Mediaeval world goes digital

Clair Shields – Planning Officer (Building Conservation)

Our historic environment, in the form of old buildings and archaeological sites, is a precious and irreplaceable resource which provides us with enjoyment, inspiration and instruction e.g. learning how our ancestors lived and worked.

Historic buildings form an important part of the National Park’s rural and cultural landscape and provide a rich store of information about the past. Unlocking this store calls upon skills and techniques from a range of historical and archaeological disciplines to gather, analyse and interpret the evidence surviving within a building’s fabric.

With assistance from English Heritage, we are venturing into the world of 3D laser scanning to capture the workings of one of the National Parks most important historic structures – a listed water-powered corn mill with mediaeval origins which still retains a near-complete set of early 18th century wooden machinery.

Regarded as being of national importance, the mill machinery is currently at risk of being lost due to damage from severe flooding some years ago which brought about the onset of extensive wood rot. Some consolidation work is taking place, but the long-term future of the building and the machinery is as yet undetermined because of its poor state, and therefore in the mean time undertaking this comprehensive digital recording of the mill machinery is crucial in order to properly document its existence.

The screenshots below highlight the coverage and quality of the data captured by laser-scanning which can be processed and presented in a variety of ways – including line drawings of plans/sections/elevations, ortho-rectified montages of elevation images and detailed 3D models of the mill workings. The processed data will form an important record of the machinery before further conservation work takes place, since the work will involve replacing original wooden components which are rotting away and are threatening the survival of the mill machinery as a whole. Hopefully what’s left of the machinery can be physically conserved for the future, but at least now we will have the early 18th century original machinery recorded for posterity.

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