May’s outing was to Combe Mill in Long Hanborough.
It was opened just for us, and there were several volunteer engineers on site to show us round the retored Sawmill, and working Industrian museum.
We began with a history of the site. There are several mills on the Evenlode, and there has been one on this site since Saxon times.
It was for a long time the sawmill owned by nearby Blenheim Estate, but became redundant in the middle 20th century. The Combe Mill Society was formed
to preserve and renovate this important mill, and save it from being turned into an office complex.
Among their exhibits are working tower clocks, one of which dates back to the early 18th century, hand made models of steam engines, demonstrated by the volunteer who had lovingly made them, examples of woodturning and a bellows forge where visitors have the chance to make something themselves. Then we were given a talk on the history of the various steam engines which have been restored, and the rare steam powered Beam engine, which is fired up on selected Sundays throughout the year. This engine provides the power which is transmitted through the line-shafting to all the machinery.
After two absorbing hours looking round this very interesting museum, we walked past the breast-shot waterwheel and made our way to the tea rooms, where the engineers joined us for tea and cakes.
This is a gem of a museum in an idyllic setting beside the Evenlode, and one which we all will revisit.