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July - August 2014 | 11

A History of Roller Flour Milling

Progress with past and present research by Rob Shorland-Ball Pesther Walzmuhle in 1851 in Budapest

by Mildred Cookson Mills Archive Trust, Reading, UK

An early view of the Millennium Mills in Dock Side, London


n March-April G&FMT (Researching and Reporting: The Roller Flour Milling Revolution- pp 14-15) I explained the research project on which, with Bryan McGee and The Mills Archive Trust [MAT], Reading, I have been working for several years. With MAT we have created an IT database of 196 roller flourmills in England including mills still working [i], mills converted to other uses like offices or apartments [ii] and sites of a former roller flour mill [iii]. Of course the story of the ‘Roller Flour Mill Revolution’ is not confined to the UK so we are extending our project a little to Hungary,and to Minneapolis in the USA, to give more context to our UK work. In October I am spending five days in Budapest exploring and photographing, the surviving roller mill sites and buildings in a city which was once the centre of European roller flour milling. Research continues in the UK too and a recent visit to Caudwell’s Mill, Rowsley, Derbyshire, reminded me what a good example survives here of an early roller flourmill owned and managed by an entrepreneurial and forward-looking millers John and Edward Caudwell. John Caudwell built the present mill on an existing corn mill site in 1874 as a water-wheel-powered stone mill. In 1885 Edward replaced the stones with roller plant and in 1887 and 1898 replaced the waterwheels with turbines. Further modernisation by Briddon and Fowler followed in 1905 and yet more by Amme, Giesecke & Konegen in 1914. In 1978 the Caudwell family concluded that the mill, still working some original machinery, was no longer a commercial proposition so, in 1980, Caudwell’s Mill Trust Ltd was formed to preserve the mill and display it to the public for education and leisure. The mill is still open today to visitors and educational groups, no longer milling flour but with the machinery still working to demonstrate the roller milling processes and a very well-stocked shop selling many varieties of flour, including some from Nelstrop’s Albion Mill, Stockport. So the roller flour milling story continues on this site. The most advanced mill opened the year GFMT magazine was launched as Milling newspaper 1891 saw Joseph Rank open in Hull the most advanced roller mill in Britain and other large port mills also switched to roller-milling. Rank, a wind miller who became a leading roller flour milling entrepreneur, developing the Rank Hovis McDougall combine. Today, the Rank name remains as Rank Hovis, the UK's leading flour miller and one of the most recognised names in the milling and baking world. Today there are just 30 or so milling companies in the UK – including several independents like Marriages of Chelmsford, E.B. Bradshaw & Sons of Driffield and Carrs Milling Industries of Carlisle and Silloth – altogether operating around 50 flourmills. Each year, the UK flour milling industry produces around five million tonnes of flour from over seven million tonnes of wheat. In the early 1970s, around 30 percent of the wheat used by UK millers was grown in the UK. Nowadays, that figure is closer to 85 percent (though 2012 was an exception because of the worst UK harvest on record).

Hovis Mill – 1898-1904 in Macclesfield, UK and now apartments

Our Roller Flour Milling Archive

Caudwell’s Mill at Rowsley, Derbyshire, UK


ou will be hearing more over the coming months about the Mills Archive Roller Flour Mill project. The project will consist of three elements.

We have already announced that we wish to build up our archive on roller flour milling and we will be looking for material to add to the collection as well as financial support to build the only dedicated national archive on this important area of our milling heritage. To support and publicise our initiative we are planning an educational programme on the full story of flour milling entitled From Quern to Computer as well as a travelling exhibition on the same theme. We have been identifying sources of material with the help of our project team which includes Rob Shorland-Ball and Bryan McGee, both experts on roller mills (the latter having worked in the area for all his life). We are also examining what The Mills Archive already has and this led me to go through my own collection. Expanding our archive to include roller milling has interested me for some time as I have a significant number of relevant books, photographs and old postcards as well as some superb old illustrated catalogues showing the machinery of Simon, Robinson, Turner, Armfield, Whitmore & Binyon etc. The illustrations show two examples of the material that will go to make up this interesting project. It has been an area neglected by traditional mill people, partly because of the complex flow charts involved and also because the mills are not as romantic to look at as a windmill or a country watermill. Many of these old roller mills have a fascinating history of their own, however. The lives of the owners, developments to the mills’ machinery, the motive power and the Victorian architecture of the buildings themselves with their characteristic tall chimneys are all areas deserving further study. Victoria Mills, Grimsby was listed Grade II in 1986. Situated in North East Lincolnshire, the current mill was designed by the Hull architect Sir W A Gelder in 1889, after the original steam driven mill was destroyed by a fire a year earlier. It was built and owned by the Marshall family who were wealthy Grimsby farmers and landowners with a milling business founded by Mr William Marshall, initially using a windmill in Chantry Lane to produce their flour. Under the management of William's sons Andrew and Charles, the Rector of Doddington, the company was one of the first mills in Britain to adapt the new system of milling using fluted chilled cast iron rollers to crush the grain. The family previously owned a site further up on the Haven, known as Haven Mill, but the opening of Alexandra Dock meant that even larger ships could now be loaded with sacks of flour direct from the mill. The relocation to the dominant site opposite Freeport Wharf with its good road access, to build a much larger, more modern mill incorporating all the latest milling technology was an astute, well-timed move leading to commercial success. The foundation stone of the present mill was laid in April 1889 by Mr John H Marshall. According to the Grimsby News of June 25, 1897, "The new machinery was first put in motion on December 26, 1889.” This was just one year after the original mill was destroyed. To be continued in the next edition …


Jul | Aug 14 - Grain & Feed Milling Technology  

The July August 2014 edition of Grain & Feed Milling Technology magazine

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