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Holman Bros., Millwrights of Canterbury: A history

Newington Mill, Ramsgate

Newington Mill, Ramsgate
Newington Mill, Ramsgate. Photo: Amos and Amos, Dover

This mill was built in 1830 by John Holman. Records show that the firm undertook sweep repairs in the late 1880s and early 1900s. In 1904 the sweeps were removed and it was converted to roller milling.

The mill ran on an ‘Armfield’ roller system. Messrs. J.J. Armfield of Ringwood, Hampshire had the knack of fitting their machines into impossible corners and whole systems into inconceivably small spaces. It was not very often that a windmill was converted like this; it was referred to as ‘a veritable waistcoat pocket installation.’ It had a one sack system and turned out clean flour and well finished offals on three octagonal floors, one measuring just 18ft 6ins across. Flour and offals were stored in the basement before being loaded into wagons or carts.

The first floor contained three double sets of Armfield’s 12in x 6in rolls. They stood in a line which took up 11ft 6ins of the floor, leaving space between each double set to replace them when the need arose with 18in rolls. Armfield believed that once people tried the flour, new rolls would have to be installed to cope with the demand.

There were three breaks and three reductions. The usual wheat cleaning machinery including magnets were placed in front of the first break to intercept any small pieces of wire or nails. On the floor above the rolls was a double scalper operating upon the chop from the first two breaks, an Armfield purifier and three centrifugals. The next floor had a break meal centrifugal and a bran duster.

It was said that ‘the middlings were divided into two sizes and were being delivered to the rolls in a regular manner, and in good shape, they were bright in appearance, and free from light tissue and branny matter, a fact that any practical miller loves to look upon.’ Everything was said to run quietly and efficiently. The motive power was from a 12 horse power engine, but what was interesting was that by a very simple arrangement the huge 70ft sweeps could be coupled up so that either steam or wind could be used.

Even though the roller plant system was in place, the two pairs of 4ft 6in millstones were still retained on the stone floor along with a corn crusher and wheat cleaner. The bin floor contained two bins, one for dirty wheat arriving and the other for the wheat to be stored once cleaned. The wheat was hoisted up directly from the wagons which could pull up directly under the chain hoist.

The mill stood 1/2 mile North of St. Lawrence Church Ramsgate. Coles Finch (1933) quotes from a letter received in 1931 from the miller Mr. Peter Mack:

The mill is about 100 years old.  I think considerable repair would have to be done for them to be used again. The shutters, of course, have been dismantled. We used up to quite recently two pairs of stones, one set of Derbyshire Peak and the other French Burr. We now only use one pair (for grinding barley and farmers’ corn).The other pair have been removed for an oat crushing, maize kibbler and grinder combined.

We make our own gas (from anthracite coal) to drive the gas engine, which drives a small flour plant, the stones and crusher altogether. We also have a bakery adjoining the mill in which we bake bread. So you see we make our own gas, make our own flour and produce bread from same. Our trade is a mixed one, of course, as is the case with similar businesses, consisting of corn, fodder, flour, bread, which is retailed at our two shops”.

Mr. Mack added that he had heard that the mill originally stood on the old SE & CR Station site in the town and was moved by the railway company to make room for the line. “This is a misunderstanding I think, for the Canterbury millwrights tell me that the mill was erected on its present site by John Holman.”

Prior to Mr. Mack’s ownership, the mill was in the Mascall family, for whom it was probably built.

[William Mascall born in 1804 may have been the miller at the time the mill was built in 1830. He was married to Hannah Jane Holman, one of the St Nicholas-at-Wade branch of the family. LH]

1885-1902 – Mr. Mascall

1903-12 – Mr. Peter Mack

There was a fire in the mill in 1908 which damaged the framework and covering for the main drive to the rollers and to all the driving belts. These were all replaced.

In 1912 the existing engine and Cornish boiler were removed, it being necessary to dismantle a wall to get them out. New concrete foundations were laid together with pipe trenches and a new iron supporting frame was constructed to take the new engine. In addition foundations were laid for a gas plant and a water cistern and a coal storage area was created. A new National type SE gas engine was installed with a gas generating plant and a 100 gallon water cistern, and the existing lay shaft was replaced with one suitable for the new plant. When the installation was finished, Holmans left an engineer in charge for a week to run the engine and instruct the men on its use.


Still working in the early 1930s by gas engine


Possible year when demolished.