A large wheel positioned upright in a flow of water, to the outer edge of which were attached buckets or paddles. The water’s flow turned the wheel and the resultant action was used to power machinery such as mill equipment or bellows for forges.
The water used to rotate water wheel was often artificially channelled to increase efficiency of flow and maximise out put. Where the water was positioned to flow beneath the wheel it was termed an ‘undershot wheel’ and when the water rotated the wheel by flowing from above and over it was termed an ‘overshot wheel’.
Water wheels have been used since the Roman period and initially were used solely to mill grain, later however they were also used to power industrial processes such as cloth fulling, pumping and metal forging.
Water wheels will have existed at the many watermills that are known in Buckinghamshire, such as Thornborough Mill on the River Great Ouse or at Ford End Farm in Ivinghoe. These dated to the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.