The engine house at Warwick Castle once powered 475 electric lights across its rooms. Originally powered by water, then gas, the engine house became redundant following the introduction of mains electricity. It has received a £2 million renovation and contains a small collection of gas engines.
|Maintained by||Merlin Entertainments|
|Listed status||Grade II*|
What is the best way to enjoy Warwick Castle Mill & Engine House?
There are multiple ways to access the engine house; however, we shall start on the path along the River Avon from the Riverside Arena. Notice the weir and waterwheel in the distance.
You will cross over the mill tailrace as you enter.
To your left is the turbine room that once housed a Single Vortex Water Turbine, designed by James Thompson and manufactured by Gilkes. The power from the runner at the bottom of the turbine shaft rotated the bevel gear wheel at the top. The rotation of the bevel gear powered the belts, which turned the dynamo.
The dynamo on display is located behind a cage. It is a two-pole generator with copper gauze brushes manufactured by Thomas Parker Ltd of Wolverhampton on loan by the Science Museum, London.
You can see the valve that controls the sluice gate below, which increases and decreases the flow of water to the runner.
In the adjacent room is an example of the original gas engine that was used to generate electricity when power from the waterwheel could not be harnessed due to droughts or floods. There was originally one engine; however, increased demand resulted in a second being installed in 1900.
The gas engine has its own four-pole dynamo.
Notice the terminal at the end of the room with measuring gauges.
An example of a gas engine that replaced the original is situated on the other side of the room. The replacement used a single flywheel that was easier to start up and could operate at higher speeds. The engine you see was manufactured by Crossley Bros Ltd of Manchester and came from the Co-op Dairy Association in Fenwick, Kilmarnock.
The final room contains a Campbell Treble-Ram water pump with a 25hp DC motor and hydraulic accumulator circa 1900.
Behind in the corner are a collection of accumulators, which are essentially batteries that were charged during the day for use at night to ensure the supply of electricity to the castle was not disrupted. Each accumulator held 2 volts so 50 were used to meet the 100-volt demand.
Head through the exit and follow the building round for a view of the low breast shot waterwheel dating from around 1840. Originally it was an iron frame with wooden paddles, driving a wooden axle. Most of the wooden parts were replaced with iron around 1900 including the paddles. The new curved iron blades were more efficient, reducing the loss of energy due to turbulence and splashing.
An eel trap is located next to the waterwheel below. Eels were an important food source because they could be caught all year round. They were especially valued during the winter but trickier to catch because eels hibernate in cold weather.
How long does it take to see Warwick Castle Mill & Engine House?
You can’t see the mill and engine house without purchasing a ticket for Warwick Castle, which is an extensive attraction. You might as well make a day of it and enjoy all the delights this castle has to offer. The regular birds of prey shows are definitely worth the visit.
Is Warwick Castle suitable for a picnic?
There are many picnic benches next to the Avon and grassy areas, which are suitable for a peaceful river-side picnic.
How do I get to Warwick Castle Mill & Engine House?
Warwick Castle is a stone’s throw from Warwick town centre, which contains bus stops with services to surrounding settlements. There is a paid car park on the castle grounds. Warwick railway station is a 15-minute walk from the castle.
History of Warwick Castle Mill & Engine House
1088-1119 – The original mill was located approximately 90 m downstream at Ladsome.
1398 – The mill moved to its present site and was used to grind flour and grain.
1642 – The mill was used to grind corn for defenders during the Civil War, which numbered approximately 360 individuals.
1644 – An engine house was installed for pumping water into the castle for domestic needs.
1767 – The mill was largely rebuilt in stone under the direction of Timothy Lightolder and took on a gothic style.
1840 – A new waterwheel was installed, believed to be the one you see today.
1849 – Pumping water into the castle stopped after the discovery that the town sewers discharged into the river close to the inlet.
1880 – The mill was gutted by a fire and all the machinery, except the waterwheel, was destroyed. The mill remained desolate for the next 14 years.
1894 – The generating plant was installed by Messrs Edmundson to supply electricity to the castle.
1940 – Mains electricity was introduced and the generating plant became redundant .
1953 – The mill and engine house is first designated as a listed structure .
1954 – The generating plant was dismantled.
2002 – The mill opened to visitors following a £2 million restoration project .
The mill building is constructed of Ashlar with castellations and low turrets. The roof uses Welsh slate .
- Warwick Castle Information Boards.
- Historic England (2020) Warwick Castle Mill. Available at: https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1035507 (Accessed: 10 March 2022).