New Hall Mill - Sutton Coldfield
It was on a soggy Sunday morning in May 2007 that I paid my first ever visit to New Hall Mill. Days open to the public are rare, so May 13th 2007 was a "must go see" day. I was not to be disappointed in spite of the weather. In fact, the weather contributed to the atmosphere of the place, the wet meadows and vegetable plots. The cafe was overflowing with thirsty visitors so I bypassed that pleasure and went straight into the Shop and then the Mill. In August 2016 it was another Open Day. As I used to work weekends, now retired, I paid another visit, with a much better camera, and took a good 60 new images of the Mill surrounds and displays.
Reproduced by kind permission of the Friends of New Hall Mill
A Guide to New Hall Mill, written by Friends of New Hall Mill, was first published in 1999 and last revised in 2005, although a new revised version is due out shortly. New Hall Mill is a privately owned water mill situated within the New Hall Country Park here in Sutton Coldfield. It is managed by New Hall Water Mill Preservation Trust (Reg Charity 502226) and operated by the Friends of New Hall Mill. Visit their website, link above, for more information.
New Hall Mill is Sutton Coldfield's only surviving mill. All the machinery has been lovingly restored and runs only on Open Days. Much care is spent on recreating the atmosphere of a working mill but also is covered by the million of Health & Safety laws that exist in our present day society. String sturdy steps take you up the three different levels of the Mill. Unfortunately, due to size and age, it is unsuitable for disabled within the Mill, apart from the ground floor. Nevertheless, this would not distract from the enjoyment of the place.
There is also much to see outside the Mill with a short path cutting through the trees, the beautiful Mill pond. There is a longer path running around the meadow where you can see wild grasses and plants, according to season. The Exhibition Room, Toilets and Sales area were formerly stables and cow house.
The History of The Mill.
Just off Wylde Green Road, New Hall Water Mill is a two and a half storey high building of the 18th century, although parts of the mill and cottage are from an earlier age and could have been part of the first mill on the site, probably around the 1500s. A lease dated 20th September 1709 shows that the mill was then owned by George Sacheverell of New Hall. The lease also tells us that the mill had 4 pairs of stones. It does not say whether the were driven by two waterwheels, each working two pairs of stones, or four waterwheels, each working a single pair of stones.
In 1899 a loaf of bread made from wheat that had been cut, threshed, milled and baked all on the same day was sent to Queen Victoria. Since then, this feat has been repeated twice to commemorate the Silver and Golden Jubilees of Queen Elizabeth II.
Benjamin Styles became miller in 1898. His forebears were a family of millers associated with windmills in East Warwickshire including Warmington, Burton Dassett and Upper Tysoe. He bought New Hall Mill in 1923 but sold it to the New Hall estate in 1928. New Hall Mill had returned to its former owners. Around 1960, difficulties in maintaining the water supplies led to the abandonment of water power in favour of diesel power. Alterations to the course of the Plantsbrook in the 60s finally cut off all water supplies to the Mill.
In 1970, Sir Alfred Owen decided to restore the mill to a full working mill. Following a full survey in 1971, work commenced in 1972. A new roof was was needed on the mill and wheelhouse. Floors and steps reformed and the mill pond drained and repuddled and the stream dredged out about 250 metres upstream. Wooden pen trough was repaired and an outer gate added to allow repairs without lowering the level of the pond. A holding tank was inserted, with a recycling pump, into the course of the tailrace to maintain water levels.
The internal staircases were added to afford public access. Workshop floor re-boarded as did much of the upper floor of the mill. Further remedial work was carried out in 1995 and 1996 and the mill was officially reopened on 12th May 1996, 10 years and 1 day before the date of typing this onto the net! The Friends of New Hall Mill was born in August 1996, the members of which work closely with the Trust to maintain the mill as well as operating the machinery on Open Days.
The mill as listed in the 1923 Sale Catalogue is virtually unchanged from that description. Local red brick forms the main part of the mill with part of the northern end is sandstone from a much earlier structure. The "hutch" protruding through the roof once contained the sack hoist mechanism. Although the roof is very heavily restored, some of the frames are of great age and may be been reused from an earlier building.
The curious Ďhutchí protruding through the tiled roof would once have housed part of the sack hoist mechanism. Although the roof has been heavily restored, some of the timbers in the main trusses are of great a and may have been re-used from an earlier building. The part of the cottage adjoining the mill is timber-framed and may not have been intended for domestic use but actually have been part of an earlier mill. The existence of three blocked openings into the mill would suggest this, also The tailrace from the northern waterwheel which actually passes beneath the cottage. The mill is fed by a relatively small pond which was originally connected by a long leat to the Ebrook. now called Plants Brook. Since the water supply was broken in the 1960s, the upper part has become silted and overgrown. Although the pond may once have fed as many as four internal waterwheels, by the late 18th century this was almost certainly reduced to two. A segmental arch in the brickwork near the foot of the fire escape shows where the water was taken into the mill at the northern end. The water would then return to the brook after passing beneath the cottage.
The southern wheel was situated near to the site of the present wheel. The water would have carried straight on into the mill to drive the second wheel. Now the water turns at a right angle and enters a wooden pentrough before flowing over the present wheel. It may have been intended to take the water away from this wheel, under the yard and down the tailrace which runs parallel to the outbuilding and then meanders across the field until it meets the brook near the road bridge. However, alterations to the supply and levels of water at Pennís Mill, downstream. may have prevented this new system from even being completed as the tailrace of the new wheel was connected to the existing tailrace, a tunnel which runs under the mill. Without a continuous water supply from the brook, water now has lobe recycled to keep the wheel turning. This is effected by collecting the water from the tailrace in a holding tank. When the tank is full, a powerful electric pump forces the water through a pipe back into the mill pond. Both the pond and the return outlet can he seen from a viewing platform.
The present waterwheel was added in the mid 19th century. It was made for Thomas Price. a millwright from Witton Lane, Hill Top, by George Turton, Iron and Brassfounder of Kidderminster. The wheel is difficult to date as many similar wheels were cast between 1840 and 1910, but Thomas Prie seems to have been in business from the 1860s, This waterwheel is overshot, fed from a wooden pentrough which has an unusual roller and which has an unusual roller and chain mechanism controlling the gate, carefully retained during restoration. The wheel measures 11 ft (3.35m) diameter by 6ft (1.83m) wide, with thirty-six buckets. Until early 1997, the bucket risers and the sole boards were made of wood which was rotten and need of replacement. As the mill is no longer run commercially, the wheel is stationary for long periods. The wood in the bottom half of the wheel would soak up the water, while the top half would dry out. Consequently half of the wheel was heavier than the other which unbalanced its motion, so it was decided to replace the rotten wood with iron. The wheel shaft is probably not the original as it is much too long, protruding 4ft (l.20m) from the end of the wheel. The additional length did prove useful in 1980 when the shaft sheared. The miller, Ben Davis. jacked up the shaft, cleaned up the end and drilled and tapped it so a new plate and gudgeon could be bolted on. All this he did on his own. Ben Davis was an expert at "make do and mend".
In the corner of the wheelhouse by the end of the shaft is a suggestion of a hearth and flue. It could be that the miller tried lighting fires to prevent the waterwheel freezing up in hard winters, a practice certainly used elsewhere.
Inside The Mill
As you enter the mill you will have the overriding impression that not much has changed since Ben Davis was in residence. Careful consideration has been given to maintaining the atmosphere of a working mill.
As you go through the door, in front of you is the main horizontal shaft. It
is this that carries the drive to the millstones on the floor above, If you look
up you can see the base of the bedstones on the floor above. There are two of
them, with vertical shafts (stone spindles) passing through (heir centres.
Attached to the lower end of each stone spindle is a gear called the stone nut,
which meshes with a corresponding bevelled gear on the main horizontal shaft.
The main horizontal shaft is driven by the large pit wheel, which is visible
through a viewing hole in the wooden casing on the wall opposite the entrance
door and to the left of the main horizontal shaft. The pit wheel is attached to
the waterwheel shaft. Above the wooden casing is the handle which operates the
sluice gate on the pentrough outside. This controls the amount of water flowing
onto the waterwheel, and thus the speed of the machinery. To the right of the
wooden casing is the meal trough, the spout above would have a flour sack
attached to it to catch the flour.
Just above the meal trough are two hand wheels, these are for adjusting the gap between the millstones. The gap between the runner stone (top stone) and the bedstone (lower stone) is critical, as it controls the fineness or coarseness of the flour. By turning the hand wheel, the tentering gear raises or lowers the stone spindle which is connected to the runner stone. The miller would stand by the meal trough and feel the quality of the flour as it emerged from the spout, and by turning the wheel he could adjust the gap accordingly. A belt drive connects the main shaft to overhead shafting through which it is possible to have all the auxiliary machinery in the mill driven by the waterwheel. However, the northern end is usually driven by the diesel engine, leaving an aspirator (on the second or Gamer Floor) and a meal creeper to be worked by water power.
To the left of the entrance door are the sack scales, complete with a full
set of weights (Imperial), and the desk at which former millers sat to write
their accounts. Receipts are kept on hooks over the window. The walls and window
ledges are covered with tools and useful itemsí to keep both mill and
small-holding running smoothly. Opposite the millerís steep ladder is the
circular saw bench and the bottom of the sack hoist. Grain was lifted to the
bins in the roof via the hoist and then fed through the machinery, reaching the
ground floor as meal. There it was bagged and weighed and returned to the first
floor to await collection, the ground floor being too damp for storage.
THE ENGINE ROOM
DRESSING THE STONES
and in August 2016
below in August 2016
and in Aug 2016
below same window Aug 2016
and in Aug 2016
same shot but Aug 2016 below
and, again, Aug 2016
A Millís Tale
April 12 2012
The narrative is reproduced by kind permission of the Friends of New Hall Mill
and cannot be reproduced in any format or downloaded without their permission.
And now we move to August 15th 2016
The images below, the 2 maps are actually much bigger than the published
version. If you download the images
ASK FOR FURTHER DETAILS IN THE MILL,
IN THE EXHIBITION ROOM,
OR VISIT OUR WEBSITE: