Abbot’s Mill is an educational project based purposefully in the heart of Canterbury, with the aim of becoming an urban hub of sustainability, compassionate living and social justice, powered by non-centralised renewable energy. The project has two elements and is located on two adjacent sites.
Firstly the project will include a water wheel, which will be re-instated into the old mill race on the site of the former Abbot’s Mill (the seven-storey mill that once stood on St Radigund’s Street. The Abbot’s Mill site (now owned by Canterbury City Council) is now part of the Abbot’s Garden (a green space and walk which runs from the Miller’s Arms public house over the sluices and along the Great Stour up to the Marlowe Theatre).
The water wheel will generate, on average, an estimated 15kW (Kilowatts) or 20kW (peak). This is approximately enough to power 4 family homes. The entire project will generate a net surplus of electricity. This will be donated to local community groups or sold to a national, renewable supplier, such as Good Energy.
As part of the new power generation scheme, improvements will need to be made to the monitoring and control of the Stour at this location. The improvements would include electronic monitoring of the water levels and an automatically controlled sluice gate (currently it is controlled manually). This will ensure an instant on-site response to potential flood situations, whilst ensuring continuous optimum power generation from the water wheel. This will also provide useful research data with regards to flood management and hydrological studies. This will provide greater control at reduced costs to the local authority/tax payer.
Once the water wheel has been instated, the next phase will be the education and research centre which will include a vegan community cafe and woodland/wildlife garden. This will be on the facing bank of the Great Stour, opposite St Peter’s Lane. The two sites are linked by the St Radigund’s bridge.
The education and research centre will contain information about all aspects of sustainable and compassionate living, including non-centralised renewable energy. The centre will also provide information about the importance of the Great Stour in the history of Canterbury’s trade and development as a city.
The centre will be of a modest scale to be in keeping with the local two-storey housing. The whole construction would be an eco-build using sustainable, environmentally-friendly and locally-sourced materials (mainly local chestnut and glass and no concrete). The Abbot’s Mill Project will showcase low-impact building technologies at their best.
The community café which will double as an education/meeting room space, run by and for the local community, serving local, vegan and ethically-sourced food. The woodland/wildlife garden will be based on the principles of permaculture. The development will be zero-waste and incorporate rain-water harvesting, biomass power generation and organic composting. Together with the areas accessible to the public, the education and research centre will incorporate office space for staff and volunteers.
(1) This site is a scheduled monument. Abbot’s Mill was the most impressive of the Canterbury mills. It was designed by the celebrated engineer, John Smeaton, and not built until 1792 shortly after his death. The mill stood on the site of the medieval Abbot’s Mill (which had been used for grain and hemp production), and it retained the old name, although it was also known as City Mill, as it belonged to the corporation. In 1896 it was sold to a member of the Denne family, well-known in East Kent milling circles, after which the mill was often referred to as Denne’s Mill.
There were two waterwheels in the mill driving eight pairs of stones, and the machinery was advanced for its period, being largely of cast-iron. Tragically, the mill was totally destroyed by fire in October 1933. (Stoyel, A. (2007) Mills Archive, http://www.millsarchive.com/Kent/index.aspx)
The site is now a scheduled monument. The area is, and was, predominantly residential but, as old photographs of the mill show, the houses of Mill Lane and Blackfriars Street co-existed with the seven-storey mill building.