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A part of England…inside a Finnish mill!

Hi everyone, I hope you’re well and the past couple of weeks have been enjoyable for you. If you’re thinking I’ve been quiet on the blog recently, it’s because my six-week internship ended in the middle of July, and since then I have been working on my third year History dissertation. The thought of it before starting any research was exhilarating but completely terrifying… By now I have (sort of) got my head around it all, and cannot wait to continue throughout the next academic year. The one drawback in all of this, however, was that I wasn’t able to spend time at the Mills Archive! I’m back for another six weeks now, though, and am eager to complete the cataloguing and recording of Rex’s collection in full – and write more for you about the project and its contents.

Poster Image

Today, Thursday, has actually marked the end of the scanning and recording of the whole collection. There are 1268 photographs altogether, all of which are available here. It may take you a while to look through them, so I’ll be continuing to pick out some of the best bits. Hopefully this will give you a taste of what we have here at Watlington House, particularly if you aren’t exactly sure what you’re looking for.

For those of you who are, you can now find parishes or provinces, individual farms, manors or mills in the search bar across the top of the ‘Images and Documents Catalogue’, following the ‘Explore’ tab from the Archive Homepage. One click of the mouse almost always leads to another, and by using the ‘Access Points’ near the bottom of each entry you can easily find similar items, or the same mill at different points in time. Perhaps you’d like to see more pictures by the same photographer? You can do this too by clicking on their name; the full list will come up. One person you might like to start with in particular is Auvo Hirsjärvi – a fantastic array (and the majority) of photos in our Finnish collection have been taken and annotated by him. As you’re looking through you may notice that he has a slight preference towards his home parish of Tammela in Häme. By searching it you can see why: there are such picturesque settings as the picture above demonstrates.

Earlier this week we found something unexpected, too: roller mill parts made by Turner of Ipswich in a Finnish mill! You can see this in place in Loimaa in the photo below, to the left of the image. A bit of research on the company courtesy of the Ipswich Transport Museum’s website, as well as prior knowledge from our Chairman of Trustees Ron, shows that they were a prominent iron founders and engineering firm from their establishment in 1837, soon specialising in milling machinery. They were one of the main companies responsible for introducing roller milling technology to Britain – and evidently further afield, as our photograph suggests! While milling had previously been between one circular stone turning above a lower fixed one, it now became customary for multiple layers of rotating steel cylinders to break and grind the grain into flour.

Henry Simon of Manchester (who was originally from Germany) was another entrepreneur in the milling world, and engineered similar machinery. The image on the right was taken by Mildred Cookson in 2005 at Upper Calbourne Mill on the Isle of Wight, and shows one of Simon’s roller mills. This, too, was a revolutionary piece of equipment, and could be worked in conjunction with the millstones already in place. Initially the company targeted watermills because of the issue of space in a windmill, but before long roller machines were being used in their own right, powered first by steam, later electricity. They no doubt increased productivity and reliability, yet have irreversibly led to the decline in traditional milling techniques.

Far more information is and will be available, particularly through the Mills Archive’s new project ‘Quern to Computer’, in which the entirety of flour milling’s history will be mapped out from prehistory to the present day. Watch out for more updates on this in the coming months. I was just impressed that a mill like this could be found in south west Finland – so far removed from Ipswich – and was keen to learn more!

For now, though, I’ll leave you to delve into even more of the Finnish catalogue, where all the pictures are readily available. Perhaps you’ll be able to find something you instantly recognise but didn’t realise would be there, or something completely new and unexpected.