Posted on

‘As you like it’ – Nathanael Hodge

The magazine ‘As you like it’ was created for the staff of Joseph Rank Ltd in the 1920s. They provide a fascinating glimpse of the lives and interests of the people who worked in flour mills a hundred years ago.

Named after one of Rank’s flour brands, the first issue of ‘As you like it’ was printed in September 1921. By this time the firm was 46 years old and was one of the great milling success stories, as Joseph Rank had expanded his business from his original windmill in Hull to become the owner of four large roller four mills in Hull, London, Barry and Birkenhead, together with others in Edinburgh, Glasgow and Selby.
The main four Joseph Rank mills in 1921: Clarence Mills, Hull; Premier Mills, London; Atlantic Mills, Barry; Ocean Mills, Birkenhead.
In Joseph Rank’s forward to the first issue of the magazine he described the philosophy that undergirded his approach to running his business: ‘never has there been so much voluntary co-operation among men as there is to-day, and that is why I am such an outright optimist about the future.’ The magazine was intended to encourage the spirit of co-operation among the employees, as well as creating a sense of community among workers scattered across numerous sites throughout the country.
The Premier Mills football team, 1922
The magazine was by the staff and for the staff – anyone was invited to make contributions, and many sent in letters, poems and cartoons. Each issue included updates from the various mills, mainly reporting on staff social events, the successes or otherwise of the sports teams associated with each mill, and the engagements and marriages of staff members. There were also more technical articles on milling topics, as well as humorous contributions.

Here are just a few of the items from the first volume of issues, 1921-1922.

Horses of Haymarket Mills.
This photo appeared in the November 1921 issue, showing the horses used at Haymarket Mills, Edinburgh. The magazine reported that ‘the stud of horses at Haymarket Mills are all grey geldings and typical Clydesdales … This mode of transport may not appear quite up to date, but it has its advantages, as the teams are greatly admired by the public and visitors from all parts. It is quite common for carters to be called to halt and asked all sorts of questions as to how they are kept in such find condition … This photograph gives you an idea of how docile they are.’

Heath Robinson Cartoons

Several issues of the magazine included cartoons by William Heath Robinson (1872-1944), such as those shown here:
Traveller’s Corner

While most of the material submitted to the magazine was from the staff of the various mills, the commercial travellers also contributed to ‘traveller’s corner’. These were the travelling salesmen who spent their days on the road visiting the customers to whom Ranks flour was sold. They often sent in stories about their experiences, such as the following:

‘Recently I had occasion to call upon a lady customer in a suburban part of a certain town … When making this particular call I have always been the habit of going into the bakehouse, direct. On approaching it this particular morning what was my astonishment to see – through the partly open door – a pair of shapely limbs going through the usual gymnastic performance one usually associates with the manufacture of “handmade” bread. In this case, however, one could not conscientiously call it “handmade” because – it’s a fact ! she was ! ! absolutely ! ! ! making it with her feet ! ! ! !’
Another issue included this photo of a traveller who spent his spare time making toys for slum children.

A Prehistoric Xmas

This cartoon showing the origins of milling appeared at Christmas 1921.
The bound copies of ‘As you like it’ were part of the collection of archives and publications donated to us by UK Flour Millers and the Millers’ Mutual Association in 2023.