Shawbost Norse Mill
Over 300 sites of Norse mill have been found in Lewis and it is likely that many sites have been lost from memory, and their stones recycled to other purpose.
Norse mills are small mills having a vertical axis wheel which drives the quernstone. They are also know as "Click" mills because of the sound they make when working.
At Shawbost in West Lewis there is a reconstructed Norse mill and kiln, two thatched buildings which can be visited at any time.
Barley grain was dried by one of two methods before it was milled:
- The simplest was to set fire to a sheaf of barley, and then to smother it (graddening)
- The second method to kiln-dry the grain.
There were 4 main ways to then grind the dry grain:
- A basic mortar and pestle (very labour intensive - home use)
- A circular quern - An upper and lower stone, the upper stone being turned by hand, grain being ground into meal between the two stones. (small amounts - home use)
- Horizontal mills built along the streams - the Norse mills (also known as black mills), - suitable for small communites
- From 1816 the corn mill in Stornoway became available, but for small outlying communities this was not a realistic option
The Norse mills were in use in Lewis until the 1945, the Shawbost one being in use until 1930's.
In 2005 Stornoway Trust reconstructed the waterwheel of the Stornoway Grain Mill, a derelict corn mill within the Castle Grounds of Stornoway built in 1816.
The landowners of the time saw themselves as leaders of progress in this era of industrial and agricultural revolution, and seeing the recent huge increases in grain production were convinced that only large scale processing of the grain was economically viable (and for themselves profitable) so ordered destruction of the horizontal mills on their estates forcing their tenants to use the new mills and to pay a tariff for the priviledge.
The Norse Mill in Shawbost, is along the A858, between Carloway and Shawbost, as you draw near to Shawbost (Siabost) look out for a brown tourist sign which points west towards the Norse Mill.
Open all year