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Prompted by the interesting and extensive report on mills in Greece that has been written by Hampshire Mills Group member George Roussopoulos we have decided to add this to our website for all to read. 

Although primarily focussed on Hampshire, we are interested in mills of all types and in all locations, so if you have an article or some information that would benefit from publication send it to us and if appropriate it could be added here.

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SOME WATERMILLS IN GREECE

by George A. Roussopoulos

 

During a visit to Greece in September 2014, I located a few watermills. As no preliminary research had been done, it was a matter of asking for watermills in kafenions, and often only the papoudes (grandfathers) would remember where they had been if they were not near the village.

On my return to England, I then searched for more information about the subject on the English web. While only the Hydria Project (see below) has a systematic approach to the subject it seems, there is a large number of photos of Greek watermills posted on a variety of web sites though often without any useful details, as well as many references to them in the better guide books etc.

So there were thousands, dating anywhere between classical times and today, all over Greece, but relatively few in reasonable shape or restored. And of course many studies already exist on the subject.

I list below mills which I visited and photographed, and others not seen which have been found mostly from the web.

 

Velies, ca 5km WNW of Monemvasia

There are two mills in cascade (A and B) lost in olive groves between Ano and Palio Velies villages. They are not restored but in fair condition and sit like elephants grazing off the olive trees. The central location is [36.7109, 22.9507], ca 700m SE of centre of old Velies.

There are two more watermills further down the valley according to an old man, unconnected to the first two, but I could not find them in the limited time available on this visit.

The general technology of A and B is what is often called the ‘Greek’ or ‘Norse’ watermill (see the paper about central Crete by N. G. Calvert listed below). That means a vertical axis on which both grinding stones and the turbine wheel are mounted. They resemble the pair at Marmarotis on Naxos (see Hydria Project).

About 2km west, there is a plain of agricultural fields which a hundred years ago was probably marshy and would have been the source but has since been drained. As with most such plains in Greece today, the water which they receive from surrounding mountains is now captured for agricultural and drinking purposes.

 

 

Watermill A near centre right, B near centre

 

 

       

Watermill A is the upstream one, and B the downstream one ca 60m away. They are of the same style and architecture and according to a villager were abandoned around 1950 or 1960. In mill A, I was able to climb down into the turbine area, but in mill B the brambles and vegetation made access impossible.

The water reaches mill A through an aqueduct which I was told started about 500m west near the Monemvasia winery, on the south flank of the stream bed into which the water eventually is discharged. However only the last 20m or so still exist, in fair condition.

The aqueduct ends in an almost vertical ‘water tower’ which drops about 7m onto the turbine. The tower is beautifully made of stones with a central hole, not encased in any other masonry. As the mills are remote from any stream, no protection against floods was necessary.

The milling room and other structures are all in ruins, but a vertical hole gives access to the lowest chamber in which the turbine wheel and exit for the water can be seen ...with a torch. A good part of the turbine itself is still there. The aqueduct linking the water outlet to mill B however is almost totally destroyed, except for the last few metres leading to its water tower.

Watermill B is closely above the dry riverbed which starts near old Velies. The external and internal structures appear to be in the same generally good condition, except again for the mill houses. Extensive overgrowth of vegetation however did not allow the turbine chamber to be inspected.

 

 

Watermill A: Turbine wheel and water inlet

 

 

Watermill B

 

Folklore Museum watermill, Dimaina, Nea Epidavdros, NE Peloponisos

The watermill is about 2km up the valley towards Dimaina from the gorge at the village of Nea Epidavros. Its exact location is [37.6836, 23.1053]. There were another 10 or so watermills further downstream. A big storm in 1967 destroyed all the others but buried this one in an almost pristine condition under tons of stones, trees, sediments.

It was built in 1837 by the Monastery of Agnoundas located about 4km north on the coast road and last operated in ??. The water was supplied by an aqueduct from the plain near Dimena. There had been a lake, but it has since been drained.

The site was acquired by Ilias Kaperonis in 2005??.  Ilias is a carpenter by trade. He removed about 400 lorry loads of the cover to expose it. The stone structures were solid and well preserved under it, but the wooden parts had perished and its workings had to be restored. His grandfather had been a watermill technician and although very old, he was able to advise Ilias on their reconstruction just before he died, to match the parts found under the rubble. He built a pond with a dam above the mill and this now provides the water with which to run the mill for visitors. The water is recirculated to the pond.

The drop from the aqueduct is of about 6m through the original stone funnel which converges from 150cm at the top to 50cm at the horizontal turbine wheel. Its diameter is about 1m and it revolves at 80 revolutions a minute. It was made to match the remains of the one that had been buried. Above the turbine, the two grinding wheels can be adjusted to produce either fine flour for bread or coarser feedstock for animals.

The miller’s house has also been restored and now contains exhibits of the recovered parts and of local crafts. He has also levelled a large area next to it to provide facilities for visitors. The mill can now grind corn, the flour can then be made into bread in a traditional oven, and there are covered facilities for big parties, with a snack bar.

The extensive work was completed in 2008?? with very little outside financial help apparently.

It has become a Folklore Museum and is suitable for weddings, baptisms, reunions. Many school parties visit the site, as well as guided bus tours.

Museum   Youtube  Blogspot

 

 

Some more from 2015

In May 2015 I went to Karpenisi in central mainland Greece, 290km WNW from Athens by road, past Lamia. It is now a ski resort set in a mountainous region with peaks over 2,000m dissected by steep river canyons. The town itself has lost much of its character, but the villages and landscape in this sparsely populated area are a treat. The small village of Voutirou lies 8km SW, with pleasant hotels.    (The best map of the area is Anavasi Topo 100 Evritania 1:100,000)

 

Frangista water mill and washing machine
[38.958824, 21.609544]

 

Frangista mill and turbine

   

The villages of West and East Frangista, high on opposite sides of a river are about 16km as the crow flies WNW of Karpenisi on good minor roads. Just before the river, a delightful little cemetery overlooks a track leading down to a  mill restored with the help of a grant from the EU. It has never stopped working. The miller’s family has run it for generations and it still produces about 75 tons of flour a year for the villages. In his spare time he carves wooden walking sticks and makes coat racks from branches.

When we arrived, a farmer’s pickup was parked there. The two men stared at us, then the miller asked my wife how many kilos of clothes she had brought. Bewildered, she answered none. He then explained that they had a washing cyclone - the farmer had come with a load of sheets and blankets to launder.

An aqueduct runs below the cemetery and first brings the water to a building half way down to the mill. There, the water cascades into a stone whirlpool where the clothes are washed. The water is then led further and falls about 9m to the mill’s horizontal turbine wheel.

Once a year, there is a festival and all the women celebrate this ‘modern’ convenience ...

 

 

Agrafa water mill
[39.136796, 21.638498]

Agrafa is an isolated village, 87km N of Karpenisi and beyond Frangista, up a rough road through the beautiful valley of the Agrafisis river. It was a centre of resistance in WW2. A friend had told me of a water mill lost halfway along, two hours walk from the road through a gorge on a western tributary - but I did not get there this time.

Immediately before the road climbs the last 2 km to Agrafa proper, a water mill has been converted into a pleasant kafenion. Some of its workings are still in place but it was closed on that day.

 

 

Voutirou mills A & B [38.887514, 21.739172]
and C
[38.877283, 21.743816]

‘Voutiro’ means milk. Once upon a time, a family kept a herd of cows up this valley, and villagers would go there for their milk. So it was called ‘Stou voutirou’, which means ‘To the milk’.

One evening, I idly asked a man at the taverna there if there were any water mills [neromyli] abouts, not expecting any.

Oh yes, there are three, he replied, about an hour’s walk away, and, looking a bit dubious, agreed to take me there the next morning. His name was Yannis. He had returned here after 20 years in New York and was the mayor. When we met, he looked sceptically at my sandals:

‘You need proper boots like mine, and a good stick’, he said.

‘Why?’

‘A woman was bitten by a snake 5 years ago on this path and spent a year in hospital’

As he could not remember any earlier attacks, I took the risk - snakes live all over the country after all.

This cascade at the far end of the trail is diverted to supply mills A and B nearby, then the village itself with drinking water. An lip has been carved into the right of the rock basin and leads to the aqueduct.   Water mill C is separate and just below the village but its remnants were inaccessible at the time as it is buried in vegetation.

 

  Mill A

Mill A is the higher of the two, maybe 300m from B. It ceased working in 1968 while B closed down in 1968.

Yannis explained that a grant from the EU to restore mill A had been arranged some years ago. Unfortunately it belonged to a cantankerous old man who feared he would lose its ownership and refused to accept it.

He died last year at the noble age of 94, but by then the offer had lapsed. His three sons now own it. They live in the US and it seems impossible to contact them and get their consent for a new application.

All that remains now are a few walls, the aqueducts and some memories ...

 

 

Yannis and The Aqueduct

 

 
   

 

LIST OF SITES

A. Visited

Dimaina, nr Epidavdros, NE Peloponisos

The watermill is about 2km up the valley towards Dimaina from the gorge at the village of Nea Epidavros. Its exact location is [37.6836, 23.1053]. There were another 10 or so watermills further downstream. A big storm in 1967 destroyed all the others but buried this one in an almost pristine condition under tons of stones, trees, sediments. 

Velies, ca 5km WNW of Monemvasia, SE Peloponisos

There are two mills in cascade (A and B) lost in olive groves between Ano and Palio Velies villages. Not restored but in fair condition. The central location is [36.7109, 22.9507], ca 700m SE of centre of old Velies.

There are two more watermills further down the valley according to an old man, unconnected to the first two, but I could not find them in the limited time available on this visit. 

Talanta, near Monemvasia, SE Peloponisos

Reconstructed watermill operating for visitors in normal hours. Talana is a village ca 10km W of Monemvasia. There are circa 11 watermills on a trail west towards the sea , only the highest restored. Its coordinates are [36.6703, 22.9335].

Talanta   Youtube

Near Evrostina, N Peloponisos

The valley leading north down from Evrostina towards Derveni on the coast has about 20 (?) old water mills of which the highest is by the village of Evrostina. Saw probable remains of the first one, but did not have time to investigate further. The coordinates are [38.0711, 22.3962]. 

Nomia, near Monemvasia, SE Peloponisos

At bridge on the road ca1km W of Nomia towards Kalives, under a cliff overhang. The water tower and mill house are in reasonable shape, but I could not access the turbine chamber. Location [36.6555, 22.9955] 

Myli, near Navplion, NE Peloponisos

The watermills there (across the bay from Navplion and about 200m N of the classical site of Lerna) were famous as, with their rugged constructions, they served to stop the move of Ibrahim Pasha’s army north towards Navplion through an ambush by Greek forces in 1825. Unfortunately very little remains of them now. Myli, which means mills, is so-called after the ‘Myli of Lerna’. Location [37.5521, 22.7176]. 

Agrafa region, central mainland Greece

(Visited & photos by Alex Seferiades)

Roughly 28km NNW of Karpenisi in the south Pindus range, near the village of Kerasochori in SW of the Agrafa region. The village of Agrafi is at [39.1482, 21.6622], but the mill referred to is some kilometers away. The Anavasi hiking maps have a lot of the watermills marked, so there is infinite exploration to be done.

Concerning Agrafa, the mill is on a small tributary to the river of Fteri, which in turn is a tributary of Agrafiotis river. The final shoot I guess was of wood, judging from the only remaining vertical piece. This is about a couple of hours walk from the closest road. The waterfall is just above the mill, a small channel dug in the rock used to lead the water to just above the mill. The water tower is of wood. The Apatito gorge is another half hour upstream, stunning and daunting.

B. Unvisited

Milies, near Pilion

From a friend: “I talked to my Friend Anna Vidali about the water mills in Milies (in Pilion, near Volos).  She told me that there are two such mills in the area. If you are interested you can talk to Fei Stamati (tel. 24230-86672 or 24230-86437) or Despina Politi (tel. 24230- 86361) that know about them.  Fei has written a book on Milies.” 

Near Dimitsena, central Peloponisos

Gunpowder mill(s) nearby on Lousios River. Restored as was famous during the Greek war of independence ca 1822. There were 90 watermills for tanneries, grain, washers etc, including a gunpowder one now restored into a museum. 

Near Tripoli

Photos from Alex Seferiades/Tolis of a mill near there. Exact location not available at the moment. 

Kea

Seven mills in Milopotamos gorge. 

C. Found in the web

Hydria Project  Hydria Project

Collaboration of partners in Greece Cyprus Italy Egypt Morocco Jordan to document water uses through time:

... the HYDRIA project uses water as a ‘vehicle’ to unfold the diverse, yet common, tangible and intangible Mediterranean cultural heritage, through reviving some representative ancient water management visions, concepts and techniques of the distant and more recent past. The project aims to shed light to cases demonstrating the wisdom of our ancestors, which evolved hand-in-hand with the environment, or, on the other hand, to cases showing the catastrophic implications when civilisations did not respect and adapt to water availability and geo-climatic peculiarities. Moreover, the project aims to demonstrate that this past wisdom in the area of water collection, storage and transfer can be properly combined with modern technological innovations to help address today’s needs in harmony with the environment. Adapting peoples’ consuming behaviour and management patterns to more sustainable ones is an indirect long-term goal of the project.

The project endorses several case studies from Mediterranean countries. These are presented via a series of texts, photographic material and animations, where appropriate, to explain the operation of complex water works. In the case studies links are made to cultural elements that depict how societies evolved around the water resources. Also, in each case study the current status of the remnants is presented and further references are proposed for the interested readers.

Watermills in Hydria Project (all in Naxos)

Marmaroti - Very similar pair to the Velies pair above Marmaroti

This shows diagrams of the workings.

Maroulis - contemporary reconstruction.Similar to Velies.

Kokkos - ditto, in operation till 1966, not reconstructed.

Karageorgis (Mesi Potamia) -ditto, now turned into a house.

Engares/Kinidaros area - main building rebuilt, no details but water still passes through.

Other watermills in Greece via web search

[where links are to photos, the location attribution seems occasionally inaccurate or ambiguous]

Dimitsana, central Peloponisos: there were 90 watermills for tanneries, grain, washers etc, including a gunpowder one now restored into a museum.

Near Tseria, Mani, Peloponisos: there were many in Viros River below Zaharias

Several in Andros Andros

Mavrilo, Fthiotida Mavrilo

Edessa, Pella: vertical mill Edessa

Pilion? Pilion

Lassi area, Kefalonia: at sink holes, vertical wheel

Lefkada: photo of a ruined building, no location details Lefkada

Thebes, Ayi Theodori district: best preserved in the area; so-called “Roman” mill with big vertical wheel

Thebes

Kythira, Pisso Pigadi: there should be quite a lot around in Kythira Kythira

Stropones, Evvia: horizontal wheel Stropones

Souli, Epiros: ruins Souli

Katakolo, Ilia: Museum of Ancient Greek Technology, model of Greek wheel etc Katakolo

Zakros, E Crete: Watermill and museum Zakros

Richtis Gorge, Sitia Crete: Richtis Gorge

Mili Gorge, nr Choromonastiri, Rethymnon Crete

... and many others in Crete

Other references

On water mills in Central Crete, N. G. Calvert, Newcomen Society 1973/4  Crete Mills

 

 

 
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