Shelsley mill used to have a breast-shot wheel

We found evidence today that an older waterwheel was breast-shot, that is the water hit the wheel half way up and then flowed under the wheel.

Headley stood inside the wheel working through a gap in the buckets clearing out the mud and rubbish from underneath the waterwheel. This is a job we have been putting off until we are able to easily reposition the wheel, but no more. This is what he found.

The old wall below the headstock and sluice box has two vertical joints visible, as if there used to be a channel through the wall. At the bottom of those vertical joints there appears to be sloping masonry or brickwork that follows the circumference of the wheel. This slope was hidden under the mud that Headley shovelled out a bucket at a time. We think that this is clear evidence that an earlier waterwheel was breast-shot and would have turned in the opposite direction to the overshot wheel that is there now.

At first we thought Headley was being selfless, volunteering to be the one inside the wheel, but he was the only one out of the rain! The rest of us were either passing buckets of mud out or helping the bricklayers.

Yes, more bricklaying, this time by Derek and Martyn working either side of the wall above the tailrace. The formwork for the arch has now been removed without the arch falling down and the facing wall continued upward. Derek has been doing the bit that will be visible and Martyn has been building up the block work on the inside that will hold back the infill.

The day ended with a site conference trying to decide what to do about the wall that faces the outside of the waterwheel. This is about eight feet high with the lower half constructed of tufa blocks and the top half in brick. A very large root has pushed through and out of the bottom half and we have to make sure that this root does not grow any more or do any more damage. At the same time the wall must be made secure as it retains the most obvious viewing platform from which to watch the wheel. We think we want to dig out the root and rebuild the tufa part of the wall but how we go about it is less obvious.

It was getting cold as well as wet, so a clear consensus was to leave it until next week!

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