A TEAM of volunteers has dedicated a month to refurbishing Lyme Regis’ historic waterwheel to bring it back to its former glory.

The work at the town mill has taken almost four weeks and involved replacing all the woodwork in the waterwheel that was installed nearly 20 years ago in the project that brought the historic mill back to grinding corn after a 75-year silence.

The waterwheel which turns the millstones is nearly four metres, or 13 feet, in diameter and consists of two cast-iron rims, or ‘shrouds’ originally cast for a mill in south Devon by H Beare and Sons of Newton Abbot in 1878. These are kept in place by sets of eight thick oak spokes or ‘arms’, and hold the 40 broad wooden buckets which fill with water to drive the wheel round. In the two decades since the last rebuild, the buckets have started to leak and rot.

A spokesperson for the Lyme Regis Town Mill said: “This waterwheel is by no means the town mill’s first.

“The mill’s history dates back to 1340 when King Edward III gave the town permission to build a mill and take a water supply from up the river along a new mill leat.

“Originally there were two external waterwheels between the mill’s north wall and the leat footpath and then later, in the early 18th century, a larger 4.9 metre wheel superseded the smaller western one.

“Finally, at the end of that century, the waterwheel was brought inside the mill to its present position. This was a more powerful 2.44 metre-wide, last updated with an all-iron version in 1888, but that and the mill ground to a halt in 1928.

“Eight years later, scrap metal dealers stripped out the old waterwheel to make way for an electricity turbine used to augment the town’s electricity supply.

“The present waterwheel, built during the mill’s restoration in 2000, is the same diameter as the old internal wheel but it is half the width and uses the cast iron shrouds recovered from the mill in Devon.”

Around a dozen volunteers have been involved in the month’s work, including people with professional experience of engineering and wood and metal working.

The work has involved removing all the old timber, cutting and fitting 16 new oak spokes and 120 thick boards of larch to form the buckets. They also had to build two temporary dams to keep the river water away from the waterwheel and volunteers but allow it to continue to power the mill’s modern turbine which generates electricity to feed into the national grid.

Keeping the hydro-electricity turbine running is important as it also generates an income for the town mill trust’s finances.

The town mill is a charity set up to restore and maintain Lyme’s historic mill.

To find out about supporting the cost of the waterwheel by sponsoring a bucket or spoke, visit www.townmill.org.uk