You may not be aware that here at Quarry Bank, we also look after a sister property, Nether Alderley Mill. It is a corn mill, and from 2008-2012 it underwent a huge restoration project, when the roof and the mill machinery were completely restored.
Before Nether Alderley Mill was reopened to visitors back in March of this year, with a brand new tour, several millwrights needed to be trained up in the ancient skills, to be able to run the mill machinery.
This week I hand over to Vince Chadwick, one of the Nether Alderley millwrights, to tell us all about a recent visit by the Norfolk Millwrights who completed the machinery restoration…
We have closed the mill for the season now and will re-open in the spring. The National Trust has taken the opportunity to invite the Norfolk Millwrights, who did the recent restoration work on the mill machinery, to return to Nether Alderley to check on the condition of the mill after our first season milling grain, and to repair a couple of minor faults which have developed.
The sack hoist (above) has to be checked for its ability to raise sacks of grain, and the results documented, like a crane or lift. Not something you’d expect to have to do in a 16th century mill.
The grain hopper was removed, and here the ropes connecting the shoe to its wooden ‘spring’ and for shoe-height control are removed. After that the ‘horse’ (the wooden frame that supports the hopper) and the ‘furniture’ (the shroud around the mill stones) were removed.
When the furniture was removed an unexpected sight greeted us. The ‘sweeper’ (which should be attached to the runner stone and sweeps the meal to fall down the chute as it emerges from between the stones) had become detached. Flour (meal) had therefore built up inside the furniture and had to be removed before work could proceed. It filled three large sacks and a couple of vacuum cleaners!
Once the stones were separated we were pleased to discover that the milling surfaces were in excellent condition. The mace can be seen in the centre of the bed stone atop the drive shaft which comes up from the hurst frame below. The upper, or runner, stone rests on this and is driven by it as the slots in the mace engage with the metal rind in the centre of the runner stone.
Here the millwrights have removed the metal cover from the bed stone centre bearing with its hessian gaskets, and extracted one of three bronze bearing pieces (in the millwright’s hand)
Here’s a close up of the bearing piece. It is tapered top to bottom and front to back, so as the three bearing pieces wear they take up any slack automatically. In between the bearing pieces are wads of greased hessian to provide lubrication. The bearing piece is resting on the metal sealing collar in this picture. Once the hessian has been re-greased, this collar will be re-fitted with new hessian gaskets to keep flour dust out of the bearing.
Finally, the bearing having been re-greased and the stones’ faces cleaned, the runner stone was lowered back onto the mace.
To find out more about Nether Alderley Mill, browse the website to learn about the history and the restoration project. The Mill is currently closed until spring 2014.