Huge 12th c. waterwheel found on Thames bank

Developers prepping for new construction in the Greenwich Wharf area have found the remains of an enormous 12th c. waterwheel.

Look at the size of this monster:

Archaeologists estimate that the foundations were 30 feet by 36 feet and the waterwheel was more than 20 feet in diameter.

The Romans were the first to build tide mills long the Thames foreshore. The waterwheels powered millstones by sucking in the high tide and releasing the low tide.

We know the technology was still going strong in 1086 because four tide mills are mentioned in the Domesday book, but until now, little evidence of them has ever been found.

It has been preserved against centuries of damage by riverside peat deposits. Carpenters’ or millwrights’ assembly marks are clearly visible on the timbers. [...]

The find is similar in design to Roman mills. What has survived is the water trough, carved from a single log, and a carved section of the waterwheel itself with paddles.

Dendrochronological analysis – where tree rings are counted – dates the trees’ felling to 1194.

Researchers think the mill was probably associated with a nearby monastery run by a Belgian order. They’re going to sift through the monastery records to see if they can find any information on the mill.

Meanwhile, the timbers have been removed for conservation and the site is being fully documented. Then the developers will get it back to build some ugly contemporary crap on it.

Okay to be fair, I don’t know that it’ll be ugly or crap, but given what’s become of the London skyline over the past 50 years, it seems likely.

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4 Comments »

Comment by Dina
2009-02-17 00:48:06

Wow, big monster.
I’d never heard of tide mills. Thanks for another lesson.

Comment by livius drusus
2009-02-17 08:28:04

I hadn’t heard of them either until I read this story. Glad to pass it on. :hattip:

 
 
Comment by beverly joy
2009-02-17 08:50:11

this is an awesome find ! thanks for the info… oh, and i totally agree with you about the london sky line … bleh . .

Comment by livius drusus
2009-02-17 09:20:40

Thank you! It really is a crying shame. Other cities with deep historical roots like Paris and Rome have zoning laws preventing stupid ugly concrete boxes from marring the skyline. I don’t know why London doesn’t.

 
 
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