Watermills of the mountainous Xanthi
In the pre industrial period the most basic product for everyday life was wheat from which bread was made. While the hand mills weren’t enough for grinding, using watermills was obligatory. After the establishment of the Greek State, 6.000 watermills are mentioned around the state. More than 60 watermills are recorded at the mountainous area of Xanthi’s Prefecture from which only some of them are working today.
At Thrace, as in the rest of Greece, the buildings of watermills are from stone (a rectangular space, sometimes with a loft for the miller to stay at night). The construction of the roof is adapted to the local architecture with a wooden roof covered with tiles or schist plates. At the one side of the building was usually the grinding mechanism, while at the other, the customers were waiting, dealings took place (milling delivery, wheat delivery, wheighing, payment) and storage also.
The watermill’s mechanism is simpler regarding its construction and function from the corresponding one of the windmill and it is divided in two parts: the kinetic one with the shuttle and the function accessories and the milling one that includes the millstones with their accessories.
The construction of the millstone comprised of one stone carefully selected from specific pits. Usually the diameter of the millstone was one meter, the width 20-30 cm and the weigh up to 400 kilos. Woods were used for carrying the stone which had a hole for them to go through. The central part of the millstone has a rough surface. While using it, it smoothened, so the miller has to ax it with his hammer.
Between the ancillary spaces of the watermills, there was a millstream, an open air construction used for elaborating woolen textiles while they were made of while they were washed for the year. It is a flipped bucket with a shape of a truncated cone, with its biggest part standing on the ground so that the water pressure would not open the walls.
Another supplementary construction was the mandani, a wooden machine that was used for the treatment of woolen textiles. Through banging they became cohesive.
During the years, the importance of watermills was not always crucial for the development of an area. Once, watermills were strongly connected with the everyday life of the mountainous settlements. Today, their importance is minor, since only five from the old watermills of Xanthi are working. Most of them are collapsing or got abandoned.
The presentation of traditional watermills could turn in an important pole of attraction for visitors that would like to know better this important side of our cultural heritage.
You can visit the watermills that are still working at the mountainous Xanthi at the villages: Oreo, Dimario, Pahni, Satres and Kariofito.