Saturday, 13 October 2012

Birmingham's Mills

It may be hard to imagine looking at the Rea when it is in normal flow that this river once supported nearly 200 mills! These mills included corn grinding mills, fulling mills, paper making and blade sharpening. The most famous mill is probably Sarehole Mill.

The River Rea flows through Birmingham, from the Waseley Hills in the south west to the River Tame, under Spaghetti Junction. The river is also fed by the River Bourn, which flows through Stirchley, and the Bourn Brook, which flows through Selly Oak, amongst a few others.

As the Rea supported so many mills, people became protective over the water. When the canals were built, competing companies stole each other’s water and sometimes, water was taken from the river to top up the canal network. As a result of this, several pools were built, near the river, and these acted as compensation pools, to ensure the river always had water. Examples of these include Wychall Reservoir and Lifford Lake.

Some mills have remains which can apparently be seen along the river. This includes Northfield Mill which I covered way back when I first started this blog – see here – though I couldn’t see any trace of the mill when I walked the route!

The picture below illustrates the number of mills on the Birmingham river systems, which includes the rivers Rea, Cole, Blythe and Tame. The Rea starts in the bottom left corner and works its way up towards the Tame.

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