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Homeland health

Purity, Quality and Merit.

This Gem is a Certificate of Excellence, issued by the Royal Instituation of Public Health and Hygiene to certify that the Homeland Flour produced by Witherington and Over fulfilled their required quality standards.

Witherington & Over was a milling company in Reading, not far from where the Archive is now at Watlington House. The company formed from the amalgamation of two millers, Witherington & Son Ltd. of Sonning Mill and Over Bros of Sindlesham Mill, who originally produced Homeland Flour as their ‘High-Grade Self Raising Flour’. Witherington & Over was founded in 1954, and they ran the two mills together until closing in 1969.

The intricately-designed certificate includes the Institution’s three main objectives written around the floral borders: Purity, Quality and Merit. The coat of arms bears a motto which translates as ‘Salvation of the Human Race’. This grandiose appearance suggests that the Institution may have had a somewhat inflated view of their own importance!

Originally the British Institute of Public Health, it became the Royal Institute of Public Health in 1897, appointing Queen Victoria herself as their patron. The Institute campaigned on issues of public health (for example campaigning for a Minister of Public Health) as well as running a programme of lectures to help improve health policies. They also produced programmes of certification in public health for companies – for example instructing the Salvation Army Officers in matters of hygiene. In 1937 the Institute merged with the Sanitary Institute to create the Royal Institute of Health and Hygiene.

Gem from the Brian Eighteen Collection

Related links

  • Further Reading: Flour and bread is a staple food in our daily diets. As such it has a huge influence on the health of the nation. Find out more about the impact of our daily bread.
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Breathing fire

Transport links are the lifeline of milling.

This photograph shows a steam wagon outside Sonning watermill. The wagon is called Catherine Cooper; it was produced by Foden Trucks, a British truck and bus manufacturing company, and is an overtype steam wagon. The man on the right is the mill owner Mr Witherington with his son, whilst the man in the cab is Jim Girdler.

One of Sonning Mill’s largest flour customers was Huntley and Palmers biscuits in Reading. As this was relatively close but too far to carry the flour by hand, they needed a suitable way to transport it to the factory: the steam wagon was perfect for this role.

Traditional mills had always been local to the community they served, however, as milling became more industrialised and the number of mills became fewer, developing transport links became crucial to their operation. Mills began to be built on canals so that flour and grain could be transported on barges, then with the development of steam railways, many mills built their own auxiliary lines to connect their mills to the main network. For shorter journeys most would still rely on the horse and cart, until the development of steam wagons.

Steam wagons developed in the early 20th Century and were very popular until fading out of production in the 1930s. There were two types: ‘undertype’ which had the engine below the cab, and ‘overtype’ which looked more like a cross between a lorry and a steam traction engine. Foden’s produced their first steam lorry in 1900 and built their last in 1935, by which time they had made a total of 6,500 wagons.

Gem from the Brian Eighteen Mill Collection

Related links

  • Transport: Without transport links, it would have been impossible to get grain into mills and flour out. Find out more about the crucial yet often overlooked lifeline transport provided to milling.
  • Sonning Mills: Our Mills Index contains information on thousands of mills. You can learn more about Sonning Mill here.