βš™οΈ Old Mills of French-speaking Switzerland in 2020

In this article, La Torpille proposes you to discover the history of milling with the presentation of 5 old renovated mills and 2 museums exhibiting mills in French-speaking or Western Switzerland.

What is a mill?


A mill is an installation used to grind cereals or grains into powder or flour using mainly a millstone. Before the advent of electricity, a millstone was driven by wind or water to turn a wheel. This wheel transmitted the force of movement through a metal or wooden transmission shaft to the millstone.

A video on the schematic operation of a watermill.

Nowadays there are still mills but they use electricity as a source of energy and new technology to produce flour. These are mills that are quite different from the ones we will talk about in this article and which are several hundred years old.

History of mills


Mills have been used since antiquity as the Romans and Greeks used them extensively in their time. Remains of mills in the Mesopotamian basin have been dated to 2500 BC. They developed rapidly in the Middle Ages.

Energy brought to the mills


Mills, before electricity, are powered by two types of energy:

  • Wind
  • Water

Windmills have the disadvantage that they are highly dependent on weather conditions, which is less the case with water.

Windmills


There are several kinds of windmills, such as the tower mill or the pivot mill.

In the case of the tower mill it is the whole roof that moves while for the post mill it is the body that moves.

Windmills in Spain. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.
Windmills in Spain.

The functioning of a windmill.

Watermills


There are two kinds of watermills: the paddle mill and the bucket mill.

On mills using a paddle wheel, the water passes underneath, while for those using a bucket wheel, the water passes over the top.

A paddle wheel supplied with water by a half hollowed out trunk at the Saint-Luc mills.
A paddle wheel supplied with water by a half hollowed out trunk at the Saint-Luc mills.

A video about a paddle wheel mill and its successor, the Pelton turbine which has bucket wheels.

Functions of mills


Grain mill


Mills were mostly used to grind grain with a smillstone.

A millstone used to crush grain at the mills of la Tine.
A millstone used to crush grain at the mills of la Tine.

A video about grinding grain.

Fuller ofΒ cloth


Mill driven mallets are used to tread freshly woven drapery.

Trip hammer


Here the mill drives a particularly heavy forging hammer which is used to repeatedly tap an anvil.

A blacksmith at the Iron and Railway Museum in Vallorbe. Water drives the hammer of the forge.
A blacksmith at the Iron and Railway Museum in Vallorbe. Water drives the hammer of the forge.

Saw


A mill can also generate a back and forth movement to operate a wood saw.

Water pump


Water pumps are mainly connected to windmills. Some are still used today to operate water pumps.

Old Mills of Western Switzerland


La Torpille lists here the 5 old hydraulic mills dating from the Middle Ages open at least several months a year as well as two museums that exhibit mills. Some other old renovated mills are also open to visit but only on request or for a few days a year.

  1. Old mills at la Tine
  2. Iron and Railway Museum
  3. Mills of Saint-Luc
  4. Col-des-Roches Underground Mills
  5. Mills of Gore du Vauseyon

Museums with mill exhibitions:

  1. Patrimoin au fil de l’eau – Rod Mills
  2. Wheat and Bread Museum

Old mills at la Tine


  • πŸ”— Link: Details on the old mills at la Tine
  • πŸ“ Location: Troistorrents VS
  • πŸ“… Schedule: May to September

The old stone bridge leading to the Tine mills.
The old stone bridge leading to the Tine mills.

A video of the visit of the old mills.

Iron and railway museum


  • πŸ”— Link: Details on the iron and railway museum
  • πŸ“ Location: Vallorbe VD
  • πŸ“… Schedule: All year round (the blacksmith is not present in winter)

The Orb River bypass canal used to turn paddle wheels.
The Orb River bypass canal used to turn paddle wheels.

A video about the Iron and Railway Museum.

Saint-Luc mills


  • πŸ”— Link: Details on the Saint-Luc mills
  • πŸ“ Location: Saint-Luc VS
  • πŸ“… Schedule: A few days a week in July and August.

The site of the mills of Saint-Luc.
The site of the mills of Saint-Luc.

Une vidΓ©o sur les moulins de St-Luc.

Underground mills of Col-des-Roches


A view inside the cavities of the underground mills.
A view inside the cavities of the underground mills.

A video on the course in the cave of the underground mills.

Mills of Gore du Vauseyon


πŸ”— Link: Details on the mills of Gore du Vauseyon
πŸ“ Location: NeuchΓ’tel
πŸ“… Schedule: Spring/Summer/Fall

The Chambrier mill on the site of the Gore du Vauseyon mills.
The Chambrier mill on the site of the Gore du Vauseyon mills.

A video on the Seyon gorges with the mills of Gore du Vauseyon.

Patrimoin au fil de l’eau – Rod Mills


The site of the old Rod mills in Orbe.
The site of the old Rod mills in Orbe.

A video on the history of the Rod Mills site.

Wheat and Bread Museum


  • πŸ”— Link: Details on the Wheat and Bread Museum
  • πŸ“ Location: Echallens VD
  • πŸ“… Schedule: Open all year round

A magnificent functional model of a grain mill.
A magnificent functional model of a grain mill.

A video on the meeting with the president of the house of wheat and bread.