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Olona watermills Comenius project Water and watermills their past and future Liceo Cavalleri Parabiago Dublin, 7th February 2008.

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Presentation on theme: "Olona watermills Comenius project Water and watermills their past and future Liceo Cavalleri Parabiago Dublin, 7th February 2008."— Presentation transcript:

1 Olona watermills Comenius project Water and watermills their past and future Liceo Cavalleri Parabiago Dublin, 7th February 2008

2 The Olona River Lombardys total river basin is the largest in all of Italy. Most rivers descend from the Alps and flow through the plain before discharging into the Po river. They have always been a vital element of the economy. The human settlements and activities that developed on their banks today constitute an important tourist resource. The land of Lombardy wrote its history and founded its prosperity on its connection with water. Learning to use the water of rivers and its strength allowed people to irrigate fields, run machines and control fire. Length71,555 Km BreadthFrom 5 to14m Gradientfrom 2,5 to 22,6 It goes through45 towns In the area where we live the most important river is Olona that starts in Rasa di Varese and ends in Milan. According to the census of 1881 the rives has:

3 The Olona River The Olona River was an important connecting line between the plain and the regions beyond the Alps. For such a reason, numerous fortification systems were constructed to defend the passes, mainly in the gorge itself, where the control was easier. Some examples are: the wonderful Renaissance village of Castiglione Olona, the grand Tower of Torba in Castelseprio and the church of Santa Maria Foris Portas. Also a lot of towns were built along its course because its water was very important for the economy: it was used to irrigate fields and run mills. Everybody wanted to have the authority to control the river so to get all of the fights to an end, depending on the different periods, different dispositions were adopted.

4 spontaneous flowers: snowdrop, bell flowers, lily of the valley, nettle, primrose, buttercup; (bell flowers, Leucojum vernum) ( Erythronium dens- canis). The Olona River Flowers The flowers in Olonas basin and in neighbouring zones, at now a days is prevalence composed by shrubs: broad-leaved for example the birch, the chestnut, the beech, the ash, the oak, the robinia, the pino strobo; Silver birch pino strombo (betulla bianca) (pinus strombo) Mushrooms and ferns: amanita muscaria, honey mushrooms, dryopteris dilata, boletus, russula

5 The Olona River In 1381 the governor of the dukedom of Milan decided that if someone used the water of the river, he had to pay a fine of 300 florins. Other decisions were taken by Filippo Maria Visconti, Francesco Sforza and Carlo V. According to the New constitutions the people of each village could use the water to irrigate their fields just during particular days of the week and years later it was decided that the water could be taken every day but only after 4.00 pm. According to a legend in 1800 there was a rivulet that streamed behind the church Colorina in the small town of Nerviano. Its water came from the Olona river and it was thought to be miraculous so it was sold in hospitals and outside the churches. One day a man that was pulling a hand-cart with bottles of water fell. Since he didnt want to go back to the rivulet to get other water, he got it from a well and sold it. After a while the water of the rivulet became undrinkable. People started praying and the man confessed what he had done, but nothing changed. So the people of the village thought that it was a punishment from the Holy Virgin.

6 On the banks of the Olona river, little by little, a lot of mills were built. YearNumber of watermills Nowadays just few mills have survived and one of these is mill Star Qua whose former owner was Giuseppe Piazza, while now is owned by the family Molaschi. All of the elderly people that live in Nerviano and San Vittore Olona still remember when the owners of the mill went through the town every day with a cart pulled by an ox and asked for wheat to grist. A lot of people were poor and didnt have the possibility to pay for the service, so the owners kept part of the wheat for themselves. Others went to the mill on their own and had to take with them a special card on which there was written the precise amount of wheat that they had to grist.

7 Its name is related to an oral story according to which Austria had invaded Milan and tried to control all of its economic activities. On 4 February 1853 the troops of count Radetsky occupied the mill, stole forage and victuals and ordered the owners to go away, but they courageously answered: We want to stay here that translated into Italian is noi vogliamo stare qua.

8 Typically, water is diverted from a river to a turbine or water wheel, along a channel or pipe. The force of the water's movement drives the blades of a wheel or turbine, which in turn rotates an axle that drives the mill's other machinery. Water leaving the wheel or turbine is drained through a tail race, but this channel may also be the head race of yet another wheel, turbine or mill. The passage of water is controlled by sluice gates that allow maintenance and some measure of flood control. How does a mill work

9 Watermills can be divided into two kinds, one with a horizontal waterwheel on a vertical axle, and the other with a vertical wheel on a horizontal axle. The oldest of these were horizontal mills in which the force of the water, striking a simple paddle wheel set horizontally in line with the flow turned a runner stone balanced on the rynd which is atop a shaft leading directly up from the wheel. The bedstone does not turn. The problem with this type of mill arose from the lack of gearing; the speed of the water directly set the maximum speed of the runner stone which, in turn, set the rate of milling.

10 Most watermills have a vertical waterwheel, one of three kinds: undershot, overshot and breast-shot. This produced rotary motion around rotation about a vertical axis, which in corn mills was required to drive its stones. The horizontal rotation was converted into the vertical rotation by means of gearing, which also enabled the runner stones to turn faster than the waterwheel. The usual arrangement in corn mills has been for the waterwheel to turn a horizontal shaft on which is also mounted a large pit wheel. This meshes with the wallower, mounted on a vertical shaft, which turns the (larger) great spur wheel (mounted on the same shaft). This large face wheel, set with pegs, in turn, turned a smaller wheel (such as a lantern gear) known as a stone nut, which was attached to the shaft that drove the runner stone.

11 The number of runner stones that could be turned depended directly upon the supply of water available. In many mills the great spur wheel turned only one stone, but there might be several mills under one roof. Each step in the process increased the gear ratio which increased the maximum speed of the runner stone. Adjusting the sluice gate and thus the flow of the water past the main wheel allowed the miller to compensate for seasonal variations in the water supply. Finer speed adjustment was made during the milling process by tentering, that is, adjusting the gap between the stones according to the water flow, the type of grain being milled, and the grade of flour required.

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14 In Star Qua mill there is an undershoot wheel. A vertically mounted water wheel that is rotated by water striking paddles or blades at the bottom of the wheel is said to be undershot. This is generally the least efficient, oldest type of wheel. It has the advantage of being cheaper and simpler to build, but is less powerful and can only be used where the flow rate is sufficient to provide torque. Undershot wheels gain no advantage from head and are never backshot. They are most suited to shallow streams in flat country (like in this area).

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17 Mr Adriano Meraviglia is 54 years old, he is the former owner of mill Meraviglia. He explains that mills are like old villas and they take the name of the family that owns them. During the 19th and part of the 20th century watermills were very important because they provided food and, in fact, they were the first things that were occupied by the invaders during wars. They work thanks to the exploitation of natural resorts and in this specific case they use the water that is provided by the Olona river which is kind of a small river. The wheels that we can see in this mill are a lot thinner than the ones of others (for example the ones that we can find on the Navigli) and this because the water available here is not much and according to the level of the water the miller can decide to make one, two or more wheels turn. If the wheels were larger the power of the river would be enough to make the wheels turn but not enough to create the energy that is needed to make the machines, that are used to grind the flour, work. San Vittore Olona Meraviglia Watermill Interview: Mr Adriano Meraviglia

18 The typical day of a miller was very hard because work never ended since it also continued during the night. Millers used to wake up early in the morning and wear a white pair of trousers and shirt so that people couldnt notice when they were dirty since also the colour of the flour is white. During the day they went to the different farmhouses to collect cereals and take them back to the mill using chariots that had very big wheels and were pulled by mules. During the night instead the flower was ground and this was the only time that the millers had to relax since the process required little supervision. Mills were not only used to produce flour but also for looms, steelworks (steel mills) and workshops so we can say that they are tightly connected to the development of the industry in this area. Today mills are not used any more because they have been replaced by more efficient machines and the mother of the former owner of mill Meraviglia tells us that now living in a mill is very boring since nothing is done.

19 San Lorenzo di Parabiago Moroni Windmill Interview: Mr. Moroni Mr Pio Moroni is 86 years old and he has been a miller for all his life. He was born in San Lorenzo of Parabiago, a small town located on the Olona river, where he lived with his 3 brothers and parents. He considers himself very lucky because even though working in a mill was very hard, there was never lack of food since they had a stable with a horse, a cow thanks to which they always had milk and 4 or 5 pigs that they bought from a men called Tosi Rocco who lived in Gallarate (a small town 20Km far from Parabiago). The typical day of a miller was different according to the period of the year since work depended on the quantity of water of the river. In summer life was very hard because there wasnt much water since it was used to irrigate the fields nearby, so people had to take turns working during the night, when the level of the water was a little bit higher, to finish grinding all the flour they were given. During winter instead people woke up very early in the morning and worked all day but at least at night they could sleep. Living near a river can be very dangerous because of the floods and Mr Moroni remembers very well all the nights he spent awake wondering if the river would overflow and trying to reinforce the edges. Above all he remembers the year 1951 when the edges of the Po river broke in Polesine, and the ones of Olona river broke in San Vittore: all the fields where covered with water and his relatives and his family had half a metre of water in their houses.

20 Interview: Mrs. Anna Moroni Mrs Anna Moroni was born in 1935 and she is 72 years old. Her family, which was composed of her parents and three daughters, inherited a watermill on the Olona river from her grandfather who had worked in it for all his life. The same did her father till he died and when this happened her uncle took his place and worked until he could, then the building was sold since his son didn t like this kind of job because he preferred studying and no one else was left to work in the mill. Living in a mill was very hard but Anna loved this kind of life and started working at the age of five years old helping her grandmother. Most of the work was done by her father and uncle who got up every day around six o clock and went to bed around nine after an exhausting day. During the morning they went around the countryside with a chariot pulled by a horse to collect the cereals that they had to grind, in the evening they produced the flour and the following day they took the flour back to the farmers. The millers had also to take care of the animals since they had pigs, horses and cows that needed to be fed and cleaned. Their mill had three millstones one of which was electrical, the others instead worked thanks to the power generated by wheels that were turned by the water of the Olona river. The electrical millstone was usually used during summer, when the level of the water was quite low, in winter instead there was plenty of water and sometimes, when it rained a lot, the river overflowed.

21 Interview: Mrs. Anna Moroni The millers had also to take care of the animals since they had pigs, horses and cows that needed to be fed and cleaned. Their mill had three millstones one of which was electrical, the others instead worked thanks to the power generated by wheels that were turned by the water of the Olona river. The electrical millstone was usually used during summer, when the level of the water was quite low, in winter instead there was plenty of water and sometimes, when it rained a lot, the river overflowed. Mrs Moroni has a lot of memories of this period of her life some of which are pleasant but others aren t at all. During her childhood Italy was fighting in the second world war and the police frequently went to their mill to check if everything was in order. One night they came at three o clock, woke up everybody and took her father and the son of an other miller to prison for practically no reason. Their families had to look for a lawyer and spend a lot of money to see them again.


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