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<span>I Mulini</span> History and Tales

I Mulini History and Tales

The mills

The watermill or hydraulic mill is a structure that uses the mechanical energy of a waterstream to drive a wheel or turbine, the fluid is conducted there through a mill race.


Among the first documents dealing with watermills and their working principle, there is Vitruvius’s treatise in the ‘De Architectura’ (25 B.C.).
Watermills in Europe were used before windmills.
Their development started at the end of IX century A.D. with the reduction of slavery: the use of hydraulic energy instead of animals or humans increased the production to a level never reached before. Water and windmills have lasted until the XIX century when the steam engine was invented and then came the electric motor.


Before the industrial age watermills were used for different tasks.
Some of the most frequents were:

  • Grinding grains into flour, the oldest use
  • Sawing to cut timber into lumber
  • Weaving cloth, in the textile industry
  • Powering iron mills, also called blast furnaces, finery forges
  • Powering water pumps
  • Generating electric power


The water is diverted from a river to the wheel or turbine along a channel or pipe.
The motion of the water drives the blades of the turbine, that revolves on its shaft which powers the other machines in the mill. The waterflow is controlled by sluice gates that can be fully closed for maintanance and as partial measure againts floodings.

Il Mulino di Bairo

The history of the Mill of Bairo begins with the digging of ‘Bealera Briccaca’ also known as the Caluso canal, ended in december 1559 after three years only. This was due to the initiative of the marshall Charles Cossè de Brissac, commander of the french troops occupying part of Canavese at the time.

He was granted by King Henry II of France, in 1556, a permission to build the canal from Spineto, a hamlet of Castellamonte, to his lands in Caluso.

Therefore it was possible to supply water for the cultivations and the horses, beisdes it was possible to flood the countryside south of Caluso in case of war. An area rich with marshland in those times, being under a morainic hill.

The permission by King Henry II grants to divert 48 liprandi feet ( 0.514 m = 20,2 in ) of water from the river Orco and to cross his lands: Castellamonte, Bairo, Agliè, then the lands belonging to the Duke of Monferrato: San Giorgio, Montalenghe, Orio and Barone.

The Vicentine architect Francesco Orologi was chosen to carry out the project.

On may the 20th 1561 an agreement was made between the community of Bairo and the marshal Cossè de Brissac stating that:

The Community of Bairo has the right to build on the Bealera (leat), in the locality of Brailasca, a mill with three wheels and one hemp millstone, with a single jump between head and tailrace
the same Community will grant the use of water with this purpose, for good;
Bridges, both public or private, could be built in the future, on the Bealera.”

Thanks to this agreement the Community of Bairo was able to build its mill and eventually collect the earnings that it produced.

Yearly the mill was rented to a private person that, according to the deal with the community, had to give some benefits to the citizens of Bairo, in particular with the price and the days of milling.


In 1776 the mill with the hemp beater were rented by Guglielmo (William) Perono for 682 lire and 10 soldi.

In 1780 the mill was driving three millstones to grind grains and one for the hemp.

In 1820 Giuseppe (Joeseph) Scala rented the mill from the community for 981 lire for 6 years

In 1840 it was driving two millstones to grind rye,maize, corn; one for wheat and one for the hemp.

Many people rented the mill until 1853 when Mr. Chiarovano had to close it under the pressure over debts.

This caused the Community of Bairo to lose the rent of 1900 lire, so it was auctioned to find a new renter. The auction (using the system called ‘the lighted candles’) was won by Mr. Domenico Felizzati from Castellamonte with a rent of 3400 lire for 5 years.

A dispute in the mid ‘800 opposed by the Community of Bairo at the Royal Heritage, namely the State property , because of the Caluso Canal.
By the act of March the 18th, 1760 , the Marquis Carlo Francesco Valperga Masino gave the old Bealera at the Royal Heritage who, as owner , cited in front of the Royal Executive Officer Cav. Curti , in Castellamonte , the Community of Bairo .
The deputy attorney general, lawyer Pullino, sued the City of Bairo, represented by the Secretary, Notary Pietro Giuseppe Succio, the mayor Giovanni Penoncello and councilors Giacomo Trabucco and Gio Battista Pistono, about the ownership of the Mill on the Canal.
The lawyer Pullino reminded them their obligations from 1561 and 1760 , that with much indifference , they did not look after.
After this fight the representatives of the City of Bairo assumed responsibility for the maintenance of the Canal in order to keep the mill working.
Since December 1780 the City of Bairo ended the maintenance, paying an annual fee at of 250 lire.
They were also closed all the outletslets made without authorization ​​by the farmers, to irrigate their fields.

In 1859 the mill was leased to Henry, Knight of Emarese , the rent had been reduced to 2000 lire by the city while in those years other mills were built in the area, effectively reducing the activity and the revenue of the miller of Bairo.

In the years 1876-77 the City filed several lawsuits against the millers , including one against Giorgio (George) Magario to force him out of business and to compensate the damage caused to the machinery of the mill and to the building.

In 1885 it was rented by Domenico (Dominic) Zanotti from S.Giorgio, who wanted to manageme it without paying. The hemp beater was under a canopy , the grinding wheel was made ​​up of nine sticks of oakwood .
In 1888 Massimo Silva took over as tenant for an annual sum of 1350 lire.
In 1891-96 the renter was Giorgio Galetto for 1240 lire.
In 1905 the Community of Bairo called the mechanic Casare Bavero to renew the mill. He installed the wheel that is still there and in 1908 it was leased for 9 years to Pietro (Peter) Mazzola from Leinì for an amount of 787 lire per year.
In 1928 the mill of Bairo was still working together with the hemp beater and it was rented by Mrs. Caterina Succio
On February the 11th, 1937 the community granted the pre-emption to purchase the mill to Mr. Pietro Giachino, husband of Catherine Succio, as holder of the ” longer stick “.
On April 6, 1937, the City of Bairo sold the mill to Mr. Pietro Giachino for Lire 32000.

He managed the mill with his son Domenico, from 1937 to 1947 but WW II greatly reduced the demand.

mulino-bairo-storia-15So the Giachino family installed a sawmill to produce lumber, it still exist.
The Giachino family had a tradition of millers, one of Pietro’s brothers: Marcello rented the mill next to the Agliè castle; while the other, Camillo, rented the mill of Grugliasco.

In 1957 Domenico with his wife Margherita “Rita”, leased the latter mill from his uncle.
When Pietro died in 1986, the mill of Bairo passed to his nephew Bruno, who managed it until his death in 2006. The mill was inherited by Catherine Giachino in Pregno, daughter of Domenico, who gave it to her children, Mr. Walter and Flavio Pregno, the current owners.
From 2008 to 2013 a major renovation took place with the constuction of a new wing designed to be a hotel facility, while the original architectural elements of the old mill have been preserved.


The stone staff gauge

mulino-bairo-storia-17 A few hundred meters from the mill, still in the territory of Bairo, among the stones forming the walls of the canal Brissac, we find the stone staff gauge whose graduated scale was used to measure the level of water surface.
With the opening of the canal a new unit of measurement was introduced equal to 48 Liprandi feet (0.514 meters) divided into 12 ounces. This measure was adopted throughout the whole region of Piedmont. After 1780 being used by Eng. Contini, director of the Royal Canals, it has been called Contini ounce after him, or also ounce of Caluso.



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