That the miller may make his corn …….

I know that the old nursery rhyme relates to the Windmill but this is about the water powered mill.

There is nothing more romantic than the image of living on a stream or river  in an old converted mill, but in recent years there been a lot more interest shown in the mechanics of old  mills.  These water powered mills were primarily used for the milling of grain, and were once an integral part of processing the grain into flour and animal feeds.  There has been great deal of interest and nostalgia surrounding the old mills in the  UK, which has resulted in an annual Mills Weekend. Small mills open their doors to the public,  allowing enthusiasts to enjoy a feast of old mill machinery and hearing tales of days gone by and of the miller and his importance in society.

The Isle of Man was no different to Britain in its use of the mills and the land soon became littered with water mills and water wheels.  The larger wheels that scattered the landscape were used for mining and industry, but the focus here is on the Mills that supplied the local community.

Mills were in abundance on the island so that locals could mill their own grain,  but this was soon to change because of the tolls that were enforced by the Lords of Mann ( the Earls of Derby) who owned the island and because of this were able to put in force many laws and tolls that were of no benefit to a society that was already living a life of subsistence.

An excerpt from ‘A Manx Notebook’ outlines the importance of revenue from the mills.

The frequent mention of tolls on corn ground at the lord’s mills in the Records shows that they were regarded as an important source of revenue. In accordance with customary law, every tenant was obliged to go to a certain mill to have his corn ground, and, if it got out of repair, he was bound to assist in making it good again, without receiving any remuneration, and, since it was the lord’s interest that all corn should be ground at these mills (he receiving a fine or rent), no other mills were permitted. It would appear, however, as a result of an enquiry in 166, that the collection of this ” Mulcture, Toll, and Soken,” 11 as it was called, had been neglected, that many of the mills had fallen into decay, and that new mills had been erected which paid no fine to the lord. It was, therefore, ordered that the new mills were to be demolished, and the lord’s mills re-erected, also that no licence was henceforth to be given to erect mills except by the lord. In 1647, Earl James went so far as to attempt to prevent the people from grinding any corn whatever for themselves, all hand-mills or ” querns ” being ordered to be destroyed. 12, This order was, however, to a very large extent evaded, and the hand-mills continued to be used.13

I have had the privilege of seeing two ‘working mills’ in the past year, both in the south of the island.  Kentraugh Mill is a small mill which is  believed  to have been in the area since the early 1500. I went to visit it on a Mills weekend and was fascinated by this small mill that had been restored and brought back to life . hidden away  on a small road leadiing away from the shore at Gansy.  This  small mill serviced the surrounding lands, by and all grain would have been brought here to the mill by farmers and crofters as they were not allowed to mill their own corn.

The earliest record so far found shows that the Mill was working in 1506 when it belonged to Robert QUALTROUGH (McWHALTRAGH). If it was then working, it is likely that it was doing so for several centuries before that. Being an “ancient mill” it had to feed each year a “tithe pig”, the property of the Lord of Man.  To find out more about the mill click on the link, which gives a wonderful description of the mill and some images.

The second mill at Golden Meadow just on the edge of Castletown.  This little known gem of a mill has been wonderfully restored and brought back to life.  Although the mill is not a working mill and the water wheels have long since ceased to turn, the mill itself is in pristine condition, as is all the machinery within the building. It is quite unique in that it has two wheels, one wheel servicing the threshing floors and one u working the mill, both turning in opposite directions.

The O’Sullivan family purchased it about 20 years ago and started restoration on all the buildings that surrounded the mill to make them habitable.  The work eventually turned to the old mill and that was brought to life again thanks to Mr O’ Sullivan.  We were shown around by the grandson, Jacob, the who explained that this was the Lord’s mills which served the then capital Castletown.  His enthusiasm and hard work around the mill will ensure that this mill will continue to ‘live’  for generations to come. Without the passion of these people these mills that were responsible for supplying flour for baking the daily loaf, would no longer exist.