A History of Millstones

Neolithic or “New Stone Age” man utilized millstones to process grains, nuts and other vegetable food products for consumption and also used them to grind pigments and metal ores prior to smelting.  Millstones made from volcanic lava have been recovered from two Roman villa sites in southern Italy from the 1st century BC.  Over the course of many centuries to follow, millstones remained an important tool for grinding grains into fine flours and coarse meals.  Depending on the country of origin, millstones could be made from a wide variety of stones such as granite, Derbyshire Peak, Newcastle Grit, Belgian dark marble, German Cullen stones, porous lava, but the most desirable stones for fine grinding of flour were quarried at La Ferte sous Jonare in France due to their dense, smooth composition.

The surface of a millstone is divided by deep grooves called furrows into separate flat areas called lands.  The furrows and lands are arranged in repeating patterns called harps. A typical millstone will have six, eight or ten harps. The pattern of harps is repeated on the face of each stone, when they are laid face to face the patterns mesh in a kind of “scissoring” motion creating the cutting or grinding function of the stones. The grooves provide a cutting edge and help to channel the ground flour out from the stones.  Furrows create the pleasing pattern on the surface of the millstone and actually help to direct the grain outward from the center of the millstone and act as airspace to keep the grain from overheating.

When deemed no longer suitable for practical use, worn out or broken millstones often were reborn as components in new bridge construction or used to rebuild mill dams.  When marching around France, Napoleon was quoted as being surprised by how many old broken millstones were recycled as bridge abutments.

Garden Accents, thinks these history-rich millstones are much too beautiful to spend their retirement as building materials.  We have much higher aspirations for them—

While no longer pressed into service for grinding purposes, our millstones are hoping to spend the remainder of their days enhancing a lovely garden path, posing as unique garden sculpture or serving as an attractive fountainhead.  Customers have also used our extra large millstones as focal points in circular driveways.  We’re proud to have an amazing collection of both antique and reproduction millstones ranging in size from 24″ to a giant 82″ in diameter with various designs of furrows and harps to add textural interest.

Our import source has indicated to us that the genuine antique millstones are becoming harder to find as their popularity creates a higher demand.

If you’re in the process of planning a project that might be enhanced by one of these incredible timeless classics, please plan to visit soon. We currently have a large millstone fountain on display at the entranceway – a design that winterizes easily, possesses strong water flow therefore plenty of water sound and still provides a focal point and interest during winter months – it can remain uncovered!

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