Salvaging a show with a slice of history

Making over homes and gardens is no longer good enough for some people on the telly. They demand bigger and bigger projects. So the team in Salvage Squad set out to restore a piece of Britain's engineering heritage.

The result was both practical and informative, teaching you more than you could possibly want to know about water mills.

Even presenter Suggs, former frontman of Madness, was enlisted despite his protestations that "these hands haven't been used in any form of work for 20 years". Presumably, grabbing hold of a microphone and singing into it doesn't count as work.

He was offered the chance to dig out the silt from the water around the disused water mill, but beat a hasty retreat on the pretext of having "to go and find out the history of this place".

Inventor Jeremy Nedwell bought the ancient mill in Bishops Waltham in Hampshire six years ago, with the intention of restoring it to working order to grind flour and bake his own bread.

He hadn't got very far, so must have thanked his lucky stars when the C4 team came knocking on his door. There was Claire (industrial historian and all-round steam nut), Axel (mechanic and muscle), and Jerry (Mr Precision with a lathe or paint brush) prepared to do all the work for him.

While Suggs regaled the viewer with illustrated lectures about the working of water mills and the background of this particular one, they got on with grafting. The three-month project included relaying floorboards, restoring the wooden mechanism and sack hoist and refurbishing the mill stones themselves.

The daily grind of the water mill was one of the first industrial processes, remaining the height of technology for 2,000 years. This type of mill died out after steel rollers were introduced instead of stones. Today, only a handful survive.

The likelihood of the Salvage Squad succeeding in their restoration work looked dodgy at the start when they couldn't even get the water pumps, brought in to clear the area around the mill, to operate properly.

Suggs, meanwhile, was in the local pub - talking to a man who used to work at the mill. So much for helping out with the work. Maybe he was better off out of it as Jeremy and millwright Ian Clark had a falling out after the former filed too much off a piece of metal rod, causing a rattling bearing. And, as anyone will tell you, there's nothing worse than a bearing that rattles.

"It's not the end of the world, but perhaps I should have stood over him," said Ian.

Or gone to the pub with Suggs.