Heritage Consultancy


Sopwell Watermill recording project 2017-18

Revealing the hidden mechanism of a 19th century water-powered corn mill

Sopwell Watermill is located on the southern edge of St Albans in a peaceful countryside setting. Dating from the late 19th century, it is an imposing 3-storey brick building with a slate roof. The miller's house, of two storeys, is connected to the mill.

The mill's external waterwheel was powered by the River Ver until the 1930s when milling activity ceased. All three internal floors were probably stripped out soon afterwards. The stream was diverted, the head race was filled in and the tail race became an ornamental pond. 

At first glance, very little machinery remains inside the mill. Closer inspection reveals that the main driving gears survive intact behind wooden panelling. 

Conversion of the empty internal spaces to living accommodation is planned. As part of this work, the surviving machinery will be conserved and repaired. The cast iron waterwheel will be restored so it can turn once again.

The working parts of the mill have been surveyed and drawn in 3D by Bonwick HC. We have also specified repairs to the waterwheel and sluices. The structure, house and outbuildings have been modelled by Robert Ward-Booth using a mixture of laser scanning and photogrammetry. The result is a comprehensive record of a small industrial complex prior to its conversion.

Sopwell Mill has three pairs of millstones arranged in a line on the first floor. The cast iron driving gears represent 19th century engineering at its zenith.