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Small Grindstones..?


Pajod
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Hi Folks,

I’m hoping that someone on the forum can supply me with information about several small grindstones (?) that I have found in the Sheffield rivers over the past couple of years.

I fly-fish these rivers, frequently wading through stretches which are simply not visible or accessible from roads or footpaths, and I often come across interesting relics from Sheffield’s industrial past. Chief among these are discarded grindstones, some 16” – 18” across and 12” – 14” deep, presumably thrown in from former grinding ‘wheels’ when they became too small for their specific use (e.g. scythe grinding). I’ve also found evidence of these stones having been split in half and continuing to be used for smaller work — pocket knives, forks and so on.

It’s fair to say that I’ve now become passionately interested in how, when and where the various shapes and sizes of stones were employed, and have sought to find as much information online as I possibly can… some older posts on this forum being extremely helpful in this respect. I think I can say that I now have a reasonable grasp on the basics of the subject. 

However, I have in possession (they were small enough to bring home in a rucksack) some stones that I can find no information about whatsoever. They bear little resemblance to ‘normal’ grindstones, either in size or shape, so perhaps their purpose was not grinding at all, but some other industrial process? The square shafted holes suggest (I think) that they’ve been in the river for quite some time…

Stone number 1: diameter - 7”; depth – 2”; hole – 2” square shaft. This stone is not symmetrical — it has an edge indent/shape.

Stone number 2: diameter – 9”; depth – 2 ½”; hole – 2 ¼” square shaft. This stone is perfectly flat on one side, but is rounded and has an edge indent on the other.

Stone number 3: diameter – 9”; depth – 2 ½”; hole – 3” square shaft. This stone is symmetrical, slightly rounded on both edges and exhibits shallow grooves in the ‘grinding’ surface.

Stone number 4: diameter – 10 ½”; depth – 1 ½” (at centre); hole – 2 ¼” square shaft. This stone is perfectly flat on one side but rounded and very worn on the other.

Pajod.

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I reckon they were for grinding grain to produce flour, hence the wear on one side only. Water mills were first for the grinding of grain or for using hammers to beat the grease out of wool a processes that produce the name Walk Mills and the Surname of Walker who's job it was. 

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58 minutes ago, History dude said:

I reckon they were for grinding grain to produce flour, hence the wear on one side only.

That occurred to me, too, but I've always assumed that stones used for flour grinding were much, much larger than this. There are some examples of convex-sided stones (which I think are flour grinders) lying in the heather in the Peak District and these are more than a metre in diameter.

Hopefully a few more ideas will come along soon...

Thanks,

Pajod.

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1 hour ago, Pajod said:

That occurred to me, too, but I've always assumed that stones used for flour grinding were much, much larger than this. There are some examples of convex-sided stones (which I think are flour grinders) lying in the heather in the Peak District and these are more than a metre in diameter.

Hopefully a few more ideas will come along soon...

Thanks,

Pajod.

One of the main reasons why large unused grindstones were just left was because imported French stone were far superior to the ones that were cut in the peak district and else where, the French stones were longer lasting and gave a finer cut.

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Watermills on Sheffield rivers have been around for ages, so they could be very old corn grinding stones. It's very difficult to date these kinds of stone, they could date from the 10th Century onwards.

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I believe that millstones are used for milling flour and come in pairs, one concave and one convex. I don't think they had the square drive hole and would wear out on the faces.

Grindstones are used for grinding metal, would have a square drive hole and wear out on the outer circumference.

My guess is that they were used for metal working but had worn down so much they were thrown away.

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1 hour ago, rover1949 said:

I believe that millstones are used for milling flour and come in pairs, one concave and one convex. I don't think they had the square drive hole and would wear out on the faces.

Grindstones are used for grinding metal, would have a square drive hole and wear out on the outer circumference.

My guess is that they were used for metal working but had worn down so much they were thrown away.

I am also leaning towards the opinion that the original use for these stones was some kind of metal grinding, rather than grain milling, but I'll still keep an open mind…

One thing I'm pretty sure about is that these stones were not appreciably larger in diameter when they were first made than they were at the end of their useful lives (and then discarded).
 

The reason I say that is the size of the shaft holes: in the more 'conventional' grindstones I find in the rivers, even though they were almost certainly passed down from large-tool grinders to smaller ones, thus reducing in diameter as they were progressively worn away (and sometimes split laterally) the hole diameter is something that couldn’t be changed. 

In the picture below, this 'typical' grindstone is 10” in diameter—not much bigger than the subjects of this forum post, but 6” deep and with a hole fully 5” across, suggesting a stone which was originally many times the size, and probably a scythe or file grinder.

In contrast, the little stones I'm asking about are much thinner and have holes barely more than a couple of inches across, suggesting far more delicate work..?

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I've done a little fly fishing for trout in my time but usually have to pay for the privilege.

What success do you have in Sheffield rivers?

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3 hours ago, rover1949 said:

I've done a little fly fishing for trout in my time but usually have to pay for the privilege.

What success do you have in Sheffield rivers?

Very mixed and somewhat hit and miss; sometimes better than expected, often worse...

The Don is an open river and allows 'conventional' fly fishing in several decent stretches, but the Sheaf, Loxley and Rivelin are far narrower and very often tree and bush-choked through most of their lengths — only specialized small-stream techniques afford any chance of even casting a fly.

I like the challenge!

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Great finds, definitely stones used in the metal trade, judging by there size and wear. Have you kept a record of where you found them, and the likely nearby works they came from? 

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7 hours ago, Osgathorpe56 said:

Great finds, definitely stones used in the metal trade, judging by there size and wear. Have you kept a record of where you found them, and the likely nearby works they came from? 

 

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2 minutes ago, Pajod said:

 

Sorry, a bit of a mix-up between posts…

Until very recently, I haven't been keeping any records of exactly where and when I find each stone, but I have a pretty good memory. I'm still researching the industrial hubs that could have utilised this type of stone…

The small ‘grindstones' in question were found in the River Don, between Neepsend and the Wicker. The bed of the river throughout this stretch probably contains more man-made detritus than natural stone: discarded building bricks are the predominant feature…

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