Muscle mills

This is a new section for me covering mills that were operated by either humans or animals which I hope to add to and eventually when I have sufficient I will create separate pages for the different types.

Mainly the drawings have been prepared from old advertisements, drawings, photographs and descriptions in books etc, although the Romanian ones are based on scale drawings of buildings that have been relocated into the Astra Museum at Sibiu in Romania. A fantastic site and well worth visiting


The stepping mill above was for the Bedford Prison or ‘House of Correction’ and was used to grind corn into flour and also powered a set of malt rollers

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This is a horse powered corn mill in the Astra National Museum complex at Sibiu in Romania. The drawings I have worked to do not show that the one end of the driving ring gear overlaps the tail end of the previous section so they parts are staggered. A colleague who had visited the site from the Mills Research Group pointed it out to me. I shall be visiting the museum again in September so I shall pay particular attention to this detail and adjust my drawing accordingly. The winch on the platform tilts the main vertical post so the ring gear touches the floor to allow the horses to step over it when entering and leaving.

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This dog wheel was used to power a centrifugal blower

This dog wheel was used to operate a set of bellows


These three drawings are loosely based on a book about dog mills called ‘Hondenmolens’ by Jan Delacour in Dutch but very interesting

The angle of the track for the treadmills shown below is adjusted to suit the weight of the animal and the work it is required to do. The power available from a treadmill is dependent on the weight of the animal and the angle of the tread, not on the strength of the animal.  The dog  simply climbs the tread to maintain his position and gravity does the work..

This dog wheel was used to provide rotary power for a butter churn


This treadmill operates a horizontal rocking butter churn

This treadmill was used to provide power for a butter churn

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This treadmill operates a lathe but could power any rotating piece of machinery

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This is a horse powered sawmill at the Astra museum in Sibiu below is manually operated grain mill at the same museum


One clever designer in the Victorian era came up with a sewing machine powered by a dog. German inventor Heinrich Feldt designed and patented The Feldt Dog Engine in 1888, and intended for it to offer seamstresses a bit of relief when it came to mending and sewing clothing


A treadmill operated washing machine that could be powered by a dog


Field or Carriage Mill 1735

A refinement of Targone's mobile mill is described and illustrated in 'Theatrum Machinarum

Field or carriage mills were used by armies in camp where more permanent mills were unobtainable, the carriage being drawn by two pairs of horses on the march and one pair when milling.

Note Wheels are partially buried for stability

From information in Mills at War by Ron & Mildred Cookson - The Mills Archive

Below is a reproduction of the recently rebuilt 15th century Horse Gin (short for Engine) at Swannington Heritage Trust (click on the drawing belowto go to their website)

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Click on this image to view several woad mills of which two were powered by horses. This one Parson Grove used three and the other, Brothertoft used eight

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An oblique dog-driven wheel from Dulellog, Rhostryfan, Caernarfon operating a butter churn


Multi-tasking is not new. This invention allowed the busy Farmers wife to knit while churning butter and rock the baby all at the same time

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Swing operated butter churn. Julius Restein received a patent in 1888
for this swing device for operating churns, washing machines etc.


In Cambridgeshire from about 1830 and for about 75 years top soil was used to build a mound, 11 or 12 feet high and 30 feet in diameter, for a wash mill. A large wooden post, 10 or 12 feet long, at the centre, 3' from which a circular depression was constructed, 6 to 8 feet wide; a brick-paved base surmounted by iron plates which together formed a circular trough some 4 feet deep. Trucks, loaded from wheelbarrows and pulled by hand or horses on a trackway, took the mined product to the wash mill. Here, the product was sorted (a job done by women and girls) before being placed into the brick and metal trough. A large wooden tank was constructed nearby, with a pump that provided water to supply the trough. A 12 to14 foot long wooden arm (or ‘wimpole tree’) was attached to the central post at one end, and at the other was harnessed a horse. From the arm hung a pair of iron harrows which stirred the slurry in the trough. After a time, the top water (or ‘slub’) would be let off into a slurry pit (or ‘pan’), and then the process repeated until the nodules were clean enough for grinding. At that time the ground material was used as a fertiliser


A Cow operated corn mill  above and a Horse operated one below

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A Donkey operated corn mill  in the Museum on Gozo, Malta

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Horse mill found nr Waterwynch Farm, Red Roses, Carmarthenshire

There are many more types of mill to add so watch this space