Architecture of France: Water mills

The restored Moulin de Gô in Mayenne

Mick the miller gets the old water wheels turning again

The first water mill is thought to have been invented in Greece around 300BC.

In France, they were in operation during the Roman period. There are the remains of a 1st-century water mill at Yèvre, in the  Cher, and of a remarkable site at Barbegal, near Arles, in the Bouches-du-Rhône, where 16 waterwheels were linked.

From the 9th to the 12th centuries, mills were improved. They ranged from simple versions found by the edge of small rivers to impressive constructions, where retaining ponds and channel diversions were created to carry the water to the mills.

The most important mills were owned by the aristocracy and the Church. Around 1040, rich landowners began to make it obligatory for local people to use their mills. Millers were heavily taxed.

This exploitation ended abruptly at the ...

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