The Eye of the Millstone

For an industry so central to the growth of our civilisation, milling is so rarely given the appreciation it deserves. With your help, our volunteers and interns will keep helping everyone to learn about their heritage and see the world through the Eye of the Millstone.

Falling through the eye of the millstone, mills’ powdery produce feeds those that keep the lights on and wheels turning. Milling powers the world. Yet, mill amnesia obscures this fact.

Your support can help our volunteers disperse this fog. With the knowledge in our archive, they allow the world to view and learn about its heritage through our digital catalogue and website.

This is what our volunteer, Sarah has done. Asked what she previously knew about milling, she replied “nothing at all”. Mills are increasingly hidden from view, encroached on by undergrowth and the passage of time. By working to make the watermill expert, Alan Stoyel MBE’s photographs available on our digital catalogue, Sarah has created a window onto the unique and beautiful landmarks of the British countryside. Digitising just 1,000 of our millions of records costs £1,540 in staff time—experience Sarah needs to progress into the records management and heritage sectors. With your support, our volunteers not only learn about their history through our records but help the entire world do the same.

Image from the Mills Archive Trust
An image from Alan’s collection of Stotfold Mill, Bedfordshire, digitised by Sarah. A Heritage Partner of the Archive, this mill and nature reserve is open to visit. See their website for more details: You can purchase this digital image and others like it on our online shop.
Mills Archive volunteer
Rebecca transcribed her interviews to preserve the stories of modern millers.

By interviewing modern millers, our intern Rebecca made new records to enrich the world’s understanding of history. She wrote:

“I’ll admit that before this internship, milling was not something I’d spared much time or thought on, despite growing up in Kent surrounded by windmills. However, capturing history belonging to people was fascinating to me.”

Mills are hiding in plain sight. We pay £3,900 in staff time to train and manage an intern for a thirteen-week placement to reveal their history. Your support enables interns like Rebecca to put people back into the foreground of our milling past.

Volunteer at the Mills Archive
Tzipi also helped to select the titles for our upcoming book loan service for local schools.

Our website is the best way to get new eyes on these milling stories. This is why our young volunteer, Tzipi, reviewed our website, pointing out ways we could make it more attractive and functional. Writing in our recent newsletter:

“I enjoyed the website project so much that it has inspired me to apply for other placements at website design companies.”

Your help to accommodate volunteers transformed Tzipi’s perspective, opening doors she did not know existed. It is all about knowing where to look like our volunteer, Marina, found out.

Windmill, Molos, Skyros, Greece
Windmill, Molos, Skyros, Greece, captured by Marina.

On holiday on the Island of Skyros, “my aim was to find the three windmills I read about in Watlington House and take photos to add to the digital collection… Chasing windmills in Skyros encouraged me to talk to the locals, look for information and go to places I would not normally visit. This was the second time I visited the island, and I realised that volunteering for the Mills Archive has helped me look at my surroundings in a different way.”

The Archive helps people to take another look, asking questions about where their food, clothes, building materials and more come from. Marina has been hard at work improving our website’s home page to inspire curiosity in our 130,000 annual users. The rent for our website has risen to £6,200 a year.

With your help, Marina will implement changes suggested by Tzipi and her own, ensuring that this investment will change the way the world sees its milling past.

Our volunteers certainly have an eye for it. Your support lets them use it to set out on their career paths and preserve our milling vulnerable heritage.

Please consider helping to enrich the lives of our volunteers and make the impact of milling visible to all.

Alternatively, you can donate via cheque or bank transfer. Click here for more information.