IT specialists 1st Easy set up base at 18th century Washford Mill, Congleton

PUBLISHED: 18:02 26 September 2012 | UPDATED: 21:58 20 February 2013

Viv and Steve Bell by the Washford Mill waterwheel

Viv and Steve Bell by the Washford Mill waterwheel

An historic mill and waterwheel in Buglawton, near Congleton, is proving the perfect setting for a firm with its eyes on the future, writes Carl Nagaitis

An historic cast-iron water wheel powered by the current of the River Dane, turns quietly in clear view from the HQ of an IT company that is playing a key role in a 21st century data revolution.

Stephen Bell, managing director of Congleton IT specialists 1st Easy, felt it was an interesting backdrop for the launch of their new service Cloud Utilities, making state-of-the-art cloud computing available to a wider audience.

However, Stephen and his wife and fellow-director, Vivien, did not realise how appropriate it was until they delved into the history of the 18th century Washford Mill site at Buglawton.

They were intrigued to discover that the picturesque waterwheel installed around 1900 - was in fact a technological breakthrough in its day. Known as a Poncelot, the wheel had been designed to transfer more power from the rivers current by converting the currents velocity to energy.

Its astonishing to think that we are still pushing the boundaries of technology on the same spot, said Stephen, who has worked with major names like Sun Microsystems, Silicon Graphics and IBM during his career. Initially we thought that the waterwheel was a simply a fascinating piece of history but it is part of the history of science and technology.

It also means we have a great story to relate to visitors that we are still trying our best to bring the benefits of technology to all, added Vivien.
Hydro engineer and waterwheel expert Ted Stowell, who lives in Beeston, has studied the history of the Washford Mill waterwheel. He believes the original waterwheel was installed in early Victorian times.

The mill was a flint mill in those early days, said Ted. They used to grind flint for use in the pottery industry down in Stoke. The waterwheel would have been originally installed to power the grinding machinery.

We think the original wheel was installed around the 1830s and was replaced around 1900 with a Poncelot wheel which was a new technology of the day.

Washford Mill owner Roger Lawrence said the waterwheel may have been used as a source of power for many different businesses over the years but had now been converted to produce electricity for the National Grid.
You could say it is creating green electricity from the River Dane, he said.

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