Bidlake Mill and leat


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:


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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

West Devon (District Authority)
National Grid Reference:
SX 48826 88701


A watermill and leat called Bidlake Mill.

Reasons for Designation

A watermill uses the gravitational force of water to turn a paddled wheel, the energy thus generated in the axle of the wheel enabling the operation of varying kinds of machinery. The waterwheel can be set directly into a stream, with a simple `shut' to control water flow, or may be spring fed or use tidal waters. More usually, however, an artificial channel, or leat, is diverted from the main watercourse and its flow to the wheel regulated by sluices. Depending on the height at which water is supplied, the wheel is described as overshot, breastshot, or undershot. The spent water returns to the main stream via a tailrace which may be straightened to increase efficiency. By the time of the Domesday Book an estimated 6000 mills were in existence, and the number increased steadily over the next three centuries. During the medieval period, mills, usually used for corn grinding, were a sign of status, and an important source of income to the lord of the manor who usually leased the mill and its land to the miller. With technological improvements, an increasing range of equipment including fulling stocks, tilt hammers, bellows, and textile machinery could be powered by watermills, and they became increasingly important to urban and rural life and industry. With the advent of steam power and the introduction of iron gears in the 18th century, waterpower eventually became obsolete for major industry, although many smaller rural mills continued in use. As a common feature of the rural and urban landscape, watermills played an important role in the development of technology and economy. Many of those retaining significant original features or of particularly early date merit protection. Bidlake Mill and leat retains many features and enough of its subsequent improvements to understand its changing uses through time. Clearly, this had long been a useful mill site and had seen many different forms of use from fulling cloth, grinding grain and woodworking. It reflects adaptive changes to technological improvements and developments and alterations in the agrarian and rural economy.


See Details.


This record was the subject of a minor enhancement on 11 November 2015. This record has been generated from an "old county number" (OCN) scheduling record. These are monuments that were not reviewed under the Monuments Protection Programme and are some of our oldest designation records.

This monument includes a watermill and leat situated in a valley on the eastern side of the River Lew. The watermill survives as a small rectangular two storied slate rubble built building with a scantle tiled roof which is gabled at one end and half hipped at the other. The building contains a fireplace with a chimney composed of slabs of slate. There is a cast iron overshot waterwheel with timber pockets fed by a timber launder which connects it to the leat. The leat is fed by the River Lew. Internally, some of the wooden and cast iron machinery is still in place along with two sets of granite millstones and one set of timber furniture. The manorial mill was first mentioned in a document of 1268. The present building dates back to 1565 when a document recorded that the ‘leate was finished and the myll reedified’, however, most of the upstanding building is 17th century. The mill was held by Henry Bidlake at the end of the Civil War. Formerly, the mill had two wheels, and one was used for driving stocks or hammers for fulling cloth. In around 1800 the two wheels were replaced by a single larger diameter wheel with a layshaft to drive two pairs of millstones. It continued to grind grain until the 1930’s. Subsequently, woodworking machinery was set up and used an extension to the layshaft to power the machines and continued in use until 1956. The present waterwheel is a replacement for the 1800s one and still operates a circular saw. The leat extends for a considerable distance to the north and east of the mill building.

The watermill is listed at Grade II.


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System number:
DV 751
Legacy System:


This monument is scheduled under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 as amended as it appears to the Secretary of State to be of national importance. This entry is a copy, the original is held by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

End of official listing

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