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Information Sheet - Restoration of the Water Wheel


The restoration of the two mill wheels is the biggest single project at Baldocks mill since the building was taken over by the civic society in 1983. The Property is owned, by Bourne United Charities but leased to the society for a peppercorn rent that was renewed in 2002 for a further 21 years. In return the society has refurbished the building, mainly through voluntary labour, for use as a Heritage Centre and is now open to the public at weekends, offering an increasing number of exhibits depicting the history of the town.

The only thing we know about Baldocks Mill in past times is that it was built on the banks of the Bourne Eau in 1800. It operated until the mid-1920s and takes its name from the last family to work it, i.e. Baldock. Corn was brought in to be turned into animal feed, by farmers and smallholders who paid for the grinding. Maize was also split for chicken feed and horse beans and a flour dresser provided sufficient for the family's own use.

Two sets of stones operated on the first floor and were fed from the hoppers on the floor above, the corn being lifted up from where it had been delivered by a chain hoist driven, like the stones, by a wooden undershot water wheel. Access to the two upper floors by the miller was by ladders.

The mill operated for three hours twice a day and this time was increased by digging of the leg between the paddock that is now the War Memorial gardens and Wellhead cottage. After powering Baldocks Mill, the water then ran downstream and could be used by Notleys Mill in Eastgate before it was demolished in 1973.

A gas engine was used at other times to provide power and as the miller, Mr. Frederick Baldock, ran a carpentry and timber business from the premises, it also kept his saw bench in operation.

Ground metal was packed on the downstairs floor, using the same bags brought in by the farmers, then hoisted up to the store on the first floor ready for collection, via a wooden chute that was attached to the iron bar that can still be seen today below the stable door entrance. The mill stopped working in 1924 when the water wheel collapsed and was not repaired although the timber business continued to operate from the building for several years afterwards.

The heel and machinery can still be seen within the building, now Grade II listed as being of architectural and historic interest. The Listing was given to the mill in 1973 when the task of restoring the building began. The early work was carried out by boys and girls, from Bourne Secondary School, (now Robert Manning Technology College) under the guidance of teachers Mike Watkins and Alan Dawn. It was then envisaged that the building would eventually become an industrial and agricultural museum but no firm plans were drawn up. Nevertheless, the youngsters tackled the work with gusto, chipping and renovating brickwork, plastering, fitting new doors, painting and decorating. The roof was repaired and broken windows re-glazed and while work was going ahead, gifts of old equipment and other artefacts began to arrive for the museum display that was envisaged.

In 1983, Bourne Civic society stepped in with a proposal to run the mill and preserve it for community use and full potential of the building in this new role is slowly being realised. Further restoration work has been carried out by a dedicated band of helpers and although funds have been slow in coming, a Heritage centre has already been established with a memorial room dedicated to the life and times of Raymond Mays, the motor racing pioneer who lived in the town. The room was opened on 29th August 1999 by local MP, Mr Quentin Davies, the member for Grantham and Stamford, and the collection includes the racing goggles worn by Raymond Mays, some of his trophies and an impressive display of photographs reflecting his career.

There are many other features which are being added to almost weekly and they include a small photographic exhibition depicting the life and times of Charles Worth, the famous Paris milliner and founder of haute couture who was born in the town, mementos from the railway era, models memorabilia, pictures and documents associated with the town.

The restoration of the water wheels was the brainchild of Jim Jones, a member of the society since 1978 and husband of the chairman Mrs. Brenda Jones. "Not only will this project bring the mill to life again but it will also be an added tourist attraction", he said. He undertook the work after an appraisal of other schemes elsewhere in the country, specially at Totnes, in Devon, where Jim and Brenda visited a water mill in which the wheel had been rebuilt by a local joiner and wheelwright. The specifications were similar to that which was envisaged at Baldocks Mill. They took particular regard to the materials used, such as seasoned timbers, mild steel and others, which fitted perfectly with the scheme in hand.

There were two kinds of mill wheels, overshot and undershot. Overshot wheels in which the water strikes the top first can usually be found on man-made or natural weirs and are more expensive but also more efficient of the two, needing only a quarter of volume of water to produce the same amount of power. Baldocks Mill had an undershot wheel which was turned by water flowing through the vanes at the bottom, as can be seen with the restored wheel in position over the mill race.

The project had a cost £12,000 and was funded mainly through grants, the bulk of which has come from Lincolnshire County Council, and has enabled the Civic Society to construct and install the wheels to bring the building back to its original state when it was used for milling corn. During its working life, the large wheel was 15 feet in diameter by 3 feet wide and the smaller flywheel measured 5 feet by 12 inches. It is these two wheels that Jim has restored.

Jim drew up working diagrams during the summer of 2002, using his past experience as an engineering draughtsman, showing a large wheel made of hardwood and measuring 10 feet in diameter and 35 inches in width, smaller than the original, although this is largely decorative, and a second wheel made of steel to the original size which will be the working wheel.

Local firms with a reputation for quality and integrity were used to supply the components and all delivered on time with work of a high standard. The Large wheel is 5 feet smaller than the original because extensive repairs took place at the mill 20 years ago to make it suitable for public use and these specifications cannot be changed. This wheel will slowly turn to simulate the original action of past years.

The paddles on the smaller wheel are a reasonably close tolerance to the walls of the mill-race to harness as much water power as possible. This wheel is connected to a multiplier gear box and in turn, will eventually drive a generator, producing sufficient electricity to supply four storage heaters in the building which currently constitute the main burden of the mill's £300 a quarter electricity bill and so this will be a "green" bonus for the project. This wheel is connected to a separate circuit to isolate it from the mains, thus enabling the society to keep track of the power and savings generated.

Plate glass viewing windows already in situ will allow visitors to see the wheel in action. During the restoration project, Jim Jones realised that there was space on the struts of the smaller steel wheel that could be filled with the names of people who supported the scheme and so they were invited to contribute a small sum for this purpose.

A total of 149 names were submitted, some from abroad, in return for a donation to the Heritage Centre, £5 from members and £10 from non-members, and a list of those who contributed is on display in the mill. This particular aspect of the scheme has been given coverage by the Countryman magazine in the September issue together with a photograph of the wheel showing many of the engravings.

The Environment agency sent a representative to the mill at the end of May to survey work in progress and he praised the standards that were being achieved and offered encouragement. There has also been continuing support from Lincolnshire County Council and the chairman, Councillor Peter Bray, has kindly consented to declare the project open.

Written and Photographed by Rex Needle - text and pictures copyright 2003
A longer illustrated account of this project may be found on the Bourne Internet Web-site at www.bourne-lincs.org.uk