The HCA Red List of Endangered Crafts

 

Millwrighting

 

A mixture of several crafts, but essentially building machines to harness wind, water and animal power to drive machinery.

 

Status Critically endangered
Craft category Wood, metal
Historic area of significance UK
Area currently practised Wherever the surviving mills tend to be – South and East for windmills, West for watermills.
Origin in the UK 13th century
Current no. of professionals (main income) 6-10
Current no. of professionals (sideline to main income)
3
Current no. of trainees 1
Current total no. serious amateur makers
2 (retirees who volunteer)
Current total no. of leisure makers
Around 20 volunteers who can do basic tasks
Minimum no. of craftspeople required

 

History

Millwrighting started as soon as humans started to build machines, probably pre-Roman, but developed as the machines and materials did. The introduction of iron was the largest single development.

 

Techniques

Millwrights build in timber, or later metal, make patterns, machine components, make gear teeth, build, repair and dress stones, and make from scratch or repair any part of any mill, from tree or casting to component.

 

Local forms

 

 

Sub-crafts

 

Issues affecting the viability of the craft

  • There is plenty of work but no funding, plus issues with skills, costs, raw materials, recruitment, and business viability due to material costs, premises and set up costs, long turn round and getting paid.
  • The smaller companies have cash flow issues and are strategically pushed out by the larger ones.
  • The sector is poorly funded with vulnerable buildings often being repaired by unqualified people.
  • The Lottery-type funding requires quick turnaround, project management and glossy websites – there’s an increasing demand for pretty but non-functional restorations at the expense of quality.
  • There’s no guild/union or recognised qualification – many of the one-man-bands don’t have the skills or experience, and even less so the larger companies.

 

Support organisations

 

Craftspeople currently known

Individuals:

  • Adam Marriot
  • Richard Seago
  • Paul Kemp
  • Tim Whiting
  • Bill Griffiths
  • Malcolm Cooper
  • Neil Medcalf
  • Derek Janes
  • Ian Clarke, Winchester – works mainly on water mills

Businesses:

  • IJP Building Conservation
  • Dorothea Restorations
  • David Empingham

 

Other information

SPAB suggest that at least 20 millwrights need to be trained over the next 5 to 10 years as this is an intense apprenticeship which would take several years to learn all the various skills. Ideally 3 or 4 a year for the foreseeable future would cover this, allowing for some to drop out.

 

References

  • Freese, Stanley, Mills and Millwrighting – goes into great detail of how to build a windmill, particularly a wooden post mill, giving the types of materials and tools also the methods that should be used.
  • Watts, Martin, ‘Millwrighting’ in Crafts in the English Countryside.
  • Wailes, The English Windmill
  • Farries, Essex millers and millwrights, volume 2