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2020 / 2021 Edition

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Medieval mill found in Herefordshire Quarry

The remains of one of the earliest medieval watermills identified in England has been uncovered by a team of archaeologists working at Wellington Quarry in Herefordshire. The work, funded by Lafarge Aggregates, was undertaken by Worcestershire Archaeological Service in close co-operation with Herefordshire Archaeology (Herefordshire Council's archaeological service).

The mill was discovered when soil and overlaying material was being stripped prior to the extraction of sand and gravel. Operations were then moved to another part of the quarry while the archaeologists began investigating.

Ross Halley of Lafarge's estates department said: 'Under our agreement with Herefordshire Council we had an archaeologist on site watching over the soil-stripping operation when it was realized this find may be significant. We're delighted that the teamwork has paid off and the mill has been recovered.'

After 12 days of work the archaeological team uncovered a well preserved, rectangular timber structure constructed from substantial oak beams. Fragments of several large millstones were also found and, although the upper elements of the structure had been robbed, sufficient evidence survived to indicate that the large beams probably formed the base of the wheel pit for a vertical waterwheel.

Preliminary dating of two of the timbers has indicated that the watermill was probably built sometime during the first half of the 8th century. Although charters and other documents indicate that mills were commonplace in the medieval landscape, only a handful of early watermills have been excavated.

The major timbers from the Wellington mill are currently preserved in a temporary water tank constructed for them at the site. Negotiations are currently underway to arrange for their specialist treatment and conservation so they can be put on public display in the future.

 

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