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National Mills Weekend – May 11-12, 2024

People all over the U.K celebrate National Mills Weekend every second weekend of May and this year it will run from May 11 to 12. This annual festival is facilitated by the Wind and Watermills area of the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings (SPABs). On this weekend, numerous protected wind and watermills — which are often closed to the masses — open their doors and offer some knowledge into the process, workings, and history of the mills.

History of National Mills Weekend

National Mills Weekend is an event in the U.K. that took place initially on the second Sunday in May. What started as a single-day occasion later extended to include Saturday and is presently known as National Mills Weekend.

The first evidence of a wheel driven by water appeared in the technical treatises of the Greek engineer Philo of Byzantium who lived between 280 B.C. and 220 B.C. Later on, during the seventh century, watermills became well established in Ireland and a century later, they spread into Germany. In 1870, two-thirds of the power used by the British for grain milling came from watermills. In the nineteenth century, there were over 20,000 watermills in Britain, and they were used for grinding bones for fertilizer, paper manufacture, powering forge hammers, etc. They however became obsolete in the early twentieth century due to the availability of affordable electrical energy.

National Mills Weekend is aimed at bringing the attention of the public to the importance of making repairs and protecting traditional mills so that they can be kept in good working conditions. National Mills Weekend’s official website supplies information yearly about the watermills and windmills that would be open to visitors. This is because these mills are usually closed for their preservation but are opened on National Mills Weekend for excursions that give people insights and knowledge about the history of the mills.

National Mills Weekend timeline

Seventh Century
The Popularity of Mills in Ireland

Watermills become popular in Ireland before spreading into Germany a century after.

The Protection Society is Formed

The Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings (SPABs) is formed.

Twentieth Century
The Use of Electric Power.

Watermills are abandoned due to access to cheap electric power.

Mills Get New Lease of Life

Mills are opened to the public for the first time for National Mills Weekend.

National Mills Weekend FAQs

What is the difference between a windmill and a wind turbine?

Windmills convert wind energy using vanes into mechanical energy while wind turbines convert the kinetic energy of wind into large amounts of electricity.

Do watermills create electricity?

Water mills convert the kinetic energy in moving bodies of water to power machinery and generate electricity.

Are watermills still used today?

Watermills are still widely used for processing grain in some developing countries.

National Mills Weekend Activities

  1. Visit a Mill

    During National Mills Weekend, the majority of the country’s mills are open to visitors. Celebrate this weekend by visiting different mills. This would increase your knowledge about the industrial sector.

  2. Read about its history

    To get a clear picture of what the National Mills Weekend is about, read up on its history during the weekend. You will learn a thing or two and come to appreciate these "ancient" structures.

  3. Spread Awareness

    Share your knowledge of windmills and watermills with your friends. You can post about it on social media or organize a talk session with your friends.

5 Interesting Facts About Watermills And Windmills

  1. Windmills have existed for a long time

    Ancient mariners in Persia and China used windmills or wind power for sailing while farmers used them for pumping water.

  2. Ex-president George Washington built a mill

    In 1771, the first U.S. president, George Washington, built his merchant mill — located on the Mount Vernon lands — that utilized a 16-inch water wheel.

  3. The first modern windmill

    The first modern windmill — now modernized into a wind turbine, was built in the U.S. in the 1940s.

  4. Safety for watermills

    Watermills were confined under roofs or in buildings to protect them during the winter to protect them from snow and ice.

  5. A means of conservation

    With inspiration from windmills, wind power is estimated to have saved above 30 trillion bottles of water in the U.S. by 2030.

Why We Love National Mills Weekend

  1. A chance to see mills

    Besides the National Mills Weekend, only authorized people are allowed to see the mills. However, at this special event, all the mills across the country are open to visitors.

  2. It is a knowledgeable event

    This event develops a sense of knowledge among people unaware of the working principle of mills and their industrial impact. So, by celebrating this weekend, the majority of the people get to learn something new for themselves and their loved ones.

  3. A career-building opportunity

    The people who are interested in this sector are of great importance to National Mills Weekend. Similarly, those who want to build a career around harnessing the natural energy of water and wind eagerly wait for this event so that they can gain some valuable knowledge regarding the field.

National Mills Weekend dates

2022May 7Saturday
2023May 13Saturday
2024May 11Saturday
2025May 10Saturday
2026May 9Saturday

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