WIT Press

Tide Mills: The Route Of One Forgotten Heritage


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WIT Press


M. Santos


Tide mills are situated along the estuary of the River Tagus and are considered to be an important part of Portuguese heritage dating back to pre-industrialisation. These large solid structures made of stone have great architectural value and in former times were the basis of a small flour-milling industry which was particularly important in the making of ‘biscoitos’, a type of sea-biscuit used on ship voyages during the Portuguese Discovery period in the XV century. A significant number of these tide mills can be found in the River Tagus basin, close to the capital, Lisbon, however the largest number of tide mills is recorded in the Algarve region with a total of 47 units. This paper will establish the economic role tide mills played in Portuguese pre-industrial history. It will also outline the cultural aspects of tide mills, referring to their historical content, draw attention to their present state of abandonment, and in some cases ruin, and will highlight the urgent need for their classification, conservation and renovation. Keywords: tide mills, Tagus Estuary, industry, engine mills, safeguard, heritage. 1 Introduction This paper aims to draw attention to the forgotten heritage of tide mills, in this case, Portuguese tide mills situated on the River Tagus. These large impressive constructions played an important role in the milling industry, during their time, by supplying flour to the capital (Lisbon). A large quantity of this flour was used to make an important foodstuff, the \“biscoito” (a type of sea-biscuit which was especially made for maritime use during the discovery period, in Portuguese history through out the XV century). These large constructions with foundations made of stone, had a commanding presence on the banks of the River Tagus and functioned almost as a small


tide mills, Tagus Estuary, industry, engine mills, safeguard, heritage.