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History of the working watermill at Dunster Castle

The mechanism inside the working mill at Dunster Castle, Somerset
Mechanism inside Dunster Castle's mill | © National Trust Images / Sarah Allen

Explore the history of the watermill at Dunster, records of which appear in the Domesday Book. From milling during medieval times to the bagging of flour today, follow the entire milling process.

A brief history

Milling has taken place at 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.

The waterwheel outside the mill at Dunster Castle, Somerset
The waterwheel at Dunster Castle's mill | © National Trust Images / Sarah Allen

Modernising the watermill

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

By the 20th century the watermill faced an uncertain future, and the mill produced flour once again during the Second World War but in 1962 it closed and fell into disrepair.

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.

Diverter plate at the Watermill at Dunster Castle, Somerset
Diverter plate at the Watermill at Dunster Castle | © National Trust Images/Sarah Allen

The upper wheel and associated machinery were repaired in 2007 and the lower wheel was replaced in 2015. Originally the watermill would have been run with three sets of mill stones, however since its restoration in the 1980s it had only operated with two.

Thanks to money raised from raffle ticket sales and a substantial grant from the LEADER scheme we have now been able to purchase a third set, securing the future of the Watermill for decades to come.

Bagging the flour

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

Exterior view of Dunster Castle and Garden in Somerset

Discover more at Dunster Castle and Watermill

Find out when Dunster Castle and Watermill is open, how to get here, the things to see and do and more.

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The LEADER scheme is part of the Rural Development Programme for England (RDPE) and is funded by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD).

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