BURWASH, EAST SUSSEX
Park Watermill, which stands by the River Dudwell, is located within the grounds of Batemans at Burwash, the home of Rudyard Kipling from 1902 to 1936. The mill was part of Batemans before Kipling bought it, having been purchased by a previous owner of Batemans.
A grant was made for the erection of 'two mills' at Burwash between 1246 and 1248. In those times the word 'mill' referred not to a building, but to a pair of stones, so the 'two mills' probably referred to one building with two pairs of stones. In 1619, the Pelham family purchased Park House and Park House Watermill.
The present mill dates from about 1750 when it was operated by John Skinner. It was last worked by the brothers Richardson in 1902. Rudyard Kipling who purchased Batemans and Park Mill in the same year, removed the waterwheel and installed a turbine in 1903. The turbine drove a generator and provided Batemans with electricity for 25 years. The mill features in a number of Kipling’s Sussex stories including ‘Puck of Pook’s Hill’ and ‘Below the Mill Dam’.
Water to the mill pond is supplied by two springs. The original turbine was designed and built by Gilbert Gilkes & Co. of Kendal, and it developed 4 HP running at 280 r.p.m. Water consumption was about 2000 gallons per hour. The electrical generation for the project was carried out by Middleton, Electrical Engineers of Chelmsford and the electrical generator was supplied by Crompton & Co. of Manchester. The turbine and generator was used to charge batteries in the daytime providing enough current at 110 volts D.C. to light ten 60 watt bulbs for four hours. In winter the turbine would run continuously.
Most of the machinery still exists in the mill. The pit wheel, wallower, great spur wheel and stone nuts, together with the tentering arrangement can be seen on entering the mill at ground floor level. Also on the ground floor are facilities to control the operation of the mill. Near the rear door, the miller can adjust the gap between the stones and control the speed of the waterwheel by regulating the flow of water.
The overshot waterwheel is set in motion by raising a gate in the pentrough, which allows water from the mill pond to flow through the pentrough into the individual buckets in the wheel, providing power to operate the mill.
On the stone floor three pairs of stone can be seen. The Wire Machine for dressing meal and a Smutter for cleaning grain are no longer in the mill. There is a Winnower, which is no longer used and a Hand Quern, which visitors can use to try their hand at milling.
The mill can normally be seen grinding twice a week on Saturdays and Wednesdays, also on Bank Holiday Mondays starting at 2 pm.
Batemans together with Park Watermill is owned by the National Trust, and there is a combined admission charge.
The new waterwheel fitted in 2005 is based on that design of an old waterwheel found at at Bolebrook Mill, Hartfield.
Restoration Work in 2005
Volunteer miller Alan Wilmhurst advised that restoration work on the mill is being carried out in 2005.
The old waterwheel and pentrough are to be completely replaced.
"The wheel was in a bad state", said Alan, "and the pentrough was leaking so badly it looked like a fountain."
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The mill now has new walls to the tun, and the vertical shaft has been brought back to the vertical again. Previously the penstock sluicegate was operated by a lever on the stone floor, but the opportunity was taken to re-position the control, and it is now in the form of a wheel situated near the meal spout and tentering screw.
In August 2005 the mill was working well, and with the better design of the waterwheel the millers are getting up to 40% more throughput than before. They are unable to get up to full speed yet, as the tail race has a lot of sediment and needs digging out, so that any attempt to speed up by putting more water on the wheel merely results in backwatering, thus slowing the wheel down again. They plan to do the digging out in Winter 2005, when Batemans is closed.
As they are not allowed water from the Dudwell river, but have to rely on a couple of springs and the run-off from the fields, water supply can be a problem.