Waterwheels in West Wiltshire and Somerset

We associate water wheels with milling but they had other uses. We are looking at two here, both between Bradford on Avon and Bath. One may have started as a corn/grist mill. The other operates a pump.

Here’s the first.

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This is Avoncliff Mill – I believe called North Mill. My photo dates from 1972, I think. We can see the River Avon has a weir built across it and that provides a head of water for the wheel. This mill dates from the 1880s But earlier mills on the site were used for fulling – a process in the cloth making industry.

Recently the mill has been the subject of all sorts of arguments. A group wanted to rescue the extremely derelict building and set up a hydroelectric power station. It sounds laudable, but things seem to be stymied and I for one am not getting into any blame game.

The mill can be seen nicely from the Avoncliff Aqueduct which carries the Kennet and Avon Canal over the river.

Four or five miles of delightful downstream bring you to Claverton on the edge of Bath and the waterwheel used to power a pump which lifts water from the River Avon and into the canal.

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This was back in 1974 and the fantastic reflection can tell you the pump was not in use for the waters of the Avon seem to be entirely still. The Kennet and Avon Canal is 48 feet higher, up the bank on the left and this was a last opportunity to get water into the canal before the locks that took it down to river level in Bath – and thus emptied water back into the river.

But what an ingenious solution – to use the power of moving water to raise some of that water up.

Claverton is fully restored these days and it does the job it was built for and remains a beautiful riverside structure.

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