A water mill was before the steam engine the essential source of energy in the earliest productions. Everywhere with enough water streams it was dam up and a water mill was established. Besides corn processing the water mills delivered energy for copper works and for textile and paper production. A Greek geographer Strabo is one of the first to mention water mills in connection to the king of Pontus' palace. The exploitation of Nature's forces was an almost social duty in the Middle Ages. Valdemar Atterdag (1340-75) said that the water streams should not run into the sea without having done something useful.
The primitive use of water-rotated wheels may date back to Sumerian times, though it is not known whether these wheels were turned by the flow of a river. In the early 1st century BC, a Greek scientist made the first clear reference to the water wheel, which he praised for its use in grinding grain and the reduction of human labour. Mills were commonly used for grinding grain into flour, but industrial uses as fulling and sawing marble were also applied. The water wheel was found in China by the time of the Han dynasty(202 BC – 220 AD), when it was used to power trip hammers, the bellows in smelting iron. A source written in 612 AD mentions Buddhist monks arguing over the revenues gained from watermills. By 610 or 670 AD, the watermill was introduced to Japan via Korea. It became known in Tibet by at least 641 AD.
The construction of water works and aspects of water technology in India is described in Arabic and Persian works. Muslim engineers adopted the water wheel technology from the hydraulic societies of the ancient Near East, where it had been applied for centuries prior to the Muslim conquest. As early as the 7th century, excavation of a canal in the Basra region discovered remains of a water wheel dating from this period. The industrial uses of water mills in the Islamic world date back to the 7th century, while horizontal-wheeled and vertical-wheeled water mills were both in widespread use by the 9th century. Fulling mills, paper mills and steel mills may have spread from Islamic Spain to Christian Spain in the 12th century. Industrial water mills were also employed in large factory complexes built in Andalusia between the 11th and 13th centuries.
First Appearance of various industrial mills in medieval Europe were in France from 770 Ad, in England from ab. 1200 and in Germany from the 1300s. A few historic mills still operate for demonstration purposes to this day, or even maintain small-scale commercial oduction.
In some developing countries water mills are still widely used for processing grain. For example, there are thought to be 25,000 operating in Nepal, and 200,000 in India. Many of these are still of the traditional style, but some have been upgraded by replacing wooden parts with better-designed metal ones to improve the efficiency.
Klostermølle is situated in a beautiful place in the Lake district at Mossø; it gets its water from Gudenåen via a digged channel. It was the Benedictine-monks who built a kloster at the place ab. 1150 and established the mill. The monks digged two channels between Mossø and Gudensø (750m). Both mill and kloster were demolished and the present mill was extended and rebuilt many times, the oldest section is from the 1800s. The mill belonged to Voer kloster until the reformation in 1536 and came to the Crown. Ab. 100 years after the reformation Voer kloster was demolished, since the material had to be used for Skanderborg slot, but the mill continued as an endowed mill under the Crown, until Frederik V sold it at an auction in 1767. In 1890 it also became paper mill. The production stopped in 1974 after a fire and the Danish State bought Klostermølle in 1975. In 1980 an institution is established in order to keep the industrial area in future. In 1991 the present mill house is restored and later was the turbine house rebuilt. Klostermølle is run as a museum and Nature school. The area is owned by the State.
Esrum Mølle's history (Sjælland) is closely connected to Esrom Kloster's history, when the Cistercienser-monks were pioneers in agriculture, gardening and mill work. After the reformation the mill work at Esrum Kloster was abolished (1536) and moved to the place where the mill is today. The mill burnt down in 1869, but was rebuilt the same year and modernized in 1870 and 1913. In 1982 the Danish State bought Esrum Mølle and in 2000 the mill was transferred to Esrum kloster in the fund "Esrum kloster and møllegård", after several hundred year as an independent mill Esrum Mølle is back with the kloster, where its history began. The mill functions today as a Nature center, Environment school and Exhibition. There is a mill shop and an ecological café, and a café in the kloster cellar under the vault.
Kaleko Mølle, Funen. The oldest preserved water mill at Funen. It is not known exactly when Kaleko Mølle was established, but it might have happened already in the ruling period of Valdemar Atterdag (1340-75). The first written source about Kaleko Mølle is in a sheet from 1643, where the mill is sold and transferred to Holstenshuus (named Findstup at that time). The last miller left Kaleko in 1912. In 1917 Kaleko Mølle opened as a museum.
Giberå at Moesgård skovmølle
Moesgård Skovmølle is situated at Giberå, which flows out into Århus Bugt and is almost untouched on the last 8 km. The water mill is mentioned the first time in 1570 as belonging to the manor Moesgård. The present mill building is from 1852, while the living house is from 1824 (living house is now restaurant "Skovmøllen". Moesgård Museum restored in 1991 the mill building and the wheel, and since then also the sawmill.
In the late 1800s the mill was a popular recreational area for the Århus-citizens when they went on picnics. The families went in horse carriage from the city early in the morning, in high spirits and dressed in their Sunday clothes. The lunch was arranged on white-clothed tables by the water stream, the hot water for the coffee was bought at the mill. The families stayed until the evening, before they drove back to Århus.
At Skovmøllen was grinded flour and grains, and the wheel also drew a small sawmill for cutting timber. The mill production stopped in 1924, where the mill gradually functioned as a restaurant. Today the restored mill and sawmill work almost like in 1910. Now the mill is in charge of a møllelaug(union), which see to that the guests again can buy fresh flour for bread-baking. There is a fine parking place, tables and benches for bringing your own food , and by the water of Giberå it is possible to see dipper, King fisher and grey wagtail.
photo 2003/2006/2008: grethe bachmann