutive days would ever be the same. The layout and internal arrangements of tide mills are similar to those of a conventional watermill situated on a stream or river. This particular one is preserved in working order at Woodbridge in Suffolk. There have been corn mills on this site since 1170 and the present building dates from 1793; it last worked commercially in 1957. The corrugated iron cladding, fitted around a century ago, has now been removed to reveal the handsome timbering beneath.

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