A working watermill

The watermill

Recently restored, there has been a mill at Dunster since the medieval period.

A brief history

Milling has been a part of the Dunster Estate since medieval times. The first records appear in the Domesday Book which records two corn mills on the site; Overmylle and Nethermylle. In 1427 Newmylle was built next to Nethermylle and by 1430 there were also at least four mills working in the grounds that were connected to Dunster’s cloth industry.

In 1620 Newmylle and Nethermylle were connected to form Lower Mill in the location of the current watermill. In 1779 a comprehensive set of works were carried out resulting in the watermill we see today.

Lower Mill’s machinery was modernised in the late 19th century when all wooden parts, with the exception of the waterwheels, were replaced with cast iron.

By the 20th century the watermill faced an uncertain future with Dunster historian H.C Maxwell Lyte commenting in 1909 that “the wheels often stand idle nowadays, the lessee James Phillips having a more important mill at Minehead.’ The mill produced flour once again during The Second World War but in 1962 the mill closed and fell into disrepair.

In 1976 the watermills future began to look bright again. The estate came into the ownership of the National Trust and the watermill was leased to Laura and Arthur Capps who restored it back to full working order. They remained as tenants for 18 years and it is their muesli recipe that we still use today. Paul Marriot and Mike Bushen followed on as tenants until the National Trust took over running of the mill in 2014 when the last tenant retired.

The waterwheels

Dunster Working Watermill is a rare type of mill called a double overshot. This means that both wheels are powered by water from the leat on to a launder which delivers the water to the wheels from above.

The upper wheel and associated machinery was repaired in 2007 at a cost of £20,000 and the lower wheel was replaced in 2015 at a cost of £35,000.

Bagging the flour

Since taking over the running of the mill in 2014 we have ground and bagged over 18 tonnes of wholemeal flour ground from organic grain which is available to buy at the watermill and in the stables shop.