The larger mills are of course playing their part too, with mills and bakeries making donations to the NHS and local charities. Similar stories could be told about mills worldwide, but I’ll leave that for another blog.
Thanks to those who have contacted us to send information and pictures to add to the archive. If you’re involved with a mill, let us know how things are going through the contact page.
It seems the coronavirus pandemic has affected every area of life, and milling is no exception. In fact news stories about mills, milling, flour and bread production have been particularly frequent in the last few weeks. Here is an overview of some of the stories.
The main milling related story in the UK has been the shortage of flour in the supermarkets, as the popularity of home baking during lockdown has led to increased demand. According to Alex Waugh, director general of the National Association of British and Irish Millers, the real problem is not a shortage of flour but packaging. Usually 96% of flour is sold to food manufacturers and delivered by tanker or in bags larger than 16kg. Even though mills are working 24/7 and packing lines are running at maximum capacity, it is still not possible to pack enough supermarket size flour bags to meet demand.
This has had a knock on effect on traditional mills. While these have lost their income stream from visitors, those that still produce stone-ground flour have seen a massive increase in demand as the public searches for alternative sources for flour. Many of these have been featured in the media in past weeks, including:
Trends in the UK reflect those around the world, with similar stories of a rise in home baking and corresponding flour shortage reported in the USA, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand and Turkey.
In countries where buying flour and baking your own bread is not just a hobby but the only way to feed your family, the effects can be much more severe. In India millers are facing a severe wheat shortage due to the closure of ‘mandis’ (agricultural markets) because of the lockdown, alongside unseasonal rains. The government has begun a programme of distributing up to 5kg free wheat per person per month, but as ‘chakki shops’ (small local mills) have also closed in the lockdown, this has left many with wheat they are unable to grind.
Today the spotlight is on one of our Heritage Partners, Eling Tide Mill!
On Tuesday 9th April, Eling Tide Mill celebrated the 1st anniversary of the Eling Tide Mill Experience with a day of fun activities including face painting, balloon-modelling, badge/keyring-making, story-telling, an Easter trail and guided tours of the mill.
The Grade II* listed tide mill has stood at the centre of life in Eling since its construction in c. 1785, but in 2018 the Experience was opened, as part of a project made possible by a grant from the National Lottery Heritage Fund secured by Totton and Eling Town Council and the New Forest District Council. The project involved work on all four parts of The Eling Tide Mill Experience, including essential conservation works of the mill, extending and developing the visitor centre to create a new learning centre and café, and improving access to the outdoor areas of Goatee Beach and Bartley Water.
Eling Tide Mill is one of only 8 surviving tide mills around the coast of the UK today, and one of only two which are still working. The mill itself is getting on for an impressive 235 years old, but millers have been harnessing the power of the tides in Eling Creek for 900 years. In the days before modern milling, tide mills were an ideal solution for millers living in coastal places such as Eling Creek. Perfectly positioned for access by boat in an inlet off Southampton Water, Eling is one of only 8 surviving tide mills around the coast of the UK today, and one of only two which are still working.
Grain for the mill would have been brought in barges, several hundred miles round the coast from the Eastern side of England. When the tide was in, the barges could be sailed up Southampton Water, into Eling Creek, and right up to the Mill. Its maximum possible output would have been about 4 tonnes of flour per day, which would have required running both waterwheels and all four sets of stones at full speed for both tides.
A dam is created with a sluice across a tidal inlet; the tide comes in and enters the mill pond through a one-way gate which closes automatically when the tide begins to fall. When the tide is low enough, the stored water can be released to turn a water wheel.
Grain for Eling in the old days would have been brought several hundred miles round the coast in barges from the Eastern side of England. When the tide was in, the barges could be sailed up Southampton Water, into Eling Creek, and right up to the Mill. Its maximum possible output would have been about 4 tonnes of flour per day, which would have required running both waterwheels and all four sets of stones at full speed for both tides.
The mill has two undershot waterwheels, each one capable of running two pairs of millstones. Originally the waterwheels were wooden, but were replaced by cast iron ones in 1892, along with the wheel shafts and gears.
The mill was in full working order until 1936, when its machinery broke down. It continued to run for another ten years with the use of a diesel engine to power the animal feed machinery, but in 1946 it was abandoned and left to the elements for nearly 30 years. The mill’s salvation came in 1975 when it was bought by the New Forest District Council, who took on the job of repairing the near-to-collapsing mill. Eling Tide Mill Trust was set up, responsible for overseeing the final stages of the repair, and its final re-opening of the mill and museum in 1980.
Today the tide mill, surrounding riverside walks and adjacent visitor centre and cafe form The Eling Tide Mill Experience. The partnership between the New Forest District Council and Totton and Eling Town Council (who have managed the mill since 2009) have invested in its future after securing a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund. This involved work on all four parts of The Eling Tide Mill Experience, including essential conservation works of the mill, extending and developing the visitor centre to create a new learning centre and café, and improving access to the outdoor areas of Goatee Beach and Bartley Water.
Eling Tide Mill is an idea place to visit in the area: you can see the power of the tide turning the water wheel and powering the millstones; explore its history in the new interactive exhibition; stroll along Eling Creek shoreline and relax in the café, and take part in the full schedule of activities they run for people of all ages.
At the time of writing this article we are one year into our National Lottery Heritage Fund-supported project, Succession Breeds Success, and I find myself reflecting on what’s been achieved so far. Here are my top 3 highlights from the project so far.
You might recall our announcement in February 2018 that we had received a grant of £95,300 from the Heritage Fund, to strengthen the Mills Archive in the areas of finance, management and governance. The purpose is to improve the charity’s resilience so that we can continue to look after the nation’s milling heritage and continue to make the collections available for many years to come.
My top 3 highlights so far:
1. In June we welcomed Lucy to the team.
Part of the grant has funded the creation of a new role to help with fundraising and development. Lucy was new to the mill world but has taken to it like a duck to water, and has exciting plans afoot for our Friends and supporters! I won’t steal her thunder though, so keep your eyes peeled for future announcements. Lucy has also just launched a new part of our website called “Gems of the Archive” – I invite you to dip into some of our treasure trove of unusual items and let us know what you think!
2. We’ve visited mills old and new.
As part of Lucy’s induction, and to help us build stronger links with the milling community, we’ve been privileged to visit several mills. From Upminster Windmill during a period of impressive restoration (see striking photograph courtesy of the Friends of Upminster Windmill, below); to Impington Windmill on a beautiful summer’s day; to an historic, yet modern and innovative milling business: G R Wright & Sons. The latter represents how milling has developed in recent years, and the visit forms part of our approach to build links with the modern milling industry.
3. We’ve gone digital.
We already have a website and online catalogue, but a review and revamp is being facilitated by the Heritage Fund. Training in Google Analytics (below) is already shedding light on how people are using our digital resources, and we have started talking to users more and finding out more about their experiences of using our site and how we might improve our offering. These activities will help to ensure that we provide the information that people need, in a way that is easy to use and so that we can reach the audiences with whom we need to engage.
There are lots of good things ahead and I look forward to sharing more highlights with you as we enter the second half of the project.
With the onset of November, some chilly frosty mornings and the dark nights creeping in, a lot of us are starting to feel like hedgehogs have been getting it right all along: it really is time to curl up somewhere warm and dry and hibernate until spring!
Heage Windmill Society in Derbyshire agrees, and last weekend nearly 100 people gathered to help put the mill to bed for the winter. Forty-eight keen volunteers and fifty more spectators turned up to join in with Heage’s traditional cobweb-weaving, wrapped up in woolly scarves and hats, stoically unperturbed by the cold, northerly wind.
The assembled group of all ages were organised into a circle on the mill apron, armed with an extremely long, single strand of narrow elastic tape. Then, guided by “master spider” Lynn Allen and helped by Attila Tilldogg Csorba, ring after ring was woven between the volunteers, forming a giant cobweb through a series of clever moves and crafty passes.
Once finished, the cobweb was gently laid down and pegged to the grass in the paddock, bringing to a close the regular openings of the windmill for another season. The visitors were then treated to the last guided tours around the mill of the season.
Heage Windmill is now formally closed for regular openings until Easter 2019, when it will resume its programme of weekend opening. More information is available on their website, http://www.heagewindmill.org.uk.
Heage Windmill is a Mills Archive Heritage Partner. Why not visit their featured mill page to find out more about the mill’s history?
On Friday 20th July, Liz, Nathanael, Paul and I went on an exciting visit to one of the Mills Archive’s valued Heritage Partners: Upminster Windmill in Essex. Most of us had never visited Upminster before, so it was an excellent opportunity to build our relationship with them by discovering new ways of working together, and for me to get some more insights into the workings of mills and millwrights.
The Friends of Upminster Windmill are a very active and progressive organisation, with a wealth of varied talents between them. Each person contributes important knowledge and skills, whether they be on milling, gardening, IT, archaeology, running a community project or any other aspect of the many activities going on at Upminster Windmill.
We were greeted by Dennis and Paul, who were keen to show us around the mill and their new visitor centre, an attractive and efficient building which has been recently erected with the help of a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund and Veolia, as part of the current restoration project. They demonstrated the impressive software they use for both modelling images of the mill, and for keeping records and memorabilia of Upminster’s history. I was particularly interested in their digital reconstruction of a bird’s eye view of the mill and surrounding buildings and grounds, as it would have looked in the 1920s. Putting the mill into the context of a working site really brought it to life, showcasing the important role it played in its heyday.
The mill was built in 1803 by James Nokes, a local farmer. It’s had a somewhat tumultuous past, changing hands numerous times and weathering several great storms which have caused damage to the sails, and even a lightning strike. Throughout its history, the windmill has held a special place in the hearts of the local community, who have intervened on more than one occasion to save this cherished part of their heritage – even placing a preservation order on the mill to stop it being demolished.
The Friends organisation was set up in 2003 to manage the mill on a day to day basis, and help with the restoration so that it could open to the public. It is now considered to be one of the very best remaining smock mills in England in terms of quality, completeness and significance, and to keep it that way, the mill is currently undergoing a large repair project.
It was strange to see the mill in its state of repair: when we first arrived, I wasn’t sure if the sail-less, polythene-wrapped tower was actually a mill at all! However, once we went inside I was stunned by the beautiful old bricks and timber of the original structure, which despite the metal scaffolding and construction planks, emanated a majestic air of importance and nostalgia. They are currently at the stage of rebuilding the cap frame, and the work is likely to be completed in 2019.
During our visit we were fortunate to be shown around by the millwright himself, Willem Dijkstra from Holland, and his assistant Douwe. Talking to Willem was fascinating: as well as explaining about the restoration of Upminster Windmill, he talked to us about the life of a millwright. Something that I found particularly interesting was the amount of time that Willem says he spends researching the previous construction, repair and maintenance of mills that he is working on, in addition to doing the physical work. The ratio is almost 50:50, putting a great deal of time constraints on the already-busy millwright. This emphasised to me how useful historical millwrighting records can be to modern millwrights – and reinforced the necessity of the job we do here at the Mills Archive, of preserving these important documents.
This information is especially poignant at the moment, as I’m currently working on submitting a grant application to the Heritage Lottery Fund, for a grant to help us to catalogue, digitise and preserve the collections on millwrighting that we hold in the Archive. Our visit showed me how helpful historic millwrighting records could be to projects like the repair of Upminster Windmill, and we hope that our collections will be able to help with such ventures in the future.
Thank you to the Upminster team for a great visit, and we look forward to returning soon to see the mill once the repairs are finished!
If you’re interested in finding out more about Upminster Windmill and their exciting progress, or upcoming events, you can visit their website: www.upminsterwindmill.org. You can also view some of their historic records, including wonderful black and white and coloured photos, on the Mills Archive website.
Painshill Park is threatened by Highways England plans to improve the M25 junction with the A3. You can help the Park and join RHS Wisley, CPRE and others by signing the petition to persuade the developers to rethink their plans.
Noted for its landscapes and the lake, Painshill is proud of its waterwheel repaired 30 years ago to lift water from the river to provide the water which allowed the 14 acre lake to be created. The original wooden waterwheel, designed by Charles Hamilton, was 35m in diameter. The raised water travelled underground to the rustic cascade, where it then trickled down into the lake.
More information: The threat is from Highways England and their agents, Atkins, relates to their wanting to widen the A3 both west and east bound in it’s approaches to the M25 junction, approx 1 mile to the west of Painshill’s western boundary. Further west Wisley too, is affected. Historically, Painshill’s C18 boundary was approximately along the centre line of the A3, the estate including what is now the west bound carriageway, along the length of the estate. This was evidenced by the C18 trees which survived on the former central reservation until the early 90s when Highways England started their A3 widening At that time thye were already threatening to build a road inside Painshill, so these assaults on the boundary have been going on for a long time.
Painshill is now a Grade 1 historic landscape, almost fully restored, for public benefit and must be protected.
There are other options which Highways could consider.
Last week I visited Jordans Mill in Biggleswade with Ron and Mildred, where we were treated like guests of honour! Read on to find out more about this fascinating mill and our trip there.
We met David Jordan and his sister Lindsay, who accompanied us on a tour of the mill with volunteer Ray. I found the tour fascinating. As someone who has seen traditional windmills and watermills, and then most recently a large modern mill, this site showed me the interesting transition that took place in some country mills from traditional stones to rollers. The story of the mill is also inseparable from the story of the family through the generations, and the interpretive material displayed at the mill cleverly tells this story so that by the end of it, you feel like extended family! We also spent time with staff and volunteers at the mill including a volunteer from their archive team, who all made sure we felt very welcome.
Holme Mills, as it is otherwise known, was first bought by the Jordans family in 1893. The family has a long history of milling and made an important name for itself, one that is still known today. That is in spite – or perhaps because of – early fires at the mill. After the first fire in 1894, the mill was rebuilt and some of the traditional millstones were replaced with a roller system. However, in 1899 the mill suffered from even greater fire damage and was almost completely destroyed. Rather than giving up, William Jordan (3rd) and his brother Alfred replaced the waterwheel with the latest turbine and a new Carter Roller System, installed by Turners of Ipswich.
Mildred was in her element, exploring the machinery!
This modernisation of the mill revolutionised what could be achieved. The mill went from strength to strength and in 1950 the first Jordans branding appeared in adverts. In 1970, Bill (William 6th) and his brother David formed a new company, producing puffed wheat and then toasted oat cereals. Initially sold in health food shops, the company’s products took off in the mainstream and to this day we see supermarket shelves stocked with Jordans cereals and bars.
To meet demand, a new factory was opened in 2000, producing almost 1 million packs of cereal per week. In 2005 the mill was closed but that was not the end of the story. The family wished to preserve the mill for the public, and so Bill and David Jordan set up the Jordans Trust to look after the mill and its surroundings. The heritage site has drawn visitors since 2013 and even on a cold February day, we could see why!
The newly-formed National Millwrighting Centre is raising funds to support their ambitious project to train new millwrights to look after the nation’s mills.
The National Millwrighting Centre will ensure the survival of the nation’s wind and watermills. There is only a handful of expert millwrights left to maintain over 1000 mills. The Centre will establish an accredited millwrighting skills academy supported by profitable tourist activities based at Sutton Mill. It’s an ambitious £3 million project which is off to a great start thanks to a fantastic £500,000 grant from the SPAB (Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings).
The Centre, based at Sutton Windmill in North Norfolk, has a website and you can watch a video about the new project here.
To donate to the millwrighting project and to find out what rewards the Centre is offering for different levels of support, visit their crowdfunding page here.