At first were the Romans,

or at least, this is what we suspect.There was a Roman way very close; for the Roman settlement in Montmeard (less than two miles from here) this was the closest site suitable for a mill. Of course, we are not very far from the magnificent Roman site of Jublains. Jublains, a city of 10,000 at its peak, was roofed and paved with slate from a quarry at Roux-François, one mile upstream from the mill on the river Vaudelle. It makes sense to believe that slate blocks were floated downstream to be cut at the mill. Let's add to this the facts that the mill stream begins at the quarry and that in the oldest part of the mill we have a dry wall of massive granite blocks very similar to ones in Jublains. All of the necessary technique had been described by the Roman engineer Vitruvius in "De Architectura" before 15 BC.

So, just close your eyes, and you can see the Romans bustling in the courtyard!

Jublains, ca 300

Slate quarry, Roux-François, ca 1900

Over eight hundred years of history in the archives.

The mill is mentioned in the "cartulaire de Saint Evroul" around 1200 and might still have been cutting slate, although local mills were also used to prepare tanbark for tanning hides or for other purposes.
Between the XIIth and the XVIth century, land was cleared, population increased and parishes were created: St Thomas (de Courceriers), St Martin (de Connee), St Pierre (sur Orthe), St Mars (du Desert), St Aubin (du Desert) are all adjoining villages to our St Germain (de Coulamer). Ovens, mills and ponds brought revenue to the local squires. In the XVth century, the neighboring manor house (Manoir de Classe) was built and the mill remained the property of noble families until the beginning of the XXth century. In 1865, it was described in the tax register as "one of the best mills in the area", but its owners must somehow have lost interest in it, since when it was inspected prior to its sale in 1920, the verdict was "rudimentary construction, very worn, difficult to maneuver and adjust". 1920 was when the Classe estate (manor house, mill and surrounding farms) was broken up, sold at auction .. and landed in the hands of commoners!

Cadastre, Classé, 1848

Mill et Manor, ca 1900
Then came the era of independent millers...

Enter the Lemaire then Ledru families. Many anecdotes
have been told to us by grandson or daughters. At that time,
son succeeds father, and Charles Francois Lemaire, who
bought the mill, was followed by Jules Lemaire. However,
the latter did not wish his own son to succeed him and preferred
to entrust the care of the mill to a young man, Alfred Ledru,
from a millers' family in la Sarthe. After renting the mill for
a number of years, Alfred Ledru finally bought it in 1956, and his
daughters later sold it to us. People also told us many anecdotes
about the war period (too many to be reproduced here), but we
should mention that one of the command posts for the Resistance
in the West of France was located nearby, in St Mars du Desert.
In 1964, the mill stopped producing flour for bread, although it
continued grinding cereals to make animal feed for another ten years.
With the death of the last miller, a page turned, and the mill awaited a new life. It had been closed for 16 years when we bought it.

Mill, ca 1900

Mill, ca 1900
And why not a turbine ?

We bought the mill in November 1990, with the idea, from the beginning, to continue its life as a mill. When we arrived, the wheel was in ruins, and we had to clean up the pieces which blocked the race. Three tons of wood that, even when dry, would not burn. I must confess that I was not completely won to the idea of producing our own energy and I tempered my husband's enthusiasm by consenting to buy only second-hand material. An obsolete turbine was found in the centre of France, other bits came from a mill in near-by la Sarthe, and a superb (but unreliable) alternator was French military surplus. Nothing was easy (those things are heavy). Putting it together was complicated and adjusting it was impossible, but it did generate electricity and proved that the project was feasible.
Some years later, the old Fontaine turbine has been replaced by a variable-pitch Kaplan turbine, (found in England, but that is another story.), a home-made self-cleaning trash rack has been installed to remove leaves and debris (before that, it was all done by hand with a sturdy broom) and very soon, a new alternator will complete the installation (but they are only made in China now, which does not make things easier!). This winter (2008), we only hope that our river, the Vaudelle, will deliver the right amount of water and the mill will be kept nice and warm. Finally!