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Curiosities & Features

millstone Millstone
A piece of neglected history...

The car park off Anchor Street is a rather desolate place, fit only for cars. Not a place to interest visitors. It need not be so.

In the middle, on the side close to the rear of buildings on Swain Street, a round stone sits in a raised island surrounded by dressed stones. Weed and rubbish collect in the space around the stone. What is it and why is it there?

We are grateful to Watchet Historian David Banks for the explanation that this is the lower stone of the paired grinding stones which once was a vital part of Stoat's Mill, that complex of old buildings which stand at the riverside at the end of Anchor Street. In the early years of the 20th Century, this was the principal employer in Watchet when it opened as a flour mill and later, other activities which involved grinding materials. This and other millstone pairs were originally driven by water power taken from the Washford river through a canal-like leat running from an intake close to the modern mill upstream.

The car park millstone was one of a pair, this being the lower of the two. Where is what was the upper stone? Again David Banks has the answer. It is the base to the prominent blue anchor which greets visitors to Watchet when they drive in from Williton on the B3190.

Whether we ever bring the two together again is a matter for debate (and negotiation), but what we hope to do in the interest of Watchet tourism is to tidy up the surround, perhaps plant attractive flowers as we have done in Esplanade Lane, and finally, devise a plaque of noticeboard, explaining what it is as a piece of Watchet history. This is what the Conservation Society exists to do.

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