Pann Mill Watermill, High Wycombe

Nominated by: Jacqui Hogan

There have been Mills on this site since at least the 11 century, and the current Mill dates from Georgian times; it has been substantially restored thanks to the High Wycombe Society. It is the last operating water mill on the river Wye, a tributary of the Thames. There used to be many more watermills in Buckinghamshire, including at least 37 on, or near, the Wye alone. To quote from their website (pannmill.org.uk) :

Ownership of the mill changed many times over the years, and an archaeological dig discovered that major rebuilding took place on at least 3 occasions. The oldest remains found dated from the 14th century.

The most recent mill was built in 1759, with a new waterwheel and milling machinery fitted in around 1860. Commercial milling ended in 1967, and in 1971 the mill buildings and the associated miller’s house were demolished as a part of a road widening scheme. The road widening did not take place as originally planned, so the High Wycombe Society undertook some restoration of the mill and its machinery.

The present, much smaller, mill building was designed by a Society member, Colin Kennedy, originally to preserve the machinery remaining from the demolition.  A significant donation of funds from Marks & Spencer, to celebrate their centenary in 1984, together with concerted fundraising by the Society, enabled the building to be erected. Of course, once the building existed it needed to be filled!

The previous mill had the traditional three floors, whereas the present building has only two.  The top floor was a grain store.  Sacks of grain were hauled up by a sack hoist and stored until needed.  Subsequent movement of grain was as much as possible by gravity.  In the present mill grain is still stored on the top floor, but in bins close to the mill stones.

During 2018-2019 we stripped all the old buckets from the waterwheel and replaced them with new ones. These had to be cut and bent from sheet steel which was done by an engineering company in the Midlands. We then drilled and cut the necessary holes and then had them galvanised. They were then de-greased, primed and painted and bolted back on to the wheel frame which was also given a coat of paint. The waterwheel is now all nice and shiny and because everything is balanced it turns much more smoothly.

Until Covid struck, it produced flour for sale, a process you were able to watch 2 or 3 times a year.

I’d like to nominate the Mill as being a great example of a once flourishing activity in Buckinghamshire that deserves wider recognition and support. It is of interest to all ages. I personally love that I can use a locally produced good quality flour made in the traditional way.

Pann Mill Watermill was nominated by Jacqui Hogan