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Our Lady Collegiate church in Vernon
A whole site dedicated to this monumeent (in English)
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Vernon half-timbered houses
A whole site about our numerous old houses (In French only, sorry !)
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Vernon Giverny Website auf deutsch

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The Old Mill in Vernon
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Monet's house and garden at Giverny
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The XIIth c. castle keep in Vernon
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Visits, indeed, but there are so many other things to do in Vernon
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Walking and cycling around Vernon
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Museums in Vernon (paintings by Monet) and Giverny
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A walk in the streets of Giverny
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The water lily pond at Giverny
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Tourelles castle in Vernon
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The Old  Mill




The best place  to build a watermill is  a bridge as its piers tend to dam the water  so that  the flow is sightly accelerated behind the bridge. Consequently this is  where mills are installed, downstream of the  piers, like the one  in Vernon known as the Old Mill. It is located on the right bank of ther Seine  and is the last remain of the various constructions that used to rest on the bridge.









Hardly was the bridge completed when king Philippe Auguste allowed building two mills at first and others later : in 1210 the third arch was granted to Hughes Legrand and in 1214 the main arch to Odon Plastraz ( who was pantler at the court) for them to build mills with vertically mobile wheels. The bridge remained connected with mills  all through centuries and this might explain why Planter  found the site convenient for his milling works in 1778.

Until 1885, a second mill existed next to  Talus island. The old Mill is the only survivor of the six or seven mills  that operated on the bridge for 650 years. In spite of  its 16th century look (but it's likely to have  been built in the early 17thc) the origin of the mill is certainly medieval and it must have been repaired and transformed throughout centuries  because of the numerous floods that damaged the bridge. It rests on two thick piers built against those of the mill. It is rectangular in shape with half-timbered walls and a high tiled roof.
 

Modern drawing from a 17thc. print.
Talus island is on the right


The mill, like every other one on the river Seine,  possessed a vertically mobile wheel (called "roue pendante" i.e. " hanging wheel" in French). It is a fact that  for a paddle wheel to operate best, the length of the paddle immersed in the water must be  comprised between one fifth and one third of the radius of the wheel. When a river has a regular flow and hence a regular water level, the axis of the wheel can  be fitted once and for all at the correct height in a solid mass of masonry.  But when the  water level  varies a lot, by several metres as with the Seine,  it is necessary to devise a system to lower or raise the wheel depending on the water level, so that only the required length of the paddles is steeped in the water. To do so, the  wheel is attached to a kind of frame  under the grinding room. The frame  is lowered or raised by means of  screw-jacks placed in  the four corners so as to adjust to the water level.




Above : Mill with vertically mobile wheel in Meulun



Diagram of vertically mobile mill wheel


Clères Tower (Pulled down in the early 19thc) - Pre-romantic engraving by Johan-Georg Wille (1761) showing a part of the bridge in the background. The wheel of a mill, similar to the one still visible today, has been lowered down to  water level. (Notice also how the bridge is in bad repair.)


Today, the Old Mill, perched on the bridge high above the water, is probably the most picturesque sight of Vernon, a sight that painters did not ignore, Claude Monet in the first place.




Above : Julien Devos (local painter, end of 19thc.) Click to enlarge
 

Claude Monet, le moulin de Vernon
New Orleans museum



  Page 1 The fortified bridge
  Page 2 An industrial flour mill
  page 4 (next) The bridge (16th - 19thc.)