Although the mill at les Niaux is just outside the Parish, by only a few feet, this piece of Island history has been included in our pages for general interest because the mill stream, the flume and the small abreuvoir opposite the mill, are all within the Parish of St Andrew.
There has been a mill located on this site since the mid 1300’s when it was known as le Neuf Moulin. In later years, it became known as les Niaux Water Mill. In 1563, at the time of the Reformation, ownership of the mill passed from the Crown into private ownership. From the 1700’s until the late 1800’s the mill was used to grind corn, but from then onwards the power was harnessed to rip and shred rags into shoddy for the padding of uniforms.
Thanks to the enthusiasm and foresight of present mill owners, Joan and Martin le Boutillier, the mill has recently undergone a complete overhaul and restoration. The new, hardwood wheel weighing in at around 1.5 tons wet weight, is something to behold, and even when the sluice gate at the head of the new flume is closed to just a trickle, the water flowing from St Andrew’s still provides the mill wheel with an impressive amount of power. The energy produced will not be going to waste as the owners intend using it to provide electricity for their adjoining dwelling and power to drive a compressor for a heat-pump. All in all, a very impressive feat of conservation and also a “green” engineering project; something of which the owners can justly be proud.
The stream supplying the mill follows an interesting, ancient route along Talbots Valley, past the site of the former undershot mill wheel at l’Echelle* (where according to local history, the ladders to the local gibbet were housed), and then onwards to be diverted to flow along the side of the valley to create sufficient head of water to power the large overshot wheel at les Niaux; thanks to the efforts of the present land owners in St Andrew, this ancient diversion of the stream has been well maintained and still follows its historical route.
Further information about the mill and the Martel family’s long standing connection with it, can be found on local historian Stephen Foote’s interesting site – http://history.foote-family.com/martel1.htm