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Mills of Finland

About the author

Kate Doughty

I had always wondered what went on inside the beautiful building that is Watlington House, and this summer I have been lucky enough to find out.

I am soon to be a third year History student at the University of Reading, and in the spring found out about the placements that were being run through the Reading Internship Scheme. As I hope to embark upon a career in Museums and Archives upon graduation – possibly after further postgraduate study – the opportunity to work with Rex Wailes’ wonderful collection at the Mills Archive (in Watlington House of all places!) jumped straight out at me. I had no real claim to knowledge about the milling industry prior to starting here, although there may be a family connection to the mills at Stokesby and Acle, both in Norfolk. I have long since been interested in the industrial revolution, however, and my third year dissertation discusses the ever changing relationships between producer, trader and consumer in Berkshire throughout the nineteenth century.

As you can see, my project specification, in outline, has been to catalogue the Mills of Finland collection in full, and then create a series of webpages to accompany the collection and tie it all together. I hope you enjoy looking through the vast array of images and documents that are now available. One of the most striking things about the collection has been the sheer volume of mills with records made of them, and the great extent to which the research has been carried out by Rex and his companion Auvo Hirsjärvi.

Not only are the various types of mills given different names in Finland – like a ‘toe mill’ instead of a ‘post mill’ – there are countless other gems in the collection. One highlight has been the slightly spooky ‘skeleton mills’, which are called as such because their structure does not have boarding to enclose it. It’s great to be able to see millers and other workers and their families on some of the photos as well; it really brings to life the social aspect of the milling world – they truly were centres of their communities.

I’d like to say a huge thank you to all at the Mills Archive who have helped me throughout this project. It has been a wonderful, and thoroughly enjoyable, experience working with a fantastic team.

Kate Doughty